The Labour Board is allowing our members vote for freedom to be counted, says Embree
Labour Board ruling another step towards Canadian autonomy for BC Carpenters
BC carpenters working in the industrial, all-employee and public sectors can transfer their union bargaining rights to a new Canadian union, said the BC Labour Relations Board (LRB) in a decision issued in the first week of December. A copy of the decision by BC Labour Board Vice-Chair Catherine McCreary can be downloaded from the bccarpentersunion.com website.
It is a big win for Canadian autonomy, says Len Embree, President of the BC Provincial Council of Carpenters. The Labour Board is allowing our members vote for freedom to be counted.
The nineteen page LRB decision rules in favour of the BC Carpenters Union in their long struggle for autonomy from its US based parent organization, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBCJA). The cross-border dispute has intensified over the past decade as the UBCJA has increasingly interfered with Canadian members rights to elect their own officers and make autonomous policy decisions in the interests of Canadian workers.
This ruling, which allows the BC Provincial Council of Carpenters to vary their certifications to the Construction, Maintenance and Allied Workers Union (CMAW), not only fortifies and preserves workers democratic rights, it brings Canadian Autonomy one step closer, says Brian Zdrilic, President of CMAW. It is an unprecedented opportunity for CMAW and its affiliates to expand their organizing efforts.
Last year the BC Carpenters Union formed a new joint all-Canadian bargaining council in partnership with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP). The new CMAW bargaining council had applied to the LRB to certify more than 120 employers across the province. As part of the certification process members were asked, in a secret ballot vote conducted by the Ministry of Labour, whether they support their unions move to CMAW.
CMAW is the BC Council of Carpenters avenue to Canadian autonomy, says Dave Coles, CEP Vice President, Western Region. We are fighting side by side with Canadian workers for their right to run their union themselves and from within Canada.
Last weeks Labour Board decision contradicting opposing arguments levelled by construction industry employers, the UBCJA and other building trades unions, means that at this time votes should be counted in nearly half of the CMAW certication applications. A further ruling, which is expected early in the New Year, is required for the the craft certications that remain.
Carpenter delegates reaffirm Embree to lead fight for autonomy
BC Carpenters Union officers: outgoing Secretary-Treasurer Dave Flynn, left, with newly elected Secretary-Treasurer Pat Haggarty and re-elected President Len Embree
The delegates to the 61st Convention of the BC Provincial Council of Carpenters (BC Carpenters Union) bid a fond farewell to Dave Flynn, the outgoing Secretary-Treasurer, who was stricken with leukemia this summer. Flynn found it necessary to step back from the 13 years he spent as a Provincial Council officer and the previous seven years as Pile Driver Business Agent to look after his health.
The delegates reaffirmed their faith in Council President Len Embree to continue leading the fight for autonomy and against the International. Embree and newly elected Secretary- Treasurer Pat Haggarty ran for election as a team to Finish the job and rebuild our union the Canadian way. When nominating Embree for the position of President, Flynn said it was his honour to put forward his name, adding I think everyone in this room will agree that Len has done a tremendous job as our leader in fighting off the consistent attacks (of the International) over the past six years and has brought us to a position where we can see the finish line.
Embree, pledging he is up for the fight promised to continue the struggle and to work hard to protect the democratic rights of the membership to decide the shape and makeup of their own union. He also promised to not lose sight of the other battles we are in and to continue to make strides in collective bargaining and work toward the establishment of a training centre for Carpenters in British Columbia.
Pat Haggarty was elected by acclamation to the post of Secretary-Treasurer.
BC CARPENTERS CONVENTION
It's time to finish the job
Union Carpenters confirm their commitment to autonomy at their 61st Provincial Convention in Vancouver, electing Embree for a third term
At the 61st Convention of the BC Provincial Council of Carpenters held in Vancouver, November 25 to 27, nearly 100 delegates and alternates from Local unions around the province resoundingly upheld recent efforts to complete wresting control of their organization away from the International Union in Washington, DC, and reaffirmed their faith in the leadership of Len Embree, re-electing him President for another three-year term.
Council President Len Embree outlined the challenges still facing the British Columbia membership, especially in the face of raids being mounted by the International the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America against BC Local Unions, and promised that the BC Carpenters Union will remain united on the issue of autonomy. Its time to finish the job and rebuild our union the Canadian way, he told the convention. We will remain united on the issue of maintaining our autonomy.
John Davies, President of the Vancouver and Lower Mainland District Council and chair of the Carpentry Workers Benefit & Pension Plans, said, Our continuing fight for democracy
is the defining issue within the union. This fight must be continued until it is completely and unequivocally won, he concluded.
Communications Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada President Brian Payne, pledging his support and recognizing the partnership of the BC Carpenters and CEP, said, Together we have made a Canadian home for the members of this proud organization though they be carpenters, millwrights shipyard or industrial workers or school board employees. Therefore, an attack on the BC Provincial Council of Carpenters or any of its Local Unions is an attack on the CEP. He then presented the convention with a framed copy of the Construction Maintenance and Allied Workers charter authorizing affiliation to the CEP.
Vancouver City Councillor Raymond Louie, recognizing the people who actually built the city, said, It is far too often that politicians step right over the workers on their way to lunch with the bosses. He declared that a presentation made to the COPE led City Council by Carpenter Representative Jan Noster prompted an amendment to the Woodwards Project that in essence will require the developer to build it union.
The convention bid a fond adieu to longtime Secretary-Treasurer David Flynn, who stepped down from his post to concentrate his efforts on keeping his acute myeloid leukemia in remission. Flynn commented, It has been an honour and a privilege over the last twenty years to serve the members of this union. Im going to miss you but I will be around.
Elected to a three-year term of office were: President, Len Embree; Secretary-Treasurer, Pat Haggarty; First Vice-President, Tony Heisterkamp.
According to Embree, the election of himself as President and Pat Haggarty as Secretary-Treasurer, is a clear message that we intend to finalize the struggle for autonomy.
BC Carpenter delegates listened intently as NDP Member of Parliament Libby Davies congratulated carpenters for being in the forefront of progressive movements. She said that although the NDP was a small caucus; one seat short of holding the balance of power, they were determined to make a difference. The NDP has recently introduced bankruptcy legislation so workers are not on the bottom of the list when a company goes bankrupt. Presently, taxes, lenders and suppliers go fi rst while workers and pension plans are at the bottom of the list, she claims.
Davies challenged carpenter members to take the time to call up their MPs (especially if they are Conservative) and ask if they are going to support this bill and if not, why not.
Provincial NDP leader Carole James promised to form a provincial government in May 2005 because she cant imagine what will be left in British Columbia if the Liberals get another term.
James was asked pointblank if she would support legislation protecting the rights of union members to vote on their own organizational structure. She was sympathetic but non-commital, suggesting she needed to consult with labour and business before developing her platform for the next election.
FTQ delegate welcomed
Yves Ouelett, the President of the Fraternité Nationale Local 2366 (Interior Systems and Floorlayers in Quebec) said we are building something great and something strong. We are gaining a lot of respect as Canadian construction workers.
He said his organization, along with BC Carpenters, are showing people we can manage our own business. We dont have to learn from nobody how to work union.
Ouelett pointed out that Canadians have a higher percentage of workers organized into unions than in the United States. So whos going to show the other how to work?
He said he likes to work with us. We can learn from each other. Ouelett explained how his local had recently made a big mistake. After being away from the International for 20 years, they agreed to form a joint council in the interest of better representing workers back in 1998. Dont we ever learn? he asked.
The idea of the joint council was that the small locals would give membership to the larger locals so trades people like plumbers and specialists like ironworkers would be all together and get better representation. We thought it would be better for the guys, he said. So they gave the International 1,000 ironworkers and 1,500 plumbers and when they asked for some 100 floorlayers in return the answer was, We can be together if you become International. Ouelett said they thought that Local 2366 would go with them. Never, he declared.
In Quebec there is a chance every three years for the trades to change unions. Were going to give the International Unions the chance to come with us and find out they are Canadian and the money has to stay here and the best person to help them is another Canadian.
Seven years ago, when Ouelett was first elected president of Local 2366, he represented 22 per cent of the interior system workers and the International had just under 50 per cent. As of last week, he said, We are equal. But its not over. The next raid period will be the worst for them. They lied to us once too often. Ouelett says a lot of people across Canada are watching them and us. We are going to be the strongest (union) place in North America, he claimed, because we are working for the same goal.
CONSTITUTION of the CONSTRUCTION, MAINTENANCE and ALLIED WORKERS BARGAINING COUNCIL
Article 6 Local Units Collective Bargaining
6.1 The Council may charter Local Units on a geographical or sectoral basis for the purpose of exercising bargaining rights and obligations over certifications and collective agreements held by the Council.
6.2 Local Units in the public, industrial, and millwright sectors are entitled to individually negotiate and administer any collective agreements entered into by the Council which apply to bargaining units within the Local Units jurisdiction.
6.3 Local Units in the construction sector are entitled to jointly negotiate and administer any collective agreements entered into by the Council subject to ratification by the Executive Board of the Council.
(a) The Executive Board shall appoint a Bargaining Committee from among its members or may delegate that responsibility to persons hired or appointed by the Board to carry out that function. The Executive Board must approve any proposed memorandum of agreement prior to ratification by the members affected.
(b) Where a Bargaining Committee has concluded a memorandum of agreement and the Executive Board has by majority vote, taken in accordance with Article 4, recommended acceptance then a ratification vote of that agreement will be conducted in accordance with Article 7.
Article 7 Strike and Ratification Vote
7.1 If the constituent unions are requested by a majority of the Council Executive to conduct a strike or ratification vote, the constituent unions shall forthwith distribute ballots, supplied and drafted by the Executive Board on the question to all members of the affected bargaining unit, and in the case of a mail ballot, shall specify on the ballot the latest date on which it may be cast and shall require that the completed ballots be forwarded to the Council at a specified address.
7.2 Where a majority of all ballots cast are in favour of a strike by the Council or a ratification of a collective agreement, the Executive Board may authorize such actions on a date specified by the Executive Board.
7.3 Voting shall be by secret ballot and no proxy voting will be permitted. A majority of the ballots cast by employees in the bargaining unit will determine the result of the vote.
7.4 Local Units in the public, industrial, and millwrights sectors are entitled to conduct strike and ratification votes pursuant to the Labour Relations Code without the approval of the Council Executive.
PRESIDENTS CORNER by Len Embree
LRB rules in favour of BC Carpenters
Now we just wait for the vote count
Good news arrived from the Labour Relations Board, just in time for the holiday season! The LRB has agreed that the Provincial Councils Section 18 (4) (b) application to transfer bargaining rights to CMAW outside the raiding period is allowable. This means, of course, that upon the votes being counted the bargaining rights for the industrial, school board, and all-employee units will be transferred to CMAW. The issue of who holds the craft designation is still delayed by objections from the International, the boss (CLRA), and the BCYT Building and Construction Trades Council.
Regardless of how that decision comes out, we now have a good strong nucleus to build our new independent Canadian union around. Im confident that our arguments will prevail on the outstanding issues at the Board, and we can get on to the issues of bargaining a new collective agreement, and also developing an up-to-date effective training school and program.
The International did win a number of votes in Victoria. We werent surprised, but we were disappointed that a number of members there have opted to stay with the International. I want to say that we respect their decision and their right to vote on the issue. Its ironic that this right isnt supported or protected by the organization they have chosen to remain with. We hope they made an informed decision, but I suspect that when they hear they will no longer be in the provincial Benefit Plan and Pension Plan there are going to be some serious questions asked of the International flunkies, Cox, OHara, and Autzen. This is not an action we enjoy, but there is no way that our plans can accept contributions from employers that we have no collective agreements with or whose agreements we have no right to administer. Of course, the International gang has long called our plans into question, stating that they have something better. Now is the time for them to put up or shut up.
I would like to add my personal thanks and appreciation to the Leier Construction employees who voted to stay with the Provincial Council. You can be assured of the full support of the Provincial Council in representing your best interests. I would add that the struggle in the south end of Vancouver Island has just begun. Plans to better represent you will be put into effect in the near future.
The Provincial Council has just concluded our 61st Annual Convention, which of course involved a lot of vigorous debate and important decision-making. There will be no shortage of workload for the next year. Considering that I was elected for another three-year term, along with Pat Haggarty as the new Secretary- Treasurer, it will fall to us, along with the rest of the Provincial Council Executive Board, to make sure that it all gets done.
Due to health concerns, Brother Dave Flynn did not seek reelection as Secretary-Treasurer. I want to recognize his enormous contribution to our union. He was always a team player, and his commitment to our struggle helped us through many tight spots. I want to wish him all the very best in his future endeavours and Im glad hes indicated he will be around to consult with when needed.
In closing, I would like to say how pleased I am to have the opportunity to work with Brother Haggarty in his new position. Pat and I go back about 25 years, and his record on supporting autonomy has remained consistent all those years. In fact, in 1997 it was his home Local Union (1928) that was the first target of the International. That attack was successfully fought off, and Im sure the International finds no comfort in the convention delegates voting to team up Brother Haggarty and myself.
All the best of the season to all members and their families, and to all my co-workers. Hopefully, the New Year will bring peace and prosperity to all.
Bursary renamed to honour Livingston
Carpenter Bursaries awarded to ten students
Bursaries expected to be offered again next year if funding found
The BC Provincial Council of Carpenters Education Committee is pleased to report that ten post secondary students have been selected to receive $500 Carpenters Union bursaries for the 2004-2005 study year. The students were required to submit short essays on some aspect of trade unionism in relations to politics, economics, social reform, history or personal experience.
Two students are eligible to win from each participating District Council area. A total of 22 applications were considered this year.
Two applications were received from the Central area making them automatic winners while three were submitted from the Kootenay District, with Brad Carter from Castlegar taking his third in a row. The Okanagan had five candidates this year with Jocelyn Wentland picking up her second bursary. The Lower Mainland had seven applicants with Racam Souiedan getting his second in a row. Vancouver Island had five applicants as Emma Cottier won her fourth bursary while Svea Vikander took her second. There were no applications from the Northwest this year.
Congratulations to those who won and thanks for the tremendous efforts of all who applied. Cheques were distributed by the winners Local Union office.
Any member, or spouse, son, daughter or grandchild of a BC member, who is registered to attend most types of post-secondary education may enter the annual bursary contest. Bursary application forms should be available at Local Union offices in May, 2005 and in ON THE LEVEL. The deadline for applications is usually the last working day of August before Labour Day.
The Carpenters Bursary Program funding is currently under review by the Executive Board as instructed by the BC Carpenters Provincial Convention this year. It is hoped that sufficient funds will be found to continue offering bursaries next year especially as the Convention instructed the Executive Board to name the bursary after Local 2300 member and webmaster Dave Livingston.
Carpenters Union Bursary Winners for the year 2004
Central BC District Council
Ron Kneller Local 1998
Nicole Rubin Local 1237
Kootenay District Council
Brad Carter Local 2300
Michelle Graham Local 1719
Lower Mainland District Council
Racam Souiedan Local 506
Melissa Waddell Local 1995
Okanagan District Council
Elizabeth Lofting Local 1346
Jocelyn Wentland Local 1370
Vancouver Island District Council
Emma CottierLocal 1598
Svea Vikander Local 1598
ON THE LEVEL has reprinted a bursary essay from Svea Vikander of Victoria on this and the next page for your information.
BC Carpenters Union bursary winner
This bursary winning essay by Svea Vikander, daughter of Thomas Vikander of Local 1598 Victoria is slightly abridged for publication. It is an analysis of the form and content of union songs in recent times.
How to Write a Union Song
A Social Analysis of World Union Songs.
Submitted By: Svea Vikander, Local 1598.
Noted modem music scholar Mark Gregory recently asked, How do you write a union song? Superficially, this question is easy to answer. Union songs promote unity and union enthusiasm among labourers; and they are usually vocal. However, beneath these similarities, the form, structure and themes of union songs could not be more diverse. Waltzing Matilda. English ballads. African chants. If one wishes to write a union song, one must examine not only the commonalities among union songs, but also their differences.
The recent celebration of historical union events has lead to a revived popularity of union songs. In 1997, British Columbia Labour History Month was celebrated in Cumberland, BC, where the Big Strike of 1912 resulted in the eviction of many workers families. A bean supper was held to commemorate the shiploads of government-supplied beans on which the workers subsisted, and a local band played three famous union songs: Dark as a Dungeon, World Turned Upside Down, and Union Maid. These songs are hallmarks of North American union music; their themes reflect the experiences and perceptions of Canadian and American labourers and union organizers. Themes within these songs include those of coerced disconnection from nature, death, and the passage of wisdom from one generation to another.
Dark as a Dungeon was written by Merle Travis in 1946. Its protagonist warns against the dangers and addictive nature of mining. He presents himself as an old and weathered miner, commencing his song with the lines, Come and listen you fellows, so young and so fine/And seek not your fortune in the dark, dreary mines. The entire song is thus constructed as a flow of information from the older miner to younger, less experienced men. He emphasizes his warning in the chorus, where he rails against the disconnection from natural forces that he has felt while mining: Where the rain never falls, and the sun never shines/Its dark as a dungeon way down in the mine. Mine labour thus sounds sinister and other-worldly. The metaphor of mine as dungeon, separate from the living and dynamic natural world, hints at another common theme: death. The mines deep dark abysses and dangerous circumstances allow it to take on an ominous and life-swallowing quality in the miners mind. He finishes with the lines, Where the demons of death often come by surprise,/One fall of the slate and youre buried alive. This gruesome ending may have proved too somber for Travis, who rarely performed the last verse.
Billy Braggs World Turned Upside Down displays similar themes to Dungeon, including the passage of wisdom to subsequent generations. The song narrates the English Diggers strike in 17th Century England. Instead of depicting an old worker relaying a message for the next generation, this song itself is the message. Line 20 conveys this self-referential aspect with: still the vision lingers on.
Disconnect from nature through non-union work is conveyed through the portrayal of the oppressors purchasing of land for private gain. The sin of property, we do disdain/No man has any right to buy and sell the earth for private gain. Through the workers denial that any person could own a piece of land, they strive for a closer connection with nature, and a greater understanding of their place within it.
Death and destruction came to the Diggers, courtesy of hired men and troopers who destroyed their settlements. Like the mention of death in Dungeon, The inclusion of the storys unhappy ending casts a shadow over the songs otherwise rebellious tone.
The third classic performed in Cumberland was Woodie Guthries Union Maid.
It describes a female union member and exhorts young women to follow her example. The union maid conforms to the wisdom-passing standard when she states, You girls who want to be free/Just take a tip from me/Get you a man whos a union man.
Union Maid departs from the norm of describing a disconnection with nature, and focuses instead on the union womans courage. One line, however, is reminiscent of the theoretically firmer connection with nature that unionism brings: ...when the company boys came round/ She always stood her ground. Perhaps this phrase attests to the increased comfort with the land that unionized labourers are thought to feel - a connection that could not be broken by company boys.
While Union Maid is predominantly optimistic, describing the idyllic union woman, the death theme is pervasive throughout. The last line of the chorus, Im sticking to the union till the day I die, places heavy emphasis on mortality. Union songs do not need to mention death; Guthrie made a conscious decision not to write a utopian song.
(Guthrie was a noted folk singer who has produced many union songs. He once said, I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose... I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world... I am out to sing songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work.)
Utopian ideas are evident in the union songs of South Africa, where themes of idyllic future, continental unity and racial tension predominate. The songs presented by Thobile Maso in his article, Union Songs in South Africa average about four lines each. As such, their themes and messages are more direct. Mase Qonde Phambili, Lets Look Forward quickly conveys the happy future behind which workers are urged to unite: We are knocking, hallow, we are workers of Africa/Wake up workers let us look forward/Unite workers and look forward/Fight the poverty and look forward.
While describing an ideal future, the song also encourages international unity - as Maso states, it is used when there are differences ... reminding the workers of South Africa that they belong in Africa and they are African workers.
The need for unity within South Africa necessitated an emphasis on unity within this song. The unique challenges of apartheid and colonialism which South African workers face have also lead to songs which describe racial tension. The Strike Song states, We shall plough on the rock we have been working for white farmers for free. This song was designed to promote unity - but only among certain people.
Wherever people labour, song will arise. Music, particularly when performed by those who are closely inter-related, will always captivate, unify and inspire. Union songs, while having become an indelible part of unionism and union culture, are also interesting manifestations of the themes and issues being confronted by that culture. How do you write a union song? You must write what you know.
(web note: click for Union Songs lyrics; hear Anne Feeney sing UnionMaid as a flash animation)
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Good news from the CATC
The Carpenters Apprenticeship and Training Committee proudly announces that apprentices attending school will be entitled to receive up to $500 to assist with tuition fees.
Please keep a record of your school dates as proof of completion is mandatory to receive the full amount.
For further information call vice-chairs: Tony Heisterkamp 250 549-1488 or Greg Sewell 604 524-4911. Local 1995 members may call: Bill Duck 604 437-0491
Make the Internet connection
Internet news and views of interest to Carpenter Union members can be reached through the BC Carpenters Union website at www.bccarpentersunion.com or at the union friendly website run by Local 2300 member Dave Livingston at: www.carpentersunionbc.com
Contact your Local Union for Local Union websites (web note: some Local links are here and here)
Other sites of interest include:
BC Federation of Labour www.bcfed.com
CLC home page www.clc-ctc.ca
Canadian Autoworkers www.caw.ca/index.asp
CUPE BC www.cupe.bc.ca
Labour Start (labour news) www.labourstart.org/canada/
Straight Goods (news) www.straightgoods.com/
Working TV www.workingtv.com/index.html
Carpentry Workers Plans: www.cwbp.ca/index.shtml
David Shreck (analysis) www.StrategicThoughts.com/