The UBC has decided to give you a present this holiday season. At the General Convention in August, the administration set forth standardized bylaws for all district and regional councils. These were passed without discussion, and most delegates viewed them as just another 20 pages, or so, of the nearly one thousand pages dumped in their laps at registration. Like all other administration sponsored amendments and proposals, these passed like a gale force wind, blowing out any attempts to consider them on their merits. For those members in councils like Southern Wisconsin, this was a catastrophic event. We lost our right to elect our business manager. We have joined the ranks of other regions who have lost the vote that matters most.
The restructuring, taking place all over the International, has as its stated purpose the streamlining of decision making, the weeding out of deadwood, the modernization of contractor-union relations, and the reorientation of the union towards organizing as the primary focus.
The actual effect of the restructuring is to create a feedback loop, where union staffers get elected as delegates, due to their visible stature in their locals. They then elect the business manager (EST), who in turn hires them. The ability for the delegates to buck the wishes of the EST is then reduced to the chances of hearing a mouse roaring in a thunderstorm, if the mouse is willing to roar.
This process then allows the accumulation of deadwood, if the deadwood is not stupid enough to speak out against the wishes of the boss. Decision making is streamlined, because one person gets his way, without bothering to ask anyone else. Contractor relations are improved, because the EST can cut friendly deals with the money guys, and put down any insurrections in the locals at contract ratification time. Organizing can be the centerpiece to replace the disgusted, disenfranchised members who quit or retire early.
Organizing is an area that reformers would like the union to concentrate on. We would like to see the union become strong, which would then promote our values, and raise our standard of living. The union has spent 80 million dollars (American) on its organizing campaign, to bring 67,000 new members in. This works out to cost $1200 per new member. We have been told that this is a good rate of return compared to other unions.
We have another way. Proud members of a group, that exists for their benefit, and responds to their wishes, can bring in all the new people we need. Contractors, seeing that the skilled and productive work force in their area is union , will have an extra incentive to join. Members, excited about their group, through involvement in decision making at the local level, will make the extra effort to bring our message to our non union brothers and sisters as part of the Volunteer Organizing Committees. Regular job actions will show non union contractors and workers that we are going to change the playing field, that their erosion of our projects is ending, that we are going into a proactive stance. Only an excited and energized rank and file can supply the numbers that will turn the tide. Throwing more money at organizing is an act of desperation.
The numbers' game is deceptive. Our research shows that we may have only 350,000 members, not the nearly half million claimed by the UBC. The 67,000 new members might only be the replacements for those quitting and retiring. Perhaps the UBC is under reporting our numbers to the AFL CIO to reduce the per capita payment to that group, but their records show only an increase of about 10,000. What is clear, is that disenfranchised members do not make good salesmen for the cause. No additional money spent will change that. Ownership of the organization by the members (a fact), operation of the organization by the members ( a distortion), and orientation of the organization for the membership (a dream), is the key to the growth of the organization. The rest is a sham.
Lotus, and his teacher, Jonquil, were discussing Earth's labor history in his 22nd century, Mars colony, school pod. Jonquil told of some of the archaic practices that humans used whenever they came together in groups to solve problems. She decided to read from a memory bank entitled "Unionism, 1800-2000" to illustrate her point.
"Very little changed in the evolution of the human species, from the time of the cavemen to the nuclear age, save for a few physical attributes and features. The psychological makeup of mankind included an ability, even a need, to manipulate, cheat, steal and lie; if doing so furthered the individual's ability to meet his physical and emotional needs. The irony of this attribute in man's psyche, is that the groups he formed for collective protection used a parallel form of these activities in their daily functioning. The result was that groups (called unions, societies, associations, cooperatives) formed for the benefit of their members, all too often decayed into groups trying to maintain their survival as institutions, with lives of their own , using less than ethical methods. Attempts to reform these institutions often failed for lack of critical mass; or the fact that those in power spent the resources of the group in a successful effort to insulate themselves from the very members, they were duty bound to protect. Often an unholy alliance was developed between those in power in these groups and those in power in the society at large. One example is quoted here from the classic " Unions in the Wild West".
"The members of Local 7, Lucky Seven, we used to say, showed up for their regular monthly meetin, in the dusty attic above the workin men's saloon. Those who drifted in before the gavel hit the lumber were asked the secret password, and found a place to set down. Those finishin their poker games in the tavern stumbled in during the opennin reports, and found flour barrels or feed sacks to sit on. This was a big night, cause the quarterly meetings were the nights when the good stuff got handed out. Members could pick up a few items of apparrel or tools of the trade, if they didn't act up, and get kicked out on their rear ends.
The night's big buzz was the plannin, for the visit the next day of Woody Bore, candidate for the hearts and souls of the workin man, runnin for the job of the President of the USof A. Rather than just being a bunch of flunkies in the crowd, these hard workin men, and a couple of hardworkin women, were helping to set up the event in the town square. A large part of the regular meetin was devoted to tellin everyone how lucky they were to be in the center of such an event; passes were available to get up real close to Woody, and some folks were asked to help out, herding the throngs into the corrals. Security was a big issue, there was no way some cowpoke with a .30-30 was gonna get near ole Woody, not to mention some heckler from the other side.
The featured guest of the evening was Mork Unreal, the union's own man in the capitol, our very own lobbyist. He spent about a quarter hour deliniatin why a workin man would be a goll darn fool to vote for anyone but Woody. He made it clear, that the money we each contibuted to his own paycheck, for his efforts on our behalfs, was bein spent wisely by havin him tell us what to do. He made sure that anyone thinkin of votin for an alternative candidate, was sabotagin the efforts of our group to prevent the election of the evil Governor Shrub, from the notorious State of Texas, a state that used to be in the Wild West, but was now really mostly a suburban parking lot. Picking Woody may not havve been the brightest thing a guy could do, but if it kept Shrub out of the mansion on Pensulvania Avenue, well then sometimmes a feller has to taste the bitter medicine to get the rewards of its contents.
Well let me tell ya, that crowd was pumped. Even the guys who thought Woody was a light weight were gettin into the act. I, personally, had doubts about attending the rally, until I heard that the famous singin star, Sandy Beaches, was gonna entertain us in the warmup to the big event.I am quite a fan of hers. I whistle her toons out on the job site at least once a week. You could say I'm a might smitten by her sound.
The event went off like clockwork, and Sandy was awesome. Woody came off quite well. He never augered into one of his Bore'n, pedantic sermons; he stayed up close and personal, and I was glad I went. And, oh that Sandy...
Lucky Seven had it's next meeting one month later. I made a practice of attendin ever since I thought they acted darn undemocratic a few months back, and thought they needed a little watchdoggin. Since the whole point of havin this organization was to work together agin the forces of Evil, I needed to make shore that the forces of Evil stayed outside the door. This meetin was not a quarterly, so no good stuff was gonna be given away, and only a few regulars showed up. We had our usual crowd of old timers and youngins, and a small crowd of rabble rousers, including me.
Our chairman went through the ordinary rituals; blessing, chastising, and cajoling. Coming up on a new agenda item, he changed his tone, and my ears pricked up. He had that mournful sound of a bird dog, that new it was gonna get slapped, for takin a bite out of a pheasant. His eyes took on the quality of Bambi, when she gets caught in the highbeams of a Western Star. He tried to explain, with an early aside that he didn't like to do business like this, that the body present needed to OK the expenditure of funds to support that big rally for Mr. Bore. Please understand, that since Lucky 7 is located in a prosperous territory, we have a large sack of coins sitting in the vault at the Western Ridge Bank, that gets anted up by the members, on a regular basis. Just like in a poker game, if no one wins, the pot keeps growin.
Some of us rabble have tried, specially since the big showdown 18 months ago, to develop a plan to use this money wisely, for the benefit of the entire group. This effort has not worked, cause our coins are too darn valable where they sit. One thing is certain though, regardless of what the money gets spent on, a vote of the members is required to write a check. I know this, cause every time we need to pay the kerosene bill for the lamps in the attic, we all say aye. We all say aye to pay for the lemonade and sassafrass we use to quench our thirsts, in the social hour, after the goins on. We all vote to OK every expediture our local makes.
Our chairman explained, that at the Western Territories Regional Council Monthly Meeting, our delegates had been schooled in the legal and correct ways to contribute the members' resources to political campaigns. Since there are a lot of crooks in politics, it's important to do all of this just right, so no one will think you are a crook. We all want to help influence the laws of the land, to make them fit into our picture of what's good for us, so that's why we have a lobbyist, who uses our money to try to get politicians to vote our way, and if he didn't do it, the cash coming from the ranchers and oilmen would flood the capitol, and us poor, windblown tumble weeds would end up blown across the prairee until the cows came home ( highly unlikely, cause the ranchers have better feed). Our lobbyist, Mork, must have asked for some extra cash, though the minutes of that meeting, read to us earlier in our meeting, didn't say so; cause it turns out that one of our delegates volunteered us to make a $5,000 contributuion from our stash.
This was surely a nice thing for our delegate to do for the cause of ole Woody. The problem was, that our delegate had as much authority to do that with our money, as to buy a piece of the Oklahoma Territories and put up a souvenier stand selling Native American trinkets. How could this person make such a committment? A little digging by a member from the floor, that brought back shades of the Corralgate days of President Willie Dixon, ( you remember Ann Sathers asking What did he know, and When did he know it?), eeked out the admission that the delegate was not just a delegate; he was the recording secretary of Lucky Seven, he was the Assistant Business Manager for the Western Regional Council, he was the guy on the pension board who didn't want us to adapt our plan to the realities of modern fiscal life in the Wild West, he is the guy on the Health Plan Board who blames new members, that he helped organize into the union, for the rising cost of our health coverage; and most importantly, he is the fella who signs the checks of all the deputies working out of the union office, and his name is Jessie Jones.
A quick mention about timin and elections of delegates. Most of our members don't give a gopher's ass about the internal politics of our organization. The last time that delegates were elected, Lucky seven had 10 spots to fill, and eight interested members. The last two spots were filled by waiting for a couple of fellas to go use the bushes in the rear of the saloon, and electing them in their absence. No wonder a person could wear so many sombreros and wield so much power. Here comes the timin part; the very next month, after the delegate elections, the big powwow went down ,that gave us rabble, a reason to stand up and fight. We looked around and realized that we had three more years to wait to elect new delegates, to do the fighting up close in the big meetings at the Western Regional. If you think that's a case of whispering the mare's name after she's been long outta the barn, here's the double whammy: since we made a few gains among the cowpokes and ganndydancers and generally hard workin folk, the rules got changed. The last big boss of the union, that regular members could elect themselves, is now gonna be elected by the delegates, and this will happen a year before we elect new delegates! So the fellas that got hijacked into running, and the folks who understood things a might better than us, and those interested in gettin on the stagecoach to a career in union administration, instead of riding shotgun on a cattle drive across the alternatingly blistering hot, freezing cold, and soaking wet plains, are really in a position to do what they please! Without so much as even a wink in our direction, and yo'all know that's as good as a nod to a blind horse! And a fella with the pedigree of Jessie Jones can even commit our money to a politician without asking us, as long as he did it in a way that wouldn't make us all look like we were trying to buy influence or break some other rule or regulation! And the really brilliant part was, that it was all done legal!
When Mr Mork Unreal gave his pep talk, he didn't mention needing 5,000 greenbacks. If he had, I'm shore some woundup cowpoke, wearing red , white, and blue chaps, would have made the motion, and some other dude would have seconded it, and the vast majority would have said "Heck Yes!", and a few no's from those mongrels that always oppose everthin wouldn''t have amounted to a hill of beans, an would actually have proven the point that Lucky Seven is Woody country! I guess he just forgot to ask. But he remembered just before the lamps got blown out, after the final gavel, and he said somethin like "Hey, what about the five thousand dollars?"
This is where the rubber meets the trailhead. Our own Jessie Jones, man of his word, and his word is all that a man has to hang his Stetson on in these parts, said somethin like " We need an emergency meeting!". And since the crowds were streaming out of the attic, in a rush for the delights availible in the saloon below, the wiser heads prevailed to call the executive committee into emergency session, at 8:45 PM. No minutes of this meeting survive to this day, but an unanimous vote was held for the disbursement of the moolah, and the meeting was adjorned at 8:50 PM. At that rate, our entire sack of bullion could be spent in about 8 hours! Thank the Lord they were brief!
The fact that they called an emergency meeting, and then had us OK the whole ball of wax a month later, make the entire affair smell like a bed of honeysuckle in May! And it's legal that way. Don't even ask what the emergency was, we know the planning went on for a few weeks. Don't ask why this matter wasn't brought up to the whole gang in the first place, magicians and politicians and their lieutenants don't like to show us marks, how they do their tricks. The entire Wild West was stolen from the Mexicans and the Injuns anyway, fair and square, don't you know? Why shouldn't our union practice the skills it needs, to win battles for us against the tycoons, on us? They'll never have an easier opponent.
Jonquil closed the memory bank and spoke " So can you see how easy it was for the worst attributes of people to be used against them, by the people they trusted to protect them?"
Lotus replied, "Awesome! I'd like to find out what happened next!"
" We'll come back to this spot in the memory soon, first we need to get back to our astronomical studies. The planet Earth is coming close enough, we'll be able to check the progress of the atmosphere rebuilding project. The nuclear winter caused by those crazy humans really wrecked that planet!"
This option would allow the members to look at their total benefit package as their own basket, to partition as they choose. A member with a spouse who had a very good health plan could opt out, after paying a yearly administrative fee (say 20%), and invest the rest in a combination of retirement options. This would almost double the principal invested for these members. Others might want to put more into dental , or vision, if their needs were greater in those areas.
In short, we need to treat our benefits as our own, to be crafted into plans that benefit us, as we see our needs to be. No one is better able to identify those needs than us. We don't need to be locked into old ideas of following the crowd.
Wouldn't this make a good organizing tool? Haven't you talked to non union carpenters who don't care about our plans because they have a spouse with as good or better benefits, under which they are also covered?
What are the motivations of those who deny us the ability to craft creative uses of our money? Is Chuck Cannon correct that the International has ideas for the creative use of our money, and that we will not see it again; or is the ability to wheel and deal with billions part of the power trip that goes with the office, and letting the members have some say in that, is out of line, with the evolution of our organization?
Madison Wi. LU 314
I have to disagree with your ideas here. To have a cafeteria style benefit package is wrong.
Having members opt out of the health fund would put more of a burden on the members who remain in the plan. This would mean to support the same level of insurance coverage they would have to put more into the plan. They would have to take money from one of the other cafeteria options to make up the difference, and of course that would lessen that benefit.
You need to remember we are a UNION, A group. One for all, all for one. Therefore group benefits! As for the 415 rule, this is not a partisan political issue. Washington will reverse it because it means more tax dollars. Funny isn't it, that all of a sudden there is this problem that our members will be getting to much money from the pension plan. The plan didn't get that big from allowing participants to opt out.
You talk as if benefits are an entitlement. Wrong. They are part of your wage package. Employers would probably prefer to just put it on the check instead of having to send them to the various funds. Take some time and do this math. Take your bennies on the check, pay taxes on them, buy comparable insurance, put what's left into an IRA and see how it comes out. This is what your cafeteria plan would end up as.
Believe me brother YOU HAVE ONE HELL OF A GOOD DEAL HERE.
It has taken many many years to build these funds to get to where they are now. Providing good benefits for ALL members. We are all in this together. Don't have time to talk about how cafeteria benefits would effect the retirees.
Mark Holapa LU 836