Let's talk about how to use our funds before we lose them.
The National Scene
- The new year finds us preparing for the August convention in Chicago.
This will be the next opportunity to change our constitution. The following exerpts from
the Internet tell the experiences of our brothers and sisters all over North America. Many
of them have experienced the new and restructured UBC. Our own experiences have different
lyrics, but the tune sounds very familiar.
- Amending the constitution: Strategy & Tactics by Tom Crofton
<firstname.lastname@example.org > L.U. #314 Wisc
- The momentum for change is growing, but let's not sell ourselves short.
We need to identify all the areas of change that are pressing, and develop language for
them all. The patronizing, manipulative, and possibly corrupt actions of the International
need to be countered with a comprehensive alternative agenda. To win a small victory and
leave the many authoritarian practices unchanged for several more years would leave us
winning a tactical battle while losing the war. Our strategy needs to be agreed on, then
the tactics to attain our goals will be apparent. We need to replace the top leadership of
our union with members from the ranks. We need to make the positions less desirable for
those interested in personal gain. We need to find some enlightened members who are
willing to forego the pay scales, perks, and lifetime employment opportunities inherent in
the good old boy network that exists; who will commit to turn this structure around into a
bottom up, rank and file run organization, of the members, by the members, and for the
members. Nothing short of this vision is worth working for.
- In the Carpenters union: "modernized" authoritarian rule
- In one region then another, in Northern California, New York,
Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia, carpenters call for the right
to elect officers and business agents, to vote on contracts and dues increases. In sum,
they want certain basic democratic rights. Locals have been combined into district
councils and then reduced to powerless shells; their officers rendered impotent; their
members deprived of almost all rights. Smaller district councils are dissolved and then
merged into large, sprawling district and Regional councils which cover huge geographical
areas, remote from local control or influence. Carpenters face a deep erosion of their
rights as a new authoritarian structure is imposed on the whole union. Douglas McCarron,
newest Carpenters International president and promoter of the new system, argues that in
this era of capital concentration, labor must concentrate and centralize its own methods
and power. But he fails to explain why it is therefore necessary to institute a
near-dictatorial structure as a substitute for union democracy. Meanwhile, dazzled by the
elusive promise of a new labor movement in the new era, few labor activists, except our
construction workers, seem to notice that the Carpenters union is moving in the opposite
direction. While the Sweeney (AFL-CIO) enthusiasts call for a campaign to encourage rank
and file involvement, the Carpenter leaders would reduce their membership to the status of
voiceless and impotent dues payers. Most of all this is spelled out in the bylaws and
trade rules of the Carpenters Regional Council of Washington DC imposed in January 1998.
They are nearly identical to the bylaws in other regions. These protected bylaws are
sanctified, even though any changes recommended by the first General Vice President shall
be automatically incorporated into these by-laws without further vote by the delegates.
Locals are stripped of all authority. All Local Union employment positions, except for
clerical positions shall cease to exist. Locals cannot pay their own elected officers, who
must work at the trade all day and take care of union business in their spare time. Not
much time or energy left for council-wide activities that might annoy the council
officials. Locals must count on amateur hobbyists while the council is led by paid
professionals. Local members may not vote on their own collective bargaining contracts
which are negotiated and signed by the council. They may not vote upon or hire business
agents, organizers, or any other representatives. The main source of revenue, the 2% tax
on hourly wages is imposed and collected by the council and can be raised by the council
without membership vote or local approval.
- Locals can't do anything much with their moneys, but the council can tap
their treasuries simply by levying a special assessment or per capita tax on the locals.
Or by subterfuge: the council can appoint people, presumably to represent or serve the
local, and pay their expenses out of the local treasuries. All council officers, from the
top job of Executive Secretary -Treasurer to the three trustees are nominated and elected,
not by the membership, but by council delegates.
- All the authority presumably assigned to the council is actually
exercised by the executive secretary treasurer whose power is total. The ESTs authority is
theoretically subject to the council and its executive committee; but while that
limitation is written into the bylaws, in practice it is meaningless. The powers and
duties of the executive secretary-treasurer are spelled out in awesome detail in over
three bylaw pages. In contrast, the council president gets six skimpy lines. The EST can
do virtually anything. He can hire, suspend, promote, or fire any and all clerical
employees without any limitation whatsoever- He can do the same with all other council
representatives and organizers, subject to executive committee approval. Remember that no
local can hire any council representative except clerical, but the EST can hire and fire
every single employee on the council payroll from top to bottom. The EST supervises all
elections, directs all employees, and handles all moneys. The EST appoints all negotiating
committees, and serves as trustee on all funds. On some subjects, but not all, decisions
of the EST are subject to the authority of the council executive committee. But that
limitation, in practice, is bound to be meaningless, because all council delegates and
executive committee members are totally at the mercy of the EST for appointment to any
paid union staff position.
- The council setup is carefully tailored in all its aspects to establish a
one-person authoritarian regime. Is there any wonder why self-respecting, independent
minded carpenter unionists are outraged?
- Robert Carlston <email@example.com> Nevada
- The right to vote on contracts is central to what we are about. The right
to vote on Business agents goes hand in hand with that right. When it comes right down to
it, the Business agent's job is to insure compliance with the contract. I've heard all the
arguments; that elected B.A.s will do favors to get votes etc. But, unelected agents are
only accountable to their boss; the council head. Isn't it better for an agent to be
accountable to his boss; the membership?
- Herman Benson - Association for Union Democracy
- We know there are good, honest unionists on both sides of this issue who
want strong effective unions. Granted too, that change is necessary, to break the hold of
the corrupt fiefdoms and to reorganize union power. The problem is not that the new system
makes changes; the problem is that it incorporates undemocratic features, the very
concentration of authoritarian power that led to the evils in the first place. Moreover,
these undemocratic authoritarian features are not necessary to strengthen labor; they are
simply convenient devices to permit the officialdom to avoid the annoying necessity of
consulting the membership.
- The executive secretary-treasurer is endowed with authoritarian powers
which, in practice, insulate the office from membership control and actually from any
control, except from the international. The local unions shall not be allowed to employ
anyone other than clerical employees. An astounding provision which prevents local members
from paying their own elected officers. The whole Council structure is corrupted by the
powers of the EST. Local delegates, not the membership, elect the EST and other officers,
but the delegates can hold no paid position without EST approval. And to top it all, the
EST appoints all committees, including the trial committee. As time goes by, only a brave
soul will risk offending an EST with such awesome powers to reward friends and punish
- The Council shall have the exclusive authority to negotiate, ratify, and
execute Collective Bargaining Agreements for and on behalf of the affiliated Local Unions except
to the extent the International Union exercises its jurisdiction or authority. (ed.
note: sound familiar?)
- Bo, L.U. #1977 Nevada
- I just wish more rank and file carpenters would take every opportunity to
see that the UBC is a an organization for the rank and file and not a business to keep the
contractors happy. The members of my Local are so disgusted that they don't attend
meetings and don't care what the BAs and organizers are doing, or should I say not doing!
- Patrick Mulligan<firstname.lastname@example.org>
- New approaches? There's nothing new about top down organizing, and this
is exactly what our leadership has committed itself to by pushing through portability and
concessionary contracts. Our international reps love to quote from P.J. Maguire, but the
fact is that he was dedicated to bottom up organizing and he viewed our union as a social
movement, not a business.
- Robert Carlston <email@example.com> Nevada
- Let me see if I've got this straight, the only way our brotherhood will
become strong is by member participation. Our esteemed General President as good as says
(in this months magazine); that if the brotherhood fails it will be the members fault. Yet
this same President does not want membership participation in their union. Vote for the
right candidates for public office; but don't think of voting in the union. Work hard to
organize the unorganized, protest unfair labor practices, but don't protest against the
union's unfair practices. Encourage nonunion workers to strike for their rights, but
charge and threaten to expel union members who dare to protest or strike. Tell the
nonunion that if they join; they will have a contract and a voice. Then deny ratification
votes , and tell them that their voice is a bunch of appointed staff. At the same time
tell members that they just aren't as good as the men the company already has; so sorry.
But, we need your help to sign up even more people.
- Robert Christie Jr. L.U. #22 San Francisco, Ca
- Many of us have seen what kind of deals your new union has made. I want
something in writing, like a union contract. A contract that I voted on. Leaders who I
vote for, even if they lose. An Executive Secretary who must stand for election every few
years would be fine. A General President elected by the membership, even if it's you Doug.
I want constitutional rights guaranteed by the United States and by the UBC constitutions.
- Are you asking us to take to the streets in support of agreements we
can't vote on - negotiated by people we don't elect - and then settle for mediocre
agreements so that the Employer can be more profitable? Say it ain't so.
- Carpenters Fight to Take Back Our Union
- Last May, some 2000 carpenters in the San Francisco Bay Area walked off
jobs, with the support of some 3,000 other building trades workers. They did this in
protest of what their own leadership was doing. Despite the booming economy and the full
employment, the carpenters union leadership in this area were trying to force through a
cut-rate, contractor-friendly contract. It contained wage "increases" that would
not keep up with inflation and major concessions on the work week and the hiring hall
language. It left the retirees with an absolutely miserable pension. At the same time, the
Regional Council leadership, using the "orders" of General President Doug
McCarron as a cover, decided there would be no membership vote on the contract. Instead,
the Council delegates would vote on it. Close to half of voting delegates happened to be
appointed Council employees who,
almost to the last person, vote as told. Totally locked out of this system, which
failed to represent them, carpenters walked off and shut down major jobs, including the
San Francisco airport job, for several days. As a result of this walk off, General
President McCarron backed down on his order prohibiting membership ratification of
However, McCarron and company haven't backed down from their plans to
turn the union into a contractor-friendly employment agency and they are determined to
roll over anybody who gets in their way on this score. They correctly see the walk offs as
a major threat and decided that somebody must pay for it. That "somebody"
happens to be John Reimann, Recording Secretary of LU 713 California).
- Josh Coles, Organizer, BC Carpenters Union, Vancouver, BC
- This past week Brother John Reimann from Local 713, Oakland, California,
learned he'll soon be expelled from our union. In an unprecedented decision, a General
Executive Board appointed kangaroo-court trial jury decided that in order to preserve
harmony with contractors, among other things, Reimann must be expelled for his leadership
in the July San Francisco Wildcat strike. A member of this 3-person jury is Martyn A.
Piper, the Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Alberta Regional Council of Carpenters.
McCarron appointed Piper as EST after the 1997 restructuring of the Alberta area.
- Since then, neighboring BC Carpenter Union members have been told
repeatedly that Alberta was a model we should follow, that McCarron's restructuring will
work in BC as it does in Alberta. Let's hope it does. There are thousands of BC members
that would just love to be expelled by Piper or other McCarron supporters. Through job
action many could highlight the real UBCJA organizing plan: kick active members out so
they can join somewhere else.
- Gregory A. Butler carpenter L.U. #608 New York
- I recently had a conversation with John Reimann, the recording secretary
of Local Union #713 in Alameda County, CA (just across the bay from San Francisco) and a
major thorn in the side of Dougie Mac. For those who aren't familiar with brother
Reimann's situation, let's have a recap:
- Back in May, the Northern California Regional Council of Carpenters
negotiated a new master agreement. Despite an unprecedented building boom in the area, the
agreement was concessionary. To make matters worse, unlike previous contracts, which were
voted on directly by the members, this agreement was voted on by the delegates, two thirds
of whom were on the payroll of the RC, at the discretion of the Executive Secretary
Treasurer, John Casey. So, in disgust, 2,000 carpenters walked off the job in a wildcat
strike. One of the jobs shut down was the San Francisco Airport job. The GC on that job
happens to be Tutor Saliba, a company who's owner, Ron Tutor, has financial ties with UBC
General President Douglass J. McCarron. That job was a PLA job, and, like most PLA jobs,
the attempt to "organize" work with a no strike agreement just resulted in many
rat contractors being on the site.
- Brother Reimann is in the process of setting up a defense fund, to defray
the substantial legal expenses he has incurred. You can contact brother Reimann directly
- Beyond brother Reimann's case, we also spoke about conditions in
California. Southern California residential construction is a cesspool, with union
carpenters working under piece rate contracts. Some carpenter agreements even tell members
to NEGOTIATE THEIR OWN PIECE RATE WITH THE CONTRACTOR, which of course is just like the
non union (except non union carpenters don't have to pay union dues!).
- In the Northern part of the state, things aren't quite as bad, yet. They
don't have any piece rate agreements. But, it is expected for furniture and finish
woodwork carpenters to bring their own cordless drills to the site, in violation of the
long standing union rule that the employer was expected to supply power tools, and members
were expected to only bring hand tools. Some finish carpenters have even been expected to
bring their own chop saws and tablesaws! And, on all but the biggest jobs, there are no
shop stewards. So, anything can happen to the carpenter on a job, and apparently anything
- So, in Dougie Mac's home base, California, the birthplace of McCarron's
"Corporate Unionism", conditions have fallen close to non union levels. I guess
that's what Doug means when he talks about "user friendly unions" and
"keeping our contractors competitive with the non-union".
- Rich Peterson L.U. #131 Seattle, Washington
- To the GEB, show us what you are made of and give the rank and file the
ability to choose their leaders. If you want to lead us, empower us, embrace our ideas and
make us part of the process. Give us the respect we are due. Without the working members
this union would cease to exist. It is in your best interest that you listen and act. If
you do not, you better see if your bags still fit and the rust is cleaned off your tools.
It is only a matter of time when until the majority is heard. We will not be denied.
- < L-Leo135@webtv.net> L.U. #157 New York
- I also think we have to get the ball rolling, before you know it that
convention will be here. Get some kind of survey out there see what the majority of
the rank n file is looking for, and make sure that the people going to this convention are
well aware of that. They have to UNDERSTAND that they work and represent us the rank n
file, if not then they won't be there for too long. I guess it's time for some of you guys
with the know how and the brains to step forward and get something going---- It's time to
Walk the Walk!! Bye- Bye Dougie It Has Not Been A Pleasure!
- < Danielj4@aol.com > L.U. #687 Michigan
- ..In May of 96 we were electing a new sec/treasurer for our council. The
sitting sec/treasurer resigned and appointed the current sec/treasurer. The current
sec/treasurer then appointed the old sec/treasurer as a business agent. Individuals
interested in running for sec/treasurer then began campaigning. 3 weeks later all of the
Detroit locals were disbanded and merged into 1. The individuals who were running for the
old council sec/treasurer position and spent their own money were not even warned that
this change was coming!!!! Now how much of a coincidence is it that the old sec/treasurer
resigned and just happened to appoint the man that your GP would later appoint as head of
the new Michigan Regional Council? To add insult to injury all of these new players claim
they had no knowledge of the change that was about to take place but yet all secured their
positions before the change
Oh by the way, it took 1 year for this new streamlined
Local of ours to hold its first meeting!!! These meetings are useless, for what authority
does a local under the council concept have??? For the love of god, the most important
issue that the rank n file carpenter can discuss at these meetings is where to hold the
puppet local's yearly picnic. In the 3 years since the invasion of the Detroit District
Council, the new local has voted on ZERO issues that effect our day to day business. The
council delegates are all business agents or organizers, and were all appointed by the
Grand Poobah of the council..
- As you read the comments from around the country, you can tell that all
is not well in our Union. The existence of our caucus is a response to the slap in the
face we all received last summer. We are not alone. UBC members all over North America are
moving towards changing our rules and leadership. We need to pass approval of amendments
in many locals around the continent and then elect delegates to the convention who will
vote for them. The coordination for this effort is up and running. Our caucus, our general
membership, and each and everyone of you are the keys to our success. Let's ACT in our own
self interest, and make our togetherness a source of pride and power.
- We are meeting in our winter quarters at the Badger Bowl, south of the
belt line at Rimrock, at 5:00 PM, Wednesday the 26th of January (you can find us there
before each 314 meeting until further notice). Refreshments (which include good food) are
available on a "pay for your own" basis. The agenda includes; strategy and
tactics, local and national news, a short lesson in Robert's Rules, and mountains of
gossip. Come early if you like. Our turn out is increasing, and we would love to have more
members show up. All are welcome. Donations will be gratefully accepted and used to
cover printing and mailing costs of the Kerf.
Submissions are welcome. The Kerf is published monthly.