THE UBC CONVENTION REPORT
by Tom Crofton
FIVE MORE YEARS
The McCarron team accomplished their mission in Chicago at the General Convention. They were able to pass all of their amendments, disapprove of all others, and win all the positions open for election. These results were never in doubt. The rules were created in a closed door session, before many delegates were in town. The chances that delegates had to speak to the committees ,were restricted to 5 minutes per person, in closed door sessions, with no chance, or desire, for give and take. The proposed Amendments were presented to the delegates the day before the convention opened, in a book of 110 pages. I personally know only one delegate who read every page before the opening gavel.
The first session consisted of an extremely well thought out, sophisticated, expensive multimedia presentation. Doug McCarron's gave his best speech on record. Combined with the enthusiastic cheers of 1800 employees and wannabees, the affect was overwhelming to those in the minority; whose hopes of change through the system ,rested on the concept of open discussion and free interplay of thoughts. The emotionally charged atmosphere, including 5 giant screen video images of the speaker, or other video images, combined with very loud musical accompaniment, metamorphosed into a surreal sea of outstretched delegate arms, hands held high, and choruses of voices chanting "5 more years". More than one of us in the minority, had visions of Nuremberg in 1939, and the hysterical anointing of another, much more malevolent dictator.
The willing mass drank in the words of McCarron's campaign speech which he alone was allowed to make, and make he did for 2 ½ days), interrupting repeatedly to repeat their chanting. By late morning, the oxygen was totally sucked from the room, and only by the grace of one even more powerful, did we escape to eat lunch, and lick our psychological wounds.
The delegates of opposition caucused and vittled, and regained some personal courage. The afternoon session , run without a previously disclosed agenda, consisted of the big issue amendments. The previous days' input from members was not reported on at all.
The committee reports were brought to the floor and passed, with virtually no discussion. Dissenting views were allowed expression ,at the microphones, only on the most serious matters, and only after supporting views were expressed. Some of the opposition delegates bravely made their way to the mikes, and held their heads high, while explaining the reasoning for their positions. Would be speakers on the issues, were repeatedly denied a chance to speak, through the home team's tactic of lining up pre-selected individuals, whose function was to call the question. Individuals wearing two way radios were stationed at each mike, to tell the mike master who was in line. Those delegates not wearing a McCarron Team button were rarely allowed to speak. The planning, and thought process involved in creating this charade, became readily transparent, when a delegate asked if the time was right to call the question on the AFL-CIO amendment. In fact, that amendment had not been opened for discussion yet, and the regular folks were not provided with an order of the proceedings, so we did not know it was next in line.
RUSSIAN ROULETTE or "GIVE the MAN enough rope to hang us all"
The AFL-CIO change (section 58). was an amendment that changed the wording from "being affiliated" to "If the International body is affiliated with the AFL-CIO....local unions, with the consent of their affiliated council... may affiliate.." This simple change of words opens the door for the UBC to raid the other construction trade unions, initiating another version of a race to the bottom, to see who will do the work for less. This action, or threat thereof, is aimed at the part of the industry that does 20% of the work, (the union built part of the market), leaving the nonunion 80% market share untouched. Our great leaders are threatening to get us caught up in a jurisdictional war with other construction unions ,instead of working together to solve our collective differences, and then marching together to gather more market share, for all union workers. If these actions are an attempt to create one union for all construction workers, then no matter how noble the goal may be, the methods are unacceptable, and the results will be predictably bad.
The Christie Amendments all went down to the cheers of those whose jobs depend on the patronage system we have. Unfortunately, the attempts by reformers to allow the rank and file to vote, on issues and employees, were painted as attempts by a few lost souls to recapture the past. I'm quite sure that no one in the "One member/One Vote" movement wants to return to any form of corruption or privilege associated with the past. WE HAVE ALL OF THOSE PROBLEMS NOW, and have come together to find ways to solve them. Our difficulties in developing solutions lie partially in the methods required by the constitution, and the rules committee, for the members to have input into the system. When we add the fact that our documents are full of legalese, outdate language, and outright illegal statements, the difficulties for members to come up with an effective program, on there own time, and with their own funds, are great. Yet, we are making these efforts, because we know that returning to the past is the farthest thing from our minds. We also know that the direction the McCarron Team is heading is, at best, towards a "user non-friendly" system. At worst, the McCarron Team might be headed towards hard time.
When I fight Authority......
As a backdrop to the convention extravaganza, the McCarron administration has been trying to shake off several lawsuits filed by members and government authorities. In this nation, the accused have a right to presumption of innocence until tried by a jury of their peers. That said, the most recent developments in these cases include a refusal by the judge in one pension fraud suit to dismiss the case, and the indictment in another court of one of McCarron's nominators, and two of his employees, for accepting bribes to allow non-union workers to work for less than scale on a union job. Those of us involved in UNION DEMOCRACY reforms do not expect the legal system to do our job for us. We only ask the membership, to recognize the ethical and moral standards practiced by those in high office, and hope that you use that understanding to interpret the picture painted by those in power.
CAT 'O NINE TAILS
Some 200 of the 1800 McCarron followers had a special duty at this convention. Low and middle ranking staffers held the outside seat in every row, to fulfill the duties of "Whips". This time honored position is the parliamentary equivalent of enforcer. The whips' duties included; making sure that everyone in their rows stood to cheer at the appropriate times, letting those recalcitrant fellows ,who demurred from following the herd, know that they were in big trouble; and informing to their immediate bosses, the identity of those, who would not follow, even their most sincere efforts of prodding. Several opposition delegates, who hold positions on local union executive boards ,told me that they were facing increasing pressure, as they continued to resist the urges they were getting, to join in the mindless cheering.
So who are we whips?
We hold a hierarchy of patronage positions, and owe our jobs to our union bosses, NOT to the members whom we represent, AND DON'T YOU FORGET IT. That's why we have whips! To remind us that the gold plated faucets, the sterling silver serving dishes, the gifts of luggage, jackets, hunting knives, steak knives, flashlights, the expense accounts; and the athletic club, with the indoor running track, exercise machines, the wonderful pool, sauna, and whirlpool (with rooftop view of downtown), are all there for US, because the members need US to be specialists at our jobs , the jobs that only WE, and people special like US can do (representing those half moronic, sweaty bastards who don't appreciate US!). THIS IS OUR REWARD, for putting up with the inconsiderate masses who regretfully, and stubbornly, pay their dues for OUR services! Now all YOU gotta do is vote the way WE say, and that makes it legal, and THAT'S DEMOCRACY! ...For those of you who do not know the identity of your local whip; he is one of your delegates, who also has a job on the staff, or someone in line for that job.
A Definition, a Purpose, and a Thank You
Some of you might remember that this was a convention , required by federal law, to determine, in a democratic manner, the methods of running, and the persons who will run, our union. You might want to know, that you, the working stiffs, anted up somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 million dollars for this event.
Thank YOU! The finest rooms, free shuttles, and great food were GREATLY APPRECIATED! ( I missed the very large shrimp at the big celebration dinner, and I'm still upset about that).
The unpaid, and uninvited rabble that showed up to leaflet, and monitor, were easy to dismiss. They spoke about one member one vote, as though their vote could mean something! They spoke about local unions having a choice to drop out of regional councils in order to control their own destiny; as though the locals could possibly know what was best for themselves. They spoke about a form of democracy that lets individuals get to vote on policies, and the staff people that work for them. Don't be confused!
The UBC is NOT THAT KIND OF DEMOCRACY!.
John Reimann had his day in non court, proving again that the incumbents hold all of the power. John decided that he had nothing to apologize for, he only wished to speak to the entire convention, as the constitution states he may. The leadership used their power to control the proceedings so that 1790 delegates did not get to hear John speak. The results were predictable, and a loss for the principle that we are a union of individuals, who stand side by side, helping and protecting those on either side as we face the enemy in front of us. Perhaps if we could line up our half million members in files and ranks, the 1800 of us, who feel superior to the rest of us, would see differently.
the DRUM ACT
A bill before Congress, known as the Democratic Rights for Union Members Act, is making its way through channels. Legal experts who care about Union Democracy have helped create this bill in the interests of those union members who are concerned that their activities in bringing about reform is threatening their standing in their organization. Interestingly, Republican lawmakers are sponsoring this bill, and Democratic lawmakers are stalling it. A recent attempt by one of our members, to testify before congress on this bill was postponed by the Democrats. Check our web site for details. (http://www.ranknfile.net) Send letters or e-mail's to your political representatives supporting the act.
WHAT A MILLION BUCKS WILL BUY
The UBC spent a cool million bucks on Democratic Party election campaigns recently. We were given the old quid pro quo, via campaign speeches by Richard Gephardt, Al Gore, Pat Kennedy, and Ted Kennedy. Some of us were very surprised that partisan political speeches could be allowed at the convention, because we had read what the Rules Committee had written especially for the event. Rule number six stated clearly, that no partisan political speeches would be allowed. The fact that these were some really big hitters must have made breaking the rules OK. The speeches were all very well done, as though they had given them before, and often played on the right themes for us ( a "used to be" blue collar, now sport shirt crowd). The speakers must have known that we would like talk of jobs, and federal spending on construction, and kicking the Republican's butts, and stuff like that. We really ate it all up. Some guys up front got to high five Al Gore. He probably was sore for a week , cause some of the brothers were really excited and slapped him pretty good. He was out of breath when he got to the dais, so Doug got in a few partisan political remarks of his own.
I still don't understand why he had his guys write rule number six. He could have had it say, that partisan political speeches would be allowed whenever he said so, cause that's what happened any way! He even let Ted Kennedy endorse him on the morning of the nominations, in violation of another rule that said his team could only have 10 minutes to nominate in the afternoon. Kennedy repeated his praise of Doug for at least 15 out of his 25 minutes, but I guess a bunch of that was actually an acceptance speech for Doug, cause everyone knew the election was in the bag. Acceptance speeches were also not allowed, but at this point it really didn't matter, cause the rules are just words on paper, made up special, for this one week! Plus, since Doug appointed the rule makers, he could save time by just changing the rules himself, instead of firing the guys, appointing some new ones, training them what to say, and then getting the whole thing rubber stamped by the screaming throngs. Which reminds me, one day, a guy got up and actually said "point of order". He wanted a technical change in the rules about something he thought wasn't fair Doug cut him off before the rest of us knew exactly what he was talking about. Doug said there would be no changing of the RULES at this convention, so I guess he was right. The amazing part of the paid speakers' message was that they agreed with the message of ONE MEMBER / ONE VOTE movement! Our caucus could not have hired better people to express our message.
The Next Speaker of the House
Richard Gephardt started off the procession with a speech that surpassed even Doug's for power and believability. Yah, I know that these guys tailor there remarks to the crowd they are speaking to, but this man rocked. Don't burst my bubble by saying that the next day he spoke to the Associated Builders and Contractors, (or some other union busting group ) and told them the opposite to what he told us. I think he really meant what he said. The clincher was when he was wrapping up his remarks. He said : " I am proud to be in your hands. I happen to think you are the best people in the world. I happen to believe that you have the character and the values that made this country great. I happen to believe that given the choice, you will make the right choice. I believe that you are citizens in the highest sense of the word. I believe that you understand why participating in democracy is the key to democracy. I believe that you understand that this country is as good as we make it. It is bad as we let it be." I was floored! If you substitute member for citizen, and union for country, Richard was singing the CDUI anthem!
Al brings a little Woodenness to the Carpenters!
Al Gore came in and tried to one up Rep. Gephardt. He closed his remarks with: " Since the days that our Declaration of Independence was signed in Carpenters' Hall, we have always faced lots of challenges, but our greatest strength has been in our willingness and determination to trust in the working people of this country, to trust in the average citizens, .... In order to continue on that path we have got to continue having an approach that puts you first, and that does not give in to the ones with connections, the ones with wealth, the ones with power above and beyond what the average family has in this country.
And so I want to ask you in closing, not only for your vote, and not only for your support, not only for your enthusiasm; I want to ask you for something else, something that is hard for you to give, something that is hardly ever given anymore.
I want to ask you to allow yourselves to believe that we can do the right thing in America, and be better for it. I know that from my own experience as a young man that you can become disillusioned and disappointed, and you can pull back from involvement in our democracy because of the apprehension that if you get involved with your whole heart and really throw yourselves into it, that you will come up feeling like, well it just wasn't what I expected.
Well we have all got our limitations and imperfections, our country has, but thank goodness in every generation there have been enough men and women and families who have been willing to push past the fear of disappointment and roll up their sleeves and do the right thing to make this country what it is intended to be.
I want to ask you to allow yourselves to believe that we can do that again......-
Once again I hear the CDUI theme song.
A POW for the UBC
Capt. Gerald Coffee gave an inspirational speech relating the difficulties he endured during more than seven years of imprisonment in the "Hanoi Hilton" as a prisoner of war. As he described the torture and maltreatment he received from his captors, some of us wondered if this speech was planted as a subliminal hint of what was in store for those of us who have been bucking the system. His point became clear as he explained that the only thing that saved him from certain insanity and death was his faith in God, country, his fellow man, and himself. He went on to explain the clandestine tapping code, used to communicate effectively through the walls of the prison . In conclusion, he also spoke to the values of the common person in saying: " Our citizens need to be the captains of their fate, and the masters of their souls, and you need the faith to allow their empowerment."
Those of us who have been using the latest technology to connect with each other around the continent, to communicate into each other's cells, appreciate the effort of those who used the most primitive methods to do so in their hours of need. We also find inspirational the fact that even a person stripped of all rights and privileges, could keep his faith in the common person, and wish for his empowerment.
Wednesday afternoon was time for the nomination speeches. The McCarron Team led off. No coin was flipped, no bones were thrown; they just decided to do it that way. Luckily for us, they decided on using one speech for their whole slate, along with a couple of seconding speeches, and one 20 minute demonstration for the whole gang. If they had used individual speeches and demonstrations, we never would have got out of there. The home team got to make noise with their whistles and were accompanied by music over the sound system. The lines of supporters, wearing their recently handed out gray T-shirts and caps, marched around the hall, trying to get to the front to shake hands with the big guys. I guess the idea was to get everyone into the same uniform, so that anyone foolish enough to not participate would stick out like a really sore thumb. At least 30 of us did not get up and walk around. A few idiots with whistles stood right behind a couple of us and blew our ears out for 15 of the 20 minutes! The only original behavior was from the Northern Wisconsin delegation, who wore Cheeseheads, and from Dave Bergeron, the New England EST, who wore a "CD-WHO?" shirt. The Cheeseheads were classy enough to give Doug a copy. He wouldn't put it on, and handed it to a bodyguard. I guess he didn't want anyone to know he is a cheese head. Bergeron was more than a little disingenuous, with his shirt, (though it was well done, and one of the more humorous touches of the whole week), because he has 4600 members of CDU in his area, and he knows very well who they are. As the demonstration passed the 10 minute mark, some of the 1770 marchers took off their gray shirts and sat down. Maybe they were hot, or maybe they felt a little silly.
When the noise died down, the visiting team stood up at the plate. I will honestly state that the overwhelmingly poor odds, the hype, and the psychological intimidation of the past few days affected us only in style, but not the least in our substance. The jitters of speaking in front of a large crowd, on video screens, bathed in bright lights, and under strict time pressure made speaking difficult. I for one, could have done a better job. Our message, however, rang through, because it was from the hearts and souls of individuals who desire only for the good of the common worker, not the personal gain of power and privilege. I was extremely proud of our members who stood to express principles that that believe in, and are willing to continue to fight for. (The text of these speeches is available on line). We set out to express the truth, and in that regard we hit a grand slam.
When our turn came, Ken Little gave a very good speech from the podium. When Baines asked him if he desired a 20 minute demo, he politely declined. Baines snickered, over an open mic ( one of the classier things he did all day).
The nominations and seconds were all right on the point. We covered wide ground, and reinforced each other with our statements. I'm especially proud of Mike Zupan , who got cut off halfway into a sentence describing P.J. Maguire's return to his grave upon witnessing this convention. After being told that he ran out of time, Mike finished his line " pulling the sod back over himself". It was one more example of resistance in the face of overwhelming force and I will always remember acts such as these as the highlights of an extremely tough week.
Our last candidate, Rich Peterson, was also cut off. When told he was out of time, and asked if he wanted his 20 minute demo, he said yes. He was pissed, and decided on the spur of the moment, to make the convention wait for 20 minutes. After his seconding speech, our time to walk the room arrived. I looked a my cohort, Jerry Burke, and said I could not believe we were going to march around a room full of 2,000 people. But we did. We started walking towards the front, to find our motley crew. The tension lifted, and we started yucking it up. We felt a small victory had been won by standing up in such an oppressive environment, and as we made it to the very front, we saw a few other stragglers walking up to congratulate Rich. We started slapping each other on the backs, and smiling, and laughing, and confronting the other delegates with our humanity. I realized that the delegates were staring at us as though we losers, so I started asking them, "what's wrong with letting the members vote?", "what scares you about rank and file voting?", "isn't this America?", etc. This immediately turned the tables, and they felt foolish. I decided I wanted a whistle, and kept asking until a delegate gave me his. I was getting tired of blowing the dumb thing, so we passed it around a bit. We made our way around the room like this, confronting groups of twenty or so at a time. Then I started saying, we may not have the numbers, but we got soul. Other brothers were adding their own lines, and we vamped the room just like the good old cultural revolution days, and for the first time this week, I realized that we did belong, that we did have an effect, that we owned the room. We avoided rudeness, expressed joy, showed our humanity; and the contrast was apparent for any open eyes to see. Through serious, heartfelt expression, and down to earth clowning around, we touched the delegates who already felt some embarrassment for the spectacle they had been a part of.
We learned on Thursday that our strongest candidate received 14.3 % of the vote, and the rest averaged around 9%. We estimate that 10% of the people who demonstrated for the McCarron team, actually voted our way. Considering that the rest owe their jobs and power to the incumbents, and that we were not given official acknowledgment as a caucus, we did very well . We all had hopes of a better result in the voting, but none of us expected that we could win, this time. We started something that can grow into a very strong movement, and while we have not been error free, we know that a moral/ ethical line has been drawn, and that we are still on the side of the members. It has been one hell of a ride.
THOSE CRAZY PINS by Tom Verdone
Most of the delegates, being staffers or appointed officials, understood when they got there, that they were going to do exactly what McCarron wanted via the EST's commands.
So knowing that there wasn't going to be any democracy, they decided to focus on the most constructive things that they could do to show participation at this 38th convention, which was to keep their energy levels up, by consuming mass quantities of food and drink; then running around the convention hall, for the most part, searching for that unique rare pin. If that mission seemed too difficult, they filled time collecting as many different pins as they could. Pin swapping frenzy served as a good codependent psychological support network. Everybody telling everybody else what a great job they were doing bringing democracy to the members in between "Do you have a pin like this?" and "do you have the full set from..".
At one point, I walked into the convention behind a few well dressed delegates, and ahead of me were well dressed delegates approaching us. Just about the time the delegates got close together they hit the ground, and I thought for a brief second that our lives might be in danger, but to my relief I found that it was just some delegates, staffers, EST's etc. laying out their blankets to swap pins.
So if you want to know how involved your particular delegates were in the convention ask them how many pins they scored and that will let you know how hard they were working for the local. Because if they only got one or two, most likely they were just taking in the air show and never made it to the convention, except when the EST's told them to be there to vote.
We have come together, from many states and provinces, to share our problems and strengths. This is an all volunteer movement, with each of us steeling time and funds from our personal lives, to make a difference for the larger group.
We have climbed the mountain, and scurried back down to the safety of our own homes. We are much wiser, and we are more determined than ever. The ethics and methods of the incumbents are of low caliber. They reek of manipulation and greed. The convention cost too much, and served only to reward the faithful for their closed minds.
We need to start at the bottom, and elect members to every position possible, and return with much larger numbers, in 5 more years. See you in Hawaii?
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