Has anyone been able to rep their congregation without paying?

As I understand it, this is the first year where delegates have not had to pay to vote. The new “Business-Only” registration is supposed to allow people to pay what they can, or nothing at all and still represent their congregations. But in practice I know people who have tried to access that option who weren’t able to. So I’m wondering whether there are actually any delegates out there that have not paid to participate in the process. It’s always bothered me that we hold up the democratic process as a core principle, but in practice we’ve had a pay-to-vote system. I’m really happy to the see the UUA finally addressing this, but now I’m wondering if it’s actually happening at all.

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I am a “business-only” registrant and delegate. The registration process was pay-what-you-can with a suggested donation of $100. I could afford the $100 and thought it was reasonable so I paid it. I didn’t try to register without paying, so I can’t speak to that experience.

What I think will be an on-going accessibility issue is the need for reliable high-speed internet, a PC or laptop and a certain amount of tech ability. Granted, these are easier to obtain than a plane ticket and safer (given COVID) but I do know they are a barrier for some. As is being able to afford time off from work - between having good benefits, being a workaholic and the pandemic I have time to burn, but many don’t.

I think it is progress towards full and fair representation. My church has a full roster of delegates, which being in Kentucky we would not have if we all had to travel to Portland, OR.


My husband and secondborn son are business-only delegates and did not pay because they knew they would not be able to participate much more than just voting (and we are not wealthy). My eldest son (William Yeung) and I are both full virtual registered attenders who had our registration fees paid due to work we did in collaboration with UUA leaders since the last GA (where William was also a virtual delegate with me, that was his 2nd GA and my 5th virtual, 6th ever, and I’ve been a delegate every time I’ve attended GA). We live near Cleveland, Ohio and I’m a wheelchair user so we cannot travel when it’s too far to drive (1-2% risk of my $6000 custom wheelchair that the insurance will only replace every 5 years getting broken any time it’s on an airplane = nooope). We plan to be on-site for Pittsburgh next year while also beta-testing how to make this experience of virtual attending more inclusive of people who can’t travel - with a focus on those who are attending as virtual delegates - via beta testing some ideas I’ve had for years at our home congregation (UU Akron, but we’re also CLF members which is where my lay community ministry UUAF is most likely going to wind up affiliated - that’s also in its beta testing period we’re starting with building community beyond worship services & committees amongst people in Northeast Ohio, and some of our early local supporters are unlikely to be able to travel even the 90min drive east to Pittsburgh due to various life circumstances).

So… yes, I can confirm people are getting business-only access without paying, AND yes, it needs a LOT of improvement. For example, I didn’t even realize this discussion board was here until after today’s Saturday General Session so I hadn’t signed up for an account to post here until I went to make this reply. I get inbox avalanche on the email address I’m registered under as a delegate, and I am deeply concerned that our business-only delegates are being left out of too much to make fully informed decisions in their ballots due to the text conversations taking place where they cannot read them on Whova (which also has a LOT of access issues for disability reasons, and the virtual full registration participants aren’t getting probably even 10% of the interactions that the on-site people are - the haves, have-nots, and don’t-even-have-what-the-have-nots-have categories are pretty stark here and it’s sad and I dearly hope we take this opportunity to learn & do better next year while apologizing profusely to those who have felt left out & unvalued due to their inability to commit the resources (time AND money) to participate beyond business-only.

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You can email gatechnicalsupport@uua.org for help registering, but it’s probably too late now!

Thank you Seth for asking the question, and thank you to Amy and Ahmie for answering! I am a fully registered virtual delegate but only because someone else was able to pay the 275 for me, I couldn’t come up with the whole thing and really wanted to attend as much as I could. Next year, if I can’t come up with the whole thing I will try to be a “pay-what-you-can” because I can come up with the $100. Having the UUA pay another $50,000 to $100,000 so that every congregation could have their delegates on Whova seems like a good and more fair idea to me. That’s what I would like to see. It would have been way harder to keep up with everything without Whova.

I’d like to know more about how the costs of GA break down per delegate. I wonder if maybe allowing congregations/fellowships/societies (CFSs) to designate part of their annual dues to cover their delegates’ costs would make it easier for individuals without losing a lot of GA budget money. It strikes me as unreasonable to not allow business-only delegates onto Whova, given how much discussion/networking happens here, documents posted, etc.

I’d like to see GA move away from zoom to BigBlueButton, an open-source video conference platform, though that might not be possible at scale. However, encouraging CFSs to use that or Jitsi for meetings instead of supporting zoom (which has had privacy/misrepresentation issues, and of course is a for-profit entity [not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, but certainly adds to cost for both UUA and CFSs])

Sally, the question of the “cost of GA” would be tricky to determine. There are direct cost - the cost of the convention center, tech, etc - that the UUA knows. But there are also indirect costs and these vary widely by delegate, depending on travel costs, lodging needs, meal costs, etc. I guess you could try to come up with an average costs but I don’t know how meaningful that would be to any delegate. And also, do you want to know the costs per potential delegate or per actual delegate? Because some costs would vary widely based on the number of delegates who actually attended and in what mode.

Fair enough; I guess in part I am thinking of the marginal costs of adding delegates—there is a set basic cost of venue, equipment, etc., and then there are increases overall, decreases per person, as more are added. I.e., what is the difference in cost between 1000 delegates and 4000? Everyone (more or less) needs 3 meals a day, and even if they vary greatly in cost—eat at home/brown bag/fast food/high-end restaurant—a mid-range figure could be taken. Same with travel and accommodations.

I’m not so much trying to find a number that is meaningful to any particular delegate, but a benchmark for what that allowance might be so that congregations/fellowships/societies could budget accordingly. How much would it detract from what is already sent in dues payments, or how much would be reasonable to add? I would like to see it considered as part of a “fair share” designation; how would that affect the UUA finances?