The United Brotherhood of
Carpenters Democracy Movement is born
The UBCDM is the caucus of caucuses. We intend to act as a clearing
house for information for those UBC members
who seek change in our Union.
We are embarked on an undertaking that could change our lives. Our intention, in simple terms, is to return the operation and control of the UBC to the rank and file. We have come together from all over the countries of the USA and Canada , to share ideas, coordinate actions, and make serious headway towards the realization of our ideals. We share common ground because we share common problems. Many of us feel abused, disenfranchised, and left out of the loop of decision making in our organization.
Through the course of its existence, the UBC has changed, as all institutions do, and we would like to change it further. Many of our thoughts parallel the original founders' thoughts, and some are new ideas springing from the conditions existing in this era. Our movement has advantages that the founders did not have.
First and foremost is the fact that the UBC exists, with a membership in the hundreds of thousands. We don't have to start from scratch. We only need to amend the rules, and change the direction in which our leadership has been steering. We recognize that most of our leadership has vested interests in maintaining their chosen direction for our union, and will therefor need to be replaced.
Secondly, we have the advantage of modern telecommunications, that allow us to work on the continental level as easily as the local. As individuals in their local areas have felt the need to organize resistance to the authoritarian actions of the leadership, they have set up their own web sites, newsletters, and held caucus meetings to discuss their feelings and views. These local efforts have discovered each other and are now joining together.
Finally, we know the benefits of collective bargaining. We understand the benefits to the individual when we work together for common purpose. Our main complaint with our own leadership is that they consider themselves apart from our needs, interests, and concerns. Our international has insulated itself from the conditions that the membership experiences daily. We recognize the need to use our collective power to clean our own house, and return to the ideals of an empowered rank and file.
The UBC Democracy Movement has no desire to duplicate the structure of the UBC; with its pyramidal form, composed of a few big shots at the top, and the rest of us at the bottom connected by a dues payment, and the occasional right to vote on delegates. We are developing a decentralized form of organization, where each local area identifies its own issues, raises its own funds, and schedules its own events.
The UBCDM intends to provide support and coordination to these local efforts and will not attempt to set policy, institute rules for the membership, nor meddle in local affairs. Rather we hope to gather, collate and disseminate information from the rank and file, to the rank and file. Our leadership committee is composed of representatives from local efforts all over North America. We look at leadership as being a two way street, with leaders as facilitators, not the final decision makers.
The existing UBC model, and especially the "New and Improved Regional Council" model, assumes that only the people at the top know what's good for us. They have secret information that we can't possibly understand, and the very existence of our union depends on them doing what's best for us.
The UBC leadership has come to believe that they are irreplaceable, that once in office they should be able to control the membership, decide how long they serve, and who will succeed them. They are able to justify higher salaries, expense accounts, and better pensions than the rank and file, whom they represent. They don't have to experience stinging cold, blazing heat, withering humidity, nor aching backs and knees. Some of our top leadership has never worked in the rank and file, and can't possibly understand the working members' concerns.
The UBCDM is developing a platform, and intends to propose and pass amendments to the Constitution of the UBC in August 2000, and beyond. We believe that the top priority of the membership is to allow the membership the decisive vote on the ratification of their contracts, one member, one vote. Some of us lost that right during restructuring, others have been told that they have seen their last vote. The most recent information states that the GEB will allow the district or regional councils the chance to vote on whether their locals shall have the right of self determination.
The UBCDM will make its first action the proposal of an amendment to the constitution that all contracts shall be ratified directly by those affected, one member, one vote. This power to decide or reject a contract is basic, and includes in its definition the right to strike.
The right to strike is a tool, and a weapon. It must be used carefully, with planning and preparation. It is necessary because it affirms the right of workers to withdraw the use their services. A system that won't allow the workers to withdraw their services is a form of bondage. The ability of our leadership to make deals without our agreement, puts them on the other side of the bargaining table.
We are told that the International won't let us strike when we do not have sufficient market share in our region. The official response to that dilemma is to put down the rank and file; while billing them for an extensive, and expensive organizing campaign.
The UBCDM knows that market share is important, but recognizes that an empowered membership is the best force we have to gain it back. If our membership takes back control of its union, we can all be organizers. Skilled people, building quality projects, with a high level of craftsmanship and concern for safety, while receiving good wages and benefits, and feeling the common bond associated with participation in decision making will become the best sales force we could ever have. A disenfranchised membership is not a good sales force.
Secondly, the membership is calling for direct election of all officers who work for them. The system of democracy practiced in the UBC at this time is representative, in which delegates are voted for at the local level, and then they vote for higher officers. These officers then appoint the BA's, managers, and organizers. More often than not, these employees become the delegates .These delegates, in turn , reelect the people who hired them. Thus the institution attains a life of its own, beyond, and sometimes against, the will of its members.
The UBCDM will introduce amendments to allow for the direct election of officials by the rank and file. We will include the right to elect BA's and organizers, if those in the affected body so desire. Since the right to vote is meaningless when only one candidate runs for an office, alternative choices must be encouraged to emerge.
The UBCDM intends to run a slate of candidates at the highest levels, and encourages local reformers to do the same. We want candidates to express their ideas and visions for the future, and let the rank and file decide which direction their organization should take. The single party, "scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" approach can not stand the light of day. Open debate on the issues should become the standard practice expected by our membership.
The UBCDM also finds the salary structure of our leadership to be unacceptable. The fact that members of the General Executive Board make 500-600% the wages of the rank and file is reprehensible and indefensible. At local levels, our officials consistently make more money than the people they represent. While some of our dedicated agents and organizers put in more hours and put up with more disruption of their personal lives than the membership, the existence of better pay and benefits for the chosen few smacks of elitism .This notion is only reinforced when we hear that the reason for a premium is that "we can't get anyone to work for any less" (except, of course, the dues payers). We are not asking for anyone to be a martyr for the cause , and accept sub standard wages. What is unacceptable to the rank and file, is the assumption that these positions can be held for life, or exchanged for other positions up the ladder, leading the official always further away from the rank and file. When leadership itself becomes a better deal than working with the tools, the institution becomes the master of its owners.
The UBCDM seeks to address these issues with amendments detailing salary caps and term limits. We seek a leadership that rotates into positions of power, earns a fair wage, facilitates the implementation of local initiatives, assists the transition of new officials into office, and then rejoins the rest of us in the field. We want our experienced leaders to become reacquainted with our daily work experience before they move on to another office. We want this process to continue as naturally as the tides roll on and off the beaches. The twisting of the concept, of collective decision making, into the practice of concentrating power in the hands of a few, is a morally and ethically despicable act. As power corrupts, so does absolute power corrupt absolutely. The answer for the democratically motivated, is to limit the power, the money, and the time in office. We must exclude those tempted by riches, by not offering riches. We must limit power, by retaining the vote. We must limit the career minded, by returning them to the fold.
So who are we, this UBC Democracy Movement? We are the loyal opposition.
The Loyal Opposition
Our caucus is a loyal opposition that seeks to define a moral/ethical higher ground of acceptable activities for our members and representatives. We seek to use this set of principles as a foundation for constructive reform of our union.
Those UBC members interested in joining our movement should contact their local reform caucus, or check out our web site at: http://forthemembers.tripod.com
If you like this newsletter pass it along to another carpenter, photocopy it , fax it , hang it up. To get on the mailing list, or for more information, e-mail UBCDM@diplomats.com