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First Ever Rank and File, CDUI Convention!

Gathering 2:00 Rally 3:30 Buffet 5:00 Music 7:00

at The Hothouse 31 East Balbo, Sunday, August 20th

$25 per person, two drinks included

 

Federal Building to McCormick Place

Monday Aug. 21st, 7 AM

The UBC has decided, using their ultimate wisdom, to block the largest caucus in the union from renting a meeting room, in the main hotel, during the Chicago convention. Once again, the democratic process is the loser. The one-party monolith is unable to recognize the growing loyal opposition to its rule.

The CARPENTERS FOR A DEMOCRATIC UNION (International) seeks to have a meeting room to allow a give and take of ideas, and to promote its founding principals, including ONE MEMBER/ONE VOTE

We seek a place at the table. We are all dues paying members, many of whom have been elected as delegates, and we deserve the respect of the organization. We have a right to be involved in the business of the convention, which includes the ability to create a forum outside the meeting hall, in proximity to the body of delegates, in which to lobby for our beliefs.

The action of the staff of the UBC, to deny us the ability to be present, is another example of the power of the incumbency being used against the membership. The leadership is once again showing the membership why we need to follow the original founders' call to

EDUCATE, AGITATE, AND ORGANIZE.

The irony that we need to first organize our membership, before we organize our trade, is not lost on us. We have a historic opportunity to take back our union, and rebuild it into a workers' organization

OF THE MEMBERS, BY THE MEMBERS, AND FOR THE MEMBERS.

Come to Chicago to be heard! Join us in the Hall, the hallways and the streets! The whole labor world is watching.

Come to Chicago, August 20th, to be heard! Join us in the Hall, the hallways, and the streets. The whole labor world is watching.

This last week has been spent meeting the activists of Local Union 225, Atlanta, Georgia. Brother Phil Lavalle had my week organized, using the "extreme approach," meeting carpenters at many industrial work sites. The union is based in manufacturing, maintenance, and some renovation. The majority of the work ,about 90%, is unrepresented workers Come to Chicago to be heard! Join us in the Hall, the hallways and the streets! The whole labor world is watching.

 

Today was the quarterly meeting of the Southern California Regional Council of Carpenters. On the flight home I was thinking how much the union has changed from when I started. At that point the stewardess gave her microphone to Dan O'Shea who led the plane in the "We are the union chant." As most of the carpenter delegates on that flight were staff I thought it a little more than ironic.

The meeting was the same as every one I've attended for the last five years. The Secretary/Treasurer read the reports of money given to which candidates and causes. The organizing heads gave their rah-rah reports of how we have the same nonunion contractors on the ropes who have been on the ropes for the last five years. I notice that they have neither gone out of business or signed yet. Every report included the obligatory fawning pat on Doug's back. (He was present by the way) The Southern California head of Organizing made a motion that the Council endorse Doug and his entire team and vision. The motion passed to a round of "ayes" and one "nay" (guess who?). After the meeting the delegates were served a very nice lunch buffet.

The conversation at my table included an observation from a council e-board member regarding the Christie and the "twenty dollar tickets". No matter what we think the word is getting out. He even mentioned "one member/one vote" but' he said it as if it left a bad taste. He then mentioned that Pile drivers' local 2375 had passed "That Christie thing". Joel Harzan (the B.A. of 2375) is seriously ill, he said that the council is sending a new agent up there to "prop those guys up" and that their passing of the Christie is the reason that that particular agent was chosen. I don't know what that means but it doesn't sound good. I got home to find a letter from the 1977 leadership team signed by Marc Furman endorsing the candidates for Council Delegate, I wasn't one of them (surprise - surprise). One of our senior representatives asked me to give him a heads up the next time I posted to the Internet. I would hope he would want to rebut my arguments but I know better.

These guys are still flailing around in the dark ages. One of our apprenticeship staff gave a report on their plans to set up an interactive site. Mike McCarron said that this is the information age and his idea was that the delegates take home the information given them at the meetings??? (Get a clue; Mike).

Here's your heads up; Cliff, but egroups is not the Internet, it is just a bulletin board to express opinions. Remember opinions, we used to have plenty of them; but, then we remembered our friends who stuck their necks out for us too. He told me that Doug was "the best thing to happen to the Brotherhood," I submit that he's the best thing to happen to the staff.

The rest of us still get up at O-Dawn-30, hope our vehicle gets us to work one more day, strap on a heavy-ass tool belt, and hope we still have a job at the end of the day. The members say they don't vote because "nothing will change" the staff say the members don't vote because "they endorse what we are doing". One of these statements is the truth; is silence disapproval or approval? I guess it all depends on where you are standing. I would ask Dan, Ron, Tom, or whoever carries this post up to the Ivory Tower to not change a word.

 

This last week has been spent meeting the activists of Local Union 225, Atlanta, Georgia. Brother Phil Lavalle had my week organized, using the "extreme approach", meeting carpenters at many industrial work sites. The area is based in manufacturing, maintenance, and some renovation. The majority of the work (about 90%), is unrepresented workers doing the work that should belong to the UBC. The organizers and business reps that I met were primarily

focused on campaigning against the rank and file. Since the first vote of the members for delegates to the convention was ruled invalid, a second attempt at electing the establishment candidates was needed. Their campaign to get members out for the rerun was successful. What was not counted on was the purity of our "ONE MEMBER/ONE VOTE" message. Twice as many members showed up the second time, and local issues were presented that showed the reluctance of the leaders to work in the interest of the rank and file.

At the election, it just so happened that the 4th District Board Member, Peppy Collado, was in town. A coincidence? I think not!

We had many conversations with organizers and staff of the regional council to let them know of our sincerity and dedication to include the members in the decision making process. I also was chastised heavily by staff for leading the attack in Washington, DC on April 4th, y'all might remember the informational leafleting, the airing of our dirty laundry to the public and other building trades reps. We do have the support of other crafts and service unions for our mantra, ONE MEMBER/ONE VOTE. Phil asked that I be his observer at the counting of the votes, happily I consented. Ken Sears was the General Rep that Mac had put in charge. It truly pays to know your rights under our UBC constitution and DOL laws, they could not intimidate us. We won the election, the same 4 elected prior won again. Only, this time they got twice as many votes. The day after the election was the Atlanta CDU meeting, Because of the victory at election we had 3 times as many members show. It is important to note that CDU Atlanta was started by a brother John Reynolds, who had heard the message from Boston CDU member Jim McDermott. At this meeting the main order of business was the protection and formation of CDUI-SER (Carpenters for a Democratic Union International-Southeast Region.) It is again my pleasure to give credit to the CDUI-NCR for writing these bylaws for all of our protection.

On Friday, it was requested of me to meet with Darrell Zube (the next board member from the 4th district). I was welcomed into his home by the many animals that rule the 37 acres of pasture land and wild blackberries. Darrell arranged a Saturday social with some of the executive board past and newly elected. It was a great afternoon of sharing information and planning for the convention.

The members of Atlanta have elected the first African-American woman (Financial Secretary) Shirley Kimbal. Shirley used to be the apprenticeship director and was fired like so many others because of doing their job,

activating members toward their responsibilities to the union. Another individual that will play an instrumental role in coordinating efforts in Atlanta, Orlando Jones (named organizer of the year by the UBC 1996) was also

fired for doing too good of a job of organizing. There is a definite pattern of discrimination against minorities by the EST Larry Phillips and his "GOOD OLE BOY'S".

Thank you Phil for your excellent organizing skills. I am tired and am looking forward to a couple days with my family before hitting the road to Chicago.

It is truly my belief that we can win a major victory in Chicago.

The leadership of my Local has decided to place its personal attacks against me, on the record of our monthly meetings. Two thinly veiled punches were thrown the other night, and could actually be considered comical, if they were not examples of our leadership attempting to intimidate our members, who are trying to practice Union Democracy.

The first example was during the reading of minutes. The recording secretary read a synopsis of a complaint by a trustee, against the Kerf, and my activities in standing up for member rights. The wording used in the minutes was right out of the section of the UBC constitution, "The Obligation". Violating the obligation is cause for removal from the union, and loss of all benefits. The humorous part, is that the original statement by the trustee did not use those words. He delivered an emotional statement that complained about my writing the Kerf and placing it on the Internet. He was also upset that the fax number for the Kerf is a Salt Lake City, Utah phone number. The implication was that people in Utah were writing the Kerf. (Which wouldn't bother me. If anyone in Utah has something to say about the UBC, please send it in. Due to the wonders of hi tech the number is actually an e-mail fax line.)

The serious side of this action, is that this part of the "Obligation" has been ruled illegal by the LMRDA for 41 years. Our members have their US Constitutional rights of free speech and assembly, no matter what the UBC thinks. The Union Members' Bill of Rights (LMRDA) was written to clarify that point and protect members from authoritarian behavior. Any attempt to stifle that right is a violation of Federal law, and conspiracy to stifle that right comes under the racketeering part of the RICO laws. Our leadership (even at the local level) is attempting to scare the rank and file into submission. This is tragic, when we realize, that our union exists to serve us, to bargain for us, and to protect us.

The second example occurred when a slightly inebriated vice president got up and said it was awful that a member who thought he was working to change everything for the better, allowed non-union workers to be on his job, and didn't do anything about it. This showed him that the member was not sincere about working for the good of the members. He went on for a few minutes, without mentioning names, pouring on the innuendo.

I stood up and asked him what a good member is supposed to do, besides calling the hall several times over the last two years, explaining the situation repeatedly to the organizer, the BA, and the business manager. (After all, we don't own the construction company, nor the developer , nor do we carpenters sign contracts with subs). His response was that it was a real shame that this situation was occurring (as though it was all the carpenter's fault). After I repeated my question, he started mumbling, and the other e-board members told him to sit down.

The purpose of these attacks is clear. If a member is going to stand up and resist undemocratic behavior from the leaders, he or she will get trashed by those supporting the status quo. This is really not a surprise to the members.

The trashing we got from the leadership 13 months ago at ratification time brought the relationship between the leaders and members out into the light. Previously, many of us had hopes that our leaders were working in our interests, or at least, not working against us. We have seen unanimous or nearly unanimous votes have no effect. We have seen minutes recorded incorrectly, so the substance of a motion was greatly changed. We have witnessed the creative use of the chair to stall the real business of the members from ever getting to the floor. We have seen a member ruled out of order for trying to amend the constitution, in the manner in which the constitution provides. Now we see the business part of the meeting being used for attacks on a member, to build a historical record, as only the incumbent can do (he takes the notes).

The only remedy for these malicious official actions is to use the ballot box to replace those in charge. Our system allows us few votes, but we need to use those we have. We need to run candidates for every position . We need to base our decisions, on the positions candidates take on the issues affecting us. We can reassert control over our organization, and regain the market share that our leaders lost for us. We can bring this working peoples' organization into a new age of union democracy.

MAY THE MEMBERS' WILL BE DONE

 

Local 713, Hayward ,California has gone through a lot of turmoil since the restructuring a few years ago. The wildcat strike, and the expulsion of John Reimann, are two major events in memory. Last month, the members got together, and won a major victory for themselves.

There were some 230 votes cast in all, which is a low turnout. The slate of "Working Carpenters for a Stronger Union" did a mailing to the entire membership. We also did a lot of calling to members whose names we had gotten.

We won the president, vice president, recording secretary, treasurer (uncontested), warden, conductor (uncontested), and one trustee. I think that my expulsion helped further clarify exactly what is happening in the union and further isolated the full time staffers, who oppose doing anything

against my expulsion. This has helped make clearer exactly what the role of the BA is. The result is that the business agents have lost almost all support from the working members; they are isolated.

As I said, the main issue has been the contract of last year. We emphasized that it was the full timers' slate that had forced the contract down our throats. It was interesting that the BAs' slate claimed that they were for higher wages and a better pension. This shows how important they understand this issue to be. We explained that they weren't "in favor" of this last year, when it counted.

Labor unions are "cash cows." They provide a steady inflow of cash in the form of dues. Labor pension funds are enormous, and hold billions of dollars of members' pension money. Much of this money is not subject to competent or prudent oversight. Regulation is lax and the opportunities for embezzlement are always present. The Carpenters Constitution is an opportunists' dream come true. If one reads between the lines, as opportunists expertly can, sections in the document used in conjunction permit the merging and dissolution of the Union's Locals and Councils. Also permitted is the confiscation of Locals' and Council's assets by the International Union, and their conversion into whatever diversions a General President and Executive Board or Board of Trustees might direct. The Union Constitution vests title with the General Executive Board/Board of Trustees under a trust law concept that permits extreme latitude with regard to beneficiaries' property rights. For the unscrupulous it is an invitation to breach trust. Carpenter real estate is an undiscovered treasure to all but the General President, the General Executive Board/Board of Trustees and their investment advisers. Carpenter real estate would be viewed by takeover specialists as a two-times undervalued multi-billion dollar asset. In the first instance, it can be purloined (under the Constitution) from its beneficiaries for free, by the General Executives and their investment advisors. Unlike investors in publicly-traded companies, who usually receive a premium price for their equities, the Union-member beneficiaries would not receive one dime for this "legal" misappropriation of their property rights. Indeed, they won't even know that it is happening! In the second instance, it represents a vast amount of underutilized, and undervalued property (by investment standards). Takeover specialists are continually searching for undervalued situations such as the Carpenter real estate. It is undervalued because the present use does not return, and cannot be projected to return (in dues monies), what it could potentially earn if its value were placed in other forms of investments. A much higher return on, and an appreciation of value (realization of intrinsic worth) would likely result by selling these properties, or redeveloping them. Carpenter headquarters in Washington DC is currently being redeveloped. For instance, "The investment strategy of Richard C. Blum & Associates is one that is a value oriented approach....this value discipline extends beyond the traditional requirement that potential investments sell at a discount to their intrinsic worth, to include a qualitative assessment of each company's business....We also seek to identify businesses where the opportunity exists for the implementation of strategies to close the gap between the current market valuation and the intrinsic value of the business....we look to work with management to implement strategies to enhance shareholder value....Suitable investment candidates include companies that are undervalued in relation to their underlying assets and/or their ability to generate cash flow. Some of the strategies that we have employed in the past and will continue to use in the future include: restructuring (divestitures, mergers, acquisitions, and spin-offs) and recapitalizations (including taking companies private)....we have not engaged in any hostile takeover activities in the past and we do not intend to in the future."

The only obstacle barring the Carpenters Union, and its real estate, from meeting the criteria cited above to be a takeover candidate, would be its status as a labor union. Disregard that status and it is like any other company! Its real estate is very likely intrinsically undervalued, and it does have the ability to generate cash flow. Because it is vulnerable to seizure by its General Executives through the use of constitutional liberties, its unique labor union status will not prevent a takeover. By changing the major orientation of its business from representing the interests of Union members to providing a one-stop labor pool and Taft-Hartley plan service for employers, significant growth potential could be realized. Since the member beneficiaries hold no estate (own nothing), it is likely that the General Officers regard the Union as being their company, and themselves as the shareholders. The activities of the Carpenter General Officers regarding restructuring raises questions about the kind of advice that has been and may still be supplied by Carpenter investment adviser Richard Blum, to these same officers. If we consider the close relationships between the principals and their specialties, and the nature and direction Carpenter restructuring is taking, disclaimers not withstanding, we have a takeover problem. By utilizing Constitutional license and other dictatorial powers, the facilities commonly used for servicing Carpenters Union members can be rendered redundant by the employment of the 1-800 computerized job-dispatching system. Locals and councils can be declared merged or "suspended and lapsed" and thereby dissolved. Union real estate can be liquidated, the proceeds "restructured" into a bewildering array of "new enterprises, investments, and gifts," and as such "lost" as far as the member beneficiaries are concerned. Unless the government effectively intervenes or the members quickly wake up, a Wall Street-type takeover of a labor union won't be a question of if or when, but will probably occur this August 2000. No matter who is elected to head the Union, the Carpenters Union will remain an attractive takeover target as long as its real estate continues to be undervalued and vulnerable to appropriation by the General Officers.

The members will still be subject to assaults upon their rights and liable to disenfranchisement.

You would not be reading this Kerf without the support of those super-dooper people who have sent checks or stamps just in the nick of time. You too can join the ranks of the truly wonderful by sending a donation to: 16005 Crofton Dr., Richland Center, WI 53581.

http://www.carpentersunionbc.com/Pages/SWCC.html

http://forthemembers.tripod.com

 

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