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Appeal to General Convention

I hereby appeal my conviction for disobedience to authority as well as my expulsion from the Union. I am appealing to the General Convention to overturn this conviction and my expulsion.

I believe that the very premise under which I have been charged, convicted and expelled is faulty. Any worker has the right to walk off any job any time that he or she chooses. This right was settled by the Civil War, under which "involuntary servitude" was abolished. If a worker has the right to walk off the job, then they have the right to discuss and advocate this with their co-workers. Of course, there may be consequences to such action: The employer may fire or otherwise discipline those workers. Nobody is contesting that. However, it is not the Union’s job to act on behalf of the employer.

It is true that the Union had signed a "no strike" agreement, which bound the Union as a labor organization not to cause its members to walk off the job. This agreement cannot eliminate the individual members’ rights, however, just so long as there is no attempt to portray their actions as being taken on behalf of the Union itself. In fact, no members (to my knowledge) ever did this and, in fact, the Union was never found to have been in violation of the no-strike pledge. In other words, no violation of this pledge occurred.

Furthermore, even if we had been in violation of some section of the Union by-laws or constitution, there was no attempt at the time to so warn us. Gary Martin, President of the NCCRC, spoke to us on the afternoon of the first day of the wildcat and he made no attempt whatsoever to so warn us or to indicate that we might be in violation. In fact, Mike Draper himself, in a letter sent to all the locals, merely stated that he would bring charges if a wildcat were conducted again in the future. This letter was sent after the end of the wildcat strike.

These charges are a clear attempt to violate my rights, as well as the rights of others, to freedom of speech and freedom of association.

The charges against me are based on the claim of Mike Draper that I "caused" (his word) the wildcat strike at the S.F. airport on May 20-24 of 1999. I note that some 2,000 carpenters as well as some 3,000 other tradesworkers participated in this wildcat, which lasted four days. It is ridiculous on the face of it to even think that any one person could "cause" such an action. In fact, according to one of Draper’s own witnesses, the carpenters at the airport were discussing a wildcat strike as early as May 10 or possibly even before. At that time I knew of no members who were working at the airport, I had never worked there, and I had never even been to the job.

This fact was pointed out by me during the trial and was totally ignored in the verdict of the trial panel. (In fact, if anyone "caused" the wildcat strike, it was the General President and John Casey, Executive Secretary Treasurer of the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council. They "caused" it in the sense that they set up the situation under which so many members felt angry and unable to express their anger in any other form. Mike Draper, as an International officer, by remaining silent in the face of the actions of John Casey and Doug McCarron, must also shoulder some of the blame.)

Mike Draper’s claim is an insult to those thousands of union members and reminds me of the position of the Southern segregationists during the period of the civil rights movement. At that time, they claimed that "their" people were happy and the trouble was only due to a few "outside agitators" who were coming down there stirring up the problem. In fact, union-busting corporations today, in trying to fend off union organizing campaigns, make similar claims about their workers.

I had a whole series of witnesses testify that, in effect, I did not "cause" the strike and that the members walked off because they were angry over the contract and over not being able to vote on the contract. The trial panel simply disregarded this testimony as "not credible" without any explanation.

Furthermore, the trial panel stated that my refusal to explain the workings of Working Carpenters for a Stronger Union "weighed heavily against" me in their decision. Yet, during the course of the trial I strongly objected to their questioning me along those lines, and after discussing it amongst themselves they admitted that such questions were not proper. That is, they accept that the questions were not proper yet convict me because, in large measure, I refused to answer those questions. For this reason alone, my conviction should be thrown out.

The three prosecution witnesses testified that they saw me standing on the back of a pickup truck giving speeches (on different occasions). Yet they all three admitted that they saw others doing the same thing. This is coupled with the fact that nearly 100 members signed a petition which was submitted and which stated that I had done nothing fundamentally different from those who signed the petition. Draper never commented on these facts, nor did the trial panel when they wrote the verdict; this was entirely ignored.

I have been convicted by a trial panel that on the one hand ignored their very own rulings during the trial and on the other hand completely discounted the evidence of my witnesses as "not credible" without giving a single reason and also completely ignored the contradictions of the evidence of the accuser’s witnesses.

It is clear why the trial panel has acted in this manner: The procedure under which I was tried (Section 14-d) clearly does not afford due process, and is established to carry out the dictates and wishes of the General Executive Board and the General President; it does not act independently. One member of the General Executive Board charges me and then this member’s superior and political ally (the General President) appoints the trial panel. I would note that this trial panel was composed of three executive secretary treasurers of regional councils, and that all three of them owe their position to having been appointed by the General President in the first place. I have had long-standing open differences with the current regime, and it is clear that this was a major underlying reason for these charges being brought and for the verdict of expulsion to be handed down.

What we have had amounts to the prosecution appointing the judge, the jury and the executioner.

The trial panel’s decision, upheld by the General Executive Board is most ironic considering the fact that General President McCarron, according to his own statements, has helped lead wildcat strikes in Southern California. In 1993, Rolling Stone magazine interviewed McCarron when he was the Executive Secretary Treasurer of the Los Angeles District Council of Carpenters. Here is what they printed in their Nov. 11, 1993 issue: "McCarron also remembers that he himself started out in union politics as a 20 year old ‘hothead’ leading unauthorized strikes against builders in the San Fernando Valley." Furthermore, we have the case of the wildcat strike in Alberta Canada just recently. This is the Canadian Province of which Martin Pyper (one of my trial panel members) is the Executive Secretary Treasurer. Nobody was brought up on charges in that case. In fact, during my trial, I produced the example of a walkoff that was orchestrated by the Carpenters Union and the rest of the building trades just a few years back to protest attacks against the state’s prevailing wage law. This was ignored by the trial panel in their findings.

The simple fact that the charges were not timely should cause them to be thrown out. The accuser hid behind the fiction of constitutional charges, bit in fact, these charges were really based on an alleged violation of Trade Rules (violation of the "no strike" pledge). On this basis alone they should have been thrown out, since they were filed well past the 30-day limit for such charges.

In conclusion, what the struggle in Northern California (and throughout the UBC) has been and still is all about is this: for quite a few years, our International leadership has been determined to direct our union towards an alliance with the unionized contractors in the mistaken goal of helping them "compete" with the non-union. At present, this goes under the name of "recapturing market share" (a big business term, not a union one). If allowed to continue, it will inevitably mean that our union is lead further and further down the road of attempting to become nothing but another employment agency, under which our leadership skims a fat fee off the top and leaves the working members at poverty wages.

Mike Draper made clear his concerns during the course of the trial: He brought in quotes from the ABC and statements on how the wildcat might influence judges and politicians. On the other hand, he demonstrated that he has not the slightest knowledge of what is actually happening out in the field. Furthermore, he dismissed as irrelevant what the membership thinks and wants and feels. This is the inevitable result of his pro-contractor "market share" philosophy. That the trial panel clearly took the same approach is just proof that Draper is not alone in this disastrous approach.

This approach cannot work. Already, it is proven by the fact that despite a massive boom, our membership has scarcely increased and the percentage of work that is being done union has not increased. In the next recession, if the direction is not reversed, then our Union is likely to be devastated.

These charges and my expulsion represent a determination by the top leadership to continue down this path and to silence any members who oppose it. The delegates to this General Convention, thus have a clear choice to make: Either to vote in effect to turn this union into an employment agency, which they will be doing if they vote to uphold my expulsion, or to reject my expulsion and set about the task of making our Union into a fighting union that really represents the needs and interests of the membership and of all working carpenters, to make this Union one which will inspire the enthusiasm of its members and inspires them to go out and rebuild the union and to organize the unorganized.

That is what you, the delegates, will be deciding on when you vote on whether or not to uphold my conviction and expulsion from this Union.

John Reimann

former member and recording secretary, Carpenters Local 713