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the newsletter of

CARPENTERS FOR A DEMOCRATIC UNION
International
 

at the cutting edge of union democracy

 

Issue 2  April 2000

 

 THE RACE IS ON

      Our International leadership and their minions in the regional and district councils are desperately trying to remove the last vestiges of member participation in our union. Simultaneously, individuals are standing up to this effort, and binding together at every level to create a continent wide, union democracy movement. The judge and jury, as to who wins the race, is the sometimes sleeping, now awakening, rank and file.

    Americans have developed a cultural reluctance to get involved in issues that affect them, until events develop into a crisis. We all have many other interests, and as we become disillusioned by the petty actions of our leaders in their running of our affairs, we often develop an attitude of not wanting to be involved. Unfortunately, in our union, only the most outrageous acts of our leaders are sufficient to arouse the membership to come back to the meetings and assert their rights.

     Our leaders have committed many such outrageous acts, and as the scrutiny of the rank and file has become more intense and focused, the frequency and magnitude of these acts have actually increased. We the membership must take this as a sign that the leadership is threatened by our growing awareness, and that they are counterattacking.

    Counterattacks, such as these, are ineffective, because they point out to the average working people how corrupt and self interested their leaders are. Those interested in reform for the members, can be glad that their energies are bringing the most important issue of all into focus:

WHO CONTROLS OUR UNION?

 

                                A CALL TO ARMS by Ken Little - Seattle, Washington

   There is a movement of working carpenters calling ourselves the Carpenters for a Democratic Union (International). We were founded at a rank and file conference put together by members of the Boston CDU.

Personally I cannot think of a group braver, and right on target with their tactics and outreach to the real carpenters. We are addressing many issues and one is the forming of a slate of working carpenters to run against MAC and his boys. First things first. We must build to level of excitement with all working carpenters and their families.

  As flawed as the Christie resolution might be, the flaws are not in the words of the resolution, they are in the procedure that our constitution sets forth. We have an arduous task ahead. The injustice and lack of due process surrounding John Reimann's expulsion are just two of the affronts that MAC and boys are guilty of. Consider the number of lawsuits and charges in regional councils that show a contempt for working people everywhere. Consider why there are so many investigations ongoing. Consider the proposed constitutional amendments that aim to further concentrate power. Yes, MAC and his boys have to go.

     Can we win in Chicago? I believe that there are many battles in war. First loser may be the best winner in the long haul. This convention is only the first battle, and I guarantee you, that its will not be our last.

       We need your help in the streets of Chicago. Join the 10,000 that are coming to protest. Don't let the present officers divide us any longer. UNITE!

 

A CALL TO DEFEND YOUR UNION by David Johnson   Champaign, Illinois

   Attention union carpenters! Our union is in danger from shameless opportunists who are trying to profit from our labor and endanger the pensions of our older retired members. Who are these ruthless parasites?

I am sorry to inform you but they are our very own international leadership (Doug McCarron and company). Over the last several years, our international union has taken away many of our rights to make decisions, and at the same time has  been digging deeper into our pockets. We see piecework being accepted as a part of contracts. We have seen one area of the country after another lose their right to vote on their contracts. And of course, we have no say on who our B.A.s, managers, nor general officers are.

                 E N O U G H    I S    E N O U G H!

 We have witnessed the international tampering with our retiree's pensions. In SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, NEW YORK CITY, BUFFALO, and FLORIDA, there have been major improprieties uncovered .  Pension moneys have been shuffled around the country, invested in companies that our international leaders have financial interest in, for themselves or their friends. Many of these investments having significant losses, such as in Buffalo where the retirees had their monthly benefits reduced by half because of financial problems.

T H I S   C O R R U P T    L E A D E R S H I P   M U S T                           
B E   S T O P P E D !

 We need you in Chicago on Monday August 21st, outside the McCormick Place Convention Center. We need to show McCarron and the world that we will not let our union be turned into a private Labor Ready corporation where the retirement pensions are uncertain, where we pay for the "privilege of working", and have no say on our wages nor working conditions.

 

THE BUFFALO  MASSACRE by Linda Chojnacki -  Buffalo, New York

  Dear Members:

 I am the wife of a union carpenter, who has been a loyal member of Local 9 for over 33 years. The Buffalo Carpenters Local 9 Pension Fund is in serious jeopardy. The actuary firm of Martin E. Segal Company had worked for the last 10 years with the local trustees in the handling of Local 9's Pension Fund. Thomas Burke, the current President of Local 9 has uncovered the fact that the local will need approximately $65 million dollars to make the fund solvent. A lawsuit has been filed against the past President of Local 9, Terrence Bodewes, the trustees of Local 9, and the actuary firm of Martin E. Segal Company. The Martin E. Segal Company is still employed by a large number of Carpenter Pension Funds around the country. Is your Local one of them?

 

THOSE WONDERFUL CANUCKS from Dave Livingston  -  British Columbia

 the following resolutions were passed at the British Columbia Convention:

WHEREAS:  The General President has used his unfettered discretionary powers, under Section 6A of the Constitution like a sword, cutting to shreds any semblance of union democracy; and  

WHEREAS:  The Constitution of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America does not adequately provide for the basic elements of democratic practice; and  

WHEREAS: The General President feels that he has the authority in his discretionary powers to do as he sees fit, with no regard for the wishes of the membership; and  

WHEREAS:  It is the constant exercise of the rights of union citizenship that is the price of union democracy:  

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:  That the British Columbia Council of Carpenters remove all references to the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, the General President, the General Executive Board, and the United Brotherhood Pension Plan from the British Columbia Provincial Council of Carpenters' Constitution and Bylaws.  

 — Right to Vote

WHEREAS: Some members of the Carpenters Union in BC were not given the right to vote in the September, 1999 British Columbia Provincial Council of Carpenters' referendum vote; and 

WHEREAS: Our members should have the right to determine the direction and destiny of their union without imposition of their Local Union's dictatorship: 

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: That the British Columbia Provincial Council of Carpenters make sure that every affected member in BC is guaranteed and informed of their right to vote on any Provincial Council referendum.  

submitted by Dave Livingston, whose web site <http://www.carpentersunionbc.com> is an excellent place to start a surf for union democracy. He and his wife Karen will link you to most of the action around the continent.

 

Electing BUSINESS AGENTS by Chuck Cannon Oakland, California

Many of us national activists, hold the position of "one person, one vote." This is interpreted to mean that all officers from the General President down to all local officials including BAs are to be elected by a direct vote of the membership.

         The Christie Resolution's amendment of Section 26, paragraph J, recognizes the fact that different Local Unions or Councils may wish to appoint their BAs and provides for this desire in the language of the official resolution as follows:

J)       The membership of any subordinate body, Local Unions, District Councils, Regional Councils and State or Provincial Councils shall elect their officers and full time representatives in a manner to be determined by them and in accordance with any applicable state, provincial or national laws.

         In the end, the only measure that will assure fairness and democracy, is the unending participation, of well informed union members. We members must become, and remain, actively engaged in the affairs of our union. We must not ever assume, that top officials have all of the knowledge, nor that they will put our interests first. We have to lookout for our selves and our own interests. This might be unfortunate, but that's the way it is. 

                  Power to the folks wearing the Tools  by Rich Peterson    Seattle, Washington

It is through the active participation of the rank and file carpenter that our union will become strong, and again rise to become the preeminent labor organization in the free world. We must remember that this is the infancy of the rank and file movement. When we have such a following that we control our own locals, we will control the direction of the UBC. It will take time and an incredible effort by dedicated trade activists. While my heart may "sink", when confronted with the prospect of failing to change things sufficiently at this Convention, I am heartened by the knowledge that we are not alone. Right is still right, and wrong is still wrong. Let us keep it together and know in our hearts that when we do take over the controls of the UBC, it will go down in history as the beginning of a labor renaissance.

               "MAY THE MEMBERS' WILL BE DONE"

 

What Are They Up To?  No Good!  by Chuck Cannon

This is another one of those instances where I feel exactly like the labor lawyer who said "say the word organized labor and my heart sinks." On Section 9 (B) of the UBC constitution, and the notice of General Officer Elections. The result of this notice, changes the composition of the GENERAL EXECUTIVE BOARD/ BOARD OF TRUSTEES, and if passed by the Convention, constitutes an amendment to the constitution. It will further concentrate power in the hands of McCarron and those who pull his strings. This amendment not only amends Section 14, the GENERAL EXECUTIVE BOARD, and it also effectively amends all of Section 15, BOARD OF TRUSTEES. This fact is not in the official notice. It is another instance of the delegates handing irrevocable power to the General President. This amendment may be next to the final nail in the rank-and-file's coffin. McCarron definitely has a plan here and we don't know where he is going with it. But it is sure to bring him all the power he needs to complete a hostile takeover of the union. And there are sure to be other amendments or measures towards this end yet to come.

 

        PASSING THE CHRISTIE  by Gene Lawhorn   -  Portland, Oregon

Last night, Tuesday, the 11th of April in Portland Oregon, our Local 247, held its election for the National Convention. When I got up to speak on my behalf, I read the " Christie Resolution", (which our local endorsed in Feb.) I told our members I wanted to be delegate because I strongly believed in the concepts of union democracy, and would fight to get the resolution passed. The resolution is a beautiful thing, and it makes me feel proud that we as union carpenters are entering the 21st century fighting for democratic principals with our union. This is my first National Convention, my question is how do we network to create a movement to get this resolution passed. This is gonna be a tough fight, and we had better have our shit together!!!

   One last bit of information, out of over 1200 active members, only about 80 showed up to vote.

 

CHRISTIE PASSES by Chris Larsen  - Hayward, California

   I wanted to let all members know that local 713, Hayward California, 3000 members strong, passed the Christie Resolution at its' regular meeting tonight. Even a lot of the full time line towers for the council voted for the Resolution, so the word could be getting around from the top down.

 

The Games People Play, or Do as I Say, NOT as I do by Tom Crofton   -  Madison, Wisconsin

    Our local and District Council leadership has decided to show us that they are above and beyond the law. Our local decided, by a vote of 66-1 to hold a special meeting, to consider the Christie Resolutions.

Our leadership neglected to send the notice. This action, or lack thereof, is not the first example of power politics we have experienced recently. It is however, a blatant attack on the working members, who by virtue of their dues paying are the owners of our organization, and the employers of our leaders. Since the refusal to call a special meeting is another way of saying that rank and file initiatives are not welcome, this action is in direct violation of the spirit and letter of the UBC Constitution, which provides this and very few other possibilities for the membership to directly affect the rules that govern us. As a response to our leaders' irresponsible activities, I have personally filed the following grievance with the General President:

 

Doug McCarron
UBC
101 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington DC 20001

 

   Sir

I hereby file a formal grievance against the officers of Local 314, Madison Wisconsin, for their failure to notify the membership of a special meeting, after being directed to by a vote of the membership on March 22nd, 2000.

The action of the leadership, to deny a 66-1 vote requesting a special called meeting, as proscribed in the Constitution of the UBC, effectively prevents the members from exercising their mandated rights to be part of the process of running their organization. The inability for members to affect change through the legal documents agreed upon by all as the basis of the organization, makes the documents null and void.

For these documents to regain their proper place as the central defining agreements, they must be respected, and the processes described within must be followed to the letter, by all parties.

Those of us interested in seeing the UBC function as a democratic organization are appalled at the lack of respect that our leaders have for due process, and the following of the rules. We expect those responsible for breaking the fundamental covenants to be punished, with the intent of preventing such corrupt behavior from reoccurring.
 signed     Tom Crofton

 

SURVEYS REPLACE VOTES OF THE RANKS by Bob Carlson -   Las Vegas, Nevada

   Welcome to the club, we have been doing surveys on wages here since the Southern California - Nevada Regional Council was formed in 1996. The Nevada Carpenters had to fight hard to get even that much.

Southern California Carpenters get no say whatsoever. All Southern California contracts and allocations are made by the Seven Counties Committee; an arm of the Council E-board.

     When Nevada was dragged kicking and screaming into the SC-NRCC, We insisted that no California Committee was going to decide our wages and conditions. McCarron gave in only as far as allowing only the Nevada Delegates to vote on the contracts and allocations. Administrative Assistant Marc Furman (to his credit) tried to have a general membership meeting as an advisory vote. He proved inexperienced at running a meeting and it degenerated into a shouting match. Several Delegates (including myself) had to step up to the podium and speak to the contract. One of the mistakes made was promising more than could be delivered. Furman promised a $6.00 per hour raise over three years and could only bring back $5.00. Ever since then he has mailed out survey cards and the delegates meet and count the votes, then vote accordingly. The card typically contains several options for allocation and a blank.

It's a lousy system but better than it could be, I don't think we could talk Furman into calling another general meeting at gun-point. The bottom line is that surveys are just another step to removing the membership completely from the process. The present restructuring is based on the premise that the general office and council appointed staff are wiser than the membership. While this goes against all logic; the thing everyone has to remember is that Doug mcCarron doesn't like membership votes. He showed this by systematically removing the membership from the process when he was the EST of the Southern California District Council. I don't think he really likes or respects the membership which is both sad and terrifying. The next five years will see even more changes nationwide.

While I can not say what these changes will be, you only have to look at what was done in California under mcCarron. Many local unions were dissolved and combined with other locals. In many cases members found that the new local was located many miles from their home. Palm Springs for example was combined with Riverside almost 100 miles away. The next thing was that all hiring lists were combined into a central list.

Members were told to be home between the hours of 1:00 and 3:00 PM and they would be telephoned if a job reached their name. Members are not allowed to seek work on their own unless they have worked for the contractor within the prior six months. I have spoken with members from California who didn't work a union job for several years after the new system was instituted.

 

LETS RUN A SLATE by Tom Crofton -   Madison, Wisconsin

We are the ones who can stand before the world and offer a true choice, in substance and style, to the working people. We can draw a moral and ethical line that clearly separates us from the existing power structure, and make a focused attempt to move the masses.

  Specifically, I'm suggesting that we gather individuals for a coordinated run at the top slots, as a slate that encompasses great diversity, intellectual ability, unquestioned concern for the membership, and no small amount of talent.

  The primary purpose of this run would be to start the cracking of the established order. While we need to be ready to win, we need to be ready to define winning in terms of the long haul, and be prepared to suffer stunning defeat in the short run.   We need to practice the public side of this endeavor, and develop the ability to give some really rousing speeches. We can take the labor community by storm if we put our heads together.

    Perhaps, this would be a proper place to use the skills we have each acquired, through the long and twisted journeys we have taken individually. I am thinking of all of the roads taken, or not taken.. and somehow this one seems to be worthwhile to travel, not only as spectators, or organizers, but as initiators, even creators.

   We can plant a flag of justice and freedom right in the heart of a society that uses those terms so loosely, and stand tall beside it, knowing full well, that we will not get everything we want, but that some have to do it, and better us than those whose goals are less egalitarian.

   I'm suggesting that we consider a mind meld coalition that taps the very soul of each of us to work at a level we seldom experience. We need to be trusting beyond trust with each other. We need to be clear about our intentions. We need to use our power in a very direct and applied manner. We need to be able to walk away when fall comes around, knowing that we functioned at our best, and be willing to reevaluate our methods to take on the next 5 years.

       I am left with a disconnect, when I think of having an election with no opposing candidates. We can not let that happen. Together, we can seriously fracture the structure in place, and make a major media splash. We can start something rolling for 2005 that will sweep through this organization like a tidal wave. We can start walking side by side, brothers and sisters, surmounting obstacles that would stop any individual.

       At the very least, we can be people, from different parts of the continent, from different backgrounds, races, genders, and ages, who came together because we were needed, and we answered the call.

              MAY THE MEMBERS WILL BE DONE

 

Truck Raffle

    The Carpenters for a Democratic Union, International, and the Center for Practical Education have decided to purchase a 2000 Chevy Silverado and raffle it off as a fund raiser. Ticket donations are priced at $20, and will be limited to 4,000 sold nationally. This truck is fully loaded, and a complete description and photo will be in the next Kerf. A further list of prizes is being developed, and all proceeds will be used (through the non profit group) to educate union members about the value of democracy in their organization. The drawing for the truck and other prizes will occur in Chicago, at the Rank and File Convention, August 21, 2000, at 6:00 PM.

 

HARDHAT STICKERS

coming soon to your job site—   You too can sport one for a small donation to the kerf.

Send donations to:

The Kerf
16005 Crofton Dr.,
Richland Center, WI 53581.

SUBMISSIONS

send to above address or email to crofton@mwt.net

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