One of the plastics industry's more complicated relationships is the trade association family that represents its membership. The tension within the family is growing as separate identities are being forged by the maturing offspring of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. It is against that backdrop that SPI is mulling a reduction in dues for processors, which are about $300 per year at the lower end of the organization's sliding fee scale introduced in 1994.
Larry Thomas, SPI's president, who wants to broaden the group's membership base, has said the dues issue is ``an impediment to getting large and middle-sized processors into the association.''
While the dues structure is of interest to members, fees really are not what the dispute centers on.
Self-interest is, which is to say the plastics industry is not monolithic in need or thought. Certain groups within SPI understandably want more autonomy and self-representation to address industry issues more pressing to them than other members.
The problem the association is confronted with is one of definition. That goes to the heart of the organization's mission and the expectations of its members for greater services and more aggressive representation before government inside and outside Washington.
Ironically, the stresses affecting SPI are a reflection of the changes in attitudes affecting many institutions in this country.
During the past 20 years there has been a proliferation of boutique, single-issue associations established to represent various industry, social and political groups.
Many of them spun off from larger groups, sometimes over policy disagreements, but usually because of a desire to have their voice heard above the crowd.
What distinguishes the SPI's current reorganization efforts from others is that the arguments are not about single issues, as, say abortion or gun control, but over the concept of industry identity.
SPI cannot be all things to all people. Nor should it expect to be, which is something the restructuring under way can address effectively by assuring more autonomy to its operating divisions.