SPECIAL EDITION On the Level November, 2000
This issue of On the Level is a special edition to deal with two referenda on proposed changes to the BC Provincial Council of Carpenters Constitution and Autonomy negotiations.
The Internationals latest attempt to seize the books and assets of the BC Provincial Council of Carpenters met defeat in a recent court decision.
Mr. Justice Clancy, ruling on an application for a summary judgment by General President Douglas McCarron and two BC Business Agents, Wayne Cox of Victoria and Mike Autzen of the Floorlayers, dismissed the demand for unconditional surrender, saying that the issues are all fair questions to be tried in court.
If a summary judgment had been granted, it would have given the GP and his agents unrestricted possession of the books and assets of the the BC Provincial Council without a court trial and would have conceded that the International Constitution grants the General President powers higher than BC labour law.
Justice Clancy said, President McCarrons powers under the Constitution have not been shown to be absolute...there are issues to be tried. There are issues of fact to be resolved.
Clancy suggested that the history of the relationship between the Council and the International must be considered in court, including McCarrons failure to allow affected members to vote on changes.
Clancy agreed to stipulate that the Council is required to preserve all books, papers, documents and other records...pending the trial of this action. Council lawyer, Bruce Laughton, had already agreed to this at the hearing.
Len Embree said We have nothing to hide and we have kept all the records of the Council on file since day one (May 10, 1943).
Laughton indicated a court case could take many months to be heard as there are numerous complex common law and labour code issues involved.
The delegates to the 57th Convention of the BC Provincial Council of Carpenters, held April 13-15 in Vancouver, clearly directed the Provincial Council to get on with the job of restructuring our organization into a democratic model the membership can stand behind despite ongoing interference from the International.
The Convention directed the Provincial Council to start a process of rewriting and revamping the provincial constitution to reflect the often stated desire of the membership for Canadian autonomy.
They also demanded that all references to the UBCJA be removed from the BC Constitution and, as a reaction to some Local Unions not conducting a ballot during the last referendum, that all members be guaranteed the right to vote in any future Provincial Council referendum.
In response, the BC Provincial Council of Carpenters set up a 10-person Constitutional Review Committee to investigate needed changes to the Provincial Council constitution that would make it a stand-alone document. Meeting over the summer, that committee took submissions from all around the province and, in several meetings, synthesized a proposed constitution from those suggestions.
The main issue has been to preserve democracy. explained Committee Chair Pat Haggarty of Local 1928. The members right to decide issues democratically has been paramount in our deliberations.
Haggarty continued, The issues we looked at include: recall, accountability, affiliation, and preservation of the memberships right to vote. Haggarty said that under the new constitution, Local Unions would achieve greater autonomy and encounter less interference from parent bodies.
In previous polls, the membership overwhelmingly supported a strong, effective Provincial Council, but also demanded a democratic say in any changes to their organization. Members strongly recommended a centralized, made-in-British Columbia organizing program that would attract new members to a democratic, responsive Union.
The Provincial Council Executive Board has approved two referendum ballots to be conducted in February, 2001. Council president Len Embree says, After countless years of debate, we finally find ourselves on the crossroads of realizing our union becoming a free, autonomous organization based on democracy and membership participation.
Restructuring A Background
The concept of restructuring the Carpenters Union in British Columbia had been under discussion long before anyone heard of Douglas J. McCarron. In 1995 and early 1996, two major province-wide membership conferences concluded that the Union must change its structure and organizing strategies if we are to survive. The April 1996 Provincial Convention struck a committee to review the structure of the BC Union. A special BC Provincial Council Executive Board meeting held in Kelowna later proposed several major restructuring initiatives. Shortly after, 10th District Representative Pat Mattei advised there will be a structure imposed from Washingtonno questions asked.
In November 1996, the Provincial Council first obtained a copy of the infamous 33 bylaws that McCarron was using to restructure the union throughout the United States. McCarrons new structure did not allow the members to vote on it, or their founding officers or delegates. The new structure controlled the locals finances and officers. There is no democracy in this structure.
The Provincial Council took the position that any new structure would have to be voted on by the BC membership. That membership has a long history of voting to approve amendments to its Provincial Council Constitution. Furthermore, the Provincial Council took the position that the founding officers of this new structure would have to be elected. The Council cautioned the International that its practice of implementing a Council structure throughout North America could not apply here because it did not conform to BC law.
Despite many promises to comply with the laws of British Columbia, and to consult with the membership, McCarrons record is abysmal.
He directed a merger in Northern BC without giving the members the right to vote on the proposed merger. He did not allow Vancouver Island members a vote on his proposed Vancouver Island Regional Council or local union mergers. In fact on July 7, 1999 he told the members at Port Alberni to their faces that they would not get a vote. This meeting and his denial of the right to vote was videotaped for all to see.
A subsequent decision on February 17, 2000 of the Labour Relations Board has established that under BC law the members do get the right to vote. McCarron was not impeded by this; he carried on to the next litigation at the Labour Relations Board on a similar matter.
McCarron has essentially blanketed North America with his vision of a new union structure. He is fond of saying that if this union was a corporation nobody would buy shares in it. This bold business union assertion reveals that without union democracy the organization is to become a labour ready organization for the contractor with few or no rights for members. This assertion of business unionism is strengthened by the fact Mr. McCarron sits on the board of directors of the Perini Corporation, a large US-based construction company.
The members in the United States have revealed that they are not too happy with Mr. McCarron. There have been demonstrations by members in New York, Michigan, Boston and elsewhere, protesting McCarrons regime. In May of 1999 thousands of members walked off construction sites in San Francisco to protest their unions approval of a yellow dog agreement with the employer (an ally of Perini Corp.). McCarron then expelled one of the walk-out leaders from the Brotherhood for resisting authority.
In 1996 McCarron sent over fifty armed security guards to seize the New York Carpenters Union. This was to ostensibly clean out the mob connections. Just weeks ago McCarrons number one man in New York City and other Union representatives were charged with racketeering.
McCarron is fond of boasting in The Carpenter magazine how well the union is doing because of his restructuring. However, you are asked to just believe his assertions because there is no corroborating evidence that the union is succeeding. In order to succeed a union must have the support of its members. If the members have no rights then they are unlikely to support the unions efforts. Measures adopted in New York where a union member must contribute eight-hours picket duty a year for such activities as leafleting for Hillary Clintons senatorial race or face a $250 fine is not likely a successful policy.
If a member has no right to vote in his/her union there can be no union.
1995-1996 Two major membership conferences in British Columbia recommend changing the structure of the Union to promote increased organising efforts, including all-employee certifications, to bring unorganized workers into the Union.
October 1996 Provincial Council Executive Board meets in Kelowna to suggest changes to the Unions structure as per April Convention decision.
November 1996 Provincial Council receives Mandatory 33 Bylaws that the International says must be implemented.
May-June 1997 General President Douglas J. McCarron fails to show at promised membership meetings in British Columbia.
August 1997 The Provincial Council informs McCarron that mergers and transfers of bargaining rights must be approved by membership vote in accordance with BC law.
November 1997 International sends out a questionnaire to members in the province to obtain information for their restructuring plans. They dont like the answers.
December 1997 Provincial Council agrees to Stan Lanyon as a facilitator to assist in discussions between the International and the Provincial Council regarding structural changes to our union.
March 1998 International tries to impose trusteeship on Vancouvers Industrial Shop Local Union 1928. They fail when it is revealed that they used an accounting student for the Local Union 1928 audit. In addition, when it was shown that the International proferred false evidence, they withdrew the proposed trusteeship and returned to the USA.
April 1998 Facilitator Stan Lanyon issues an interim report that states all sides in the dispute want change and restructuring. However, the report reflects differences on elections and appointments from non-elected officials.
Provincial Council Convention resolution M-14 calls upon the Council Officers to look into and make recommendations regarding restructuring for the 1999 Convention with the proviso that any changes to the structure
must be approved by the membership in a referendum vote.
November 1998 International is concerned that the Carpenters will bring resolution M-14 forward to the 1999 Provincial Convention. The International sends a questionnaire to every local union in the province. Again the answers arent what they expect.
December 1998 The International is determined to finalize a process and timetable for mergers throughout the province.
April 1999 Stan Lanyon issues the facilitation report that recommends a consultation process with members throughout the province.
May 1999 International delivers ultimatum to the Provincial Council to create three Regional Full Service Councils and reduce the Provincial Council to a service organization.
June 1999 International launches lawsuits to compel Port Alberni Local Union 513, Duncan Local Union 1812, and Cranbrook Local Union 1719 to remit to the International Officers Pension Plan.
McCarron sends a letter to Carpenters in the Vancouver Island District Council stating that changes will be a product of consultation and will conform with the laws of British Columbia and invites them to a series of meetings in July 1999.
July 1999 At the first consultation meeting in Port Alberni General President McCarron answered No to the following two questions:
Do the members have a right to vote on the proposed merger of their Local Union and the creation of the Regional Council?
Do the members have a right to elect the founding delegates and officers of the Regional Council?
The immediate response: the members rose in unison and left the meeting chanting Vote! Vote! Vote! leaving McCarron and his agents in the dark.
Turnout at the remainder of the meetings ranged from extremely low to none.
International announces intent to expand their lawsuit to seven additional local unions that have not been remitting to the International Officers Pension Plan.
August 1999 McCarron directs that Dawson Creek Local Union 1237 School Board members merge with Fort St. John School Board Local Union 2397 against the wishes of the Dawson Creek members who had voted to merge with Local Union 1998.
October 1999 Local Union 1237 and Local Union 1998 seek a Section 10 (unfair labour practice) at the LRB against the International and a determination (Section 37) that Local Union 1237 and 1998 have merged as trade unions. They obtain an injunction against the International until the Labour Relations Board can rule on the Section 10 and 37 application.
British Columbia Provincial Council of Carpenters conducts a referendum among the members in BC. Five local unions did not provide their members the opportunity to vote in this referendum.
There were six ballots:
Ballot #2 Strike or lockout pay begins on the first day. This received 98.3% approval.
Ballot #3 Removes mention of specific number of vice-presidents to allow for expanded representation. This received 96.6% approval.
Ballot #4 Asked the members if they wish to retain the British Columbia Provincial Council of Carpenters as their bargaining agent. This received 97.6% approval.
Ballot #5 Asked the members if they wished to have Local Union mergers determined by majority vote of the affected members. This received 96.2% approval.
Ballot #6 Affirmed the Executive Board right to determine how much of the Strike and Defence Fund earnings may be spent on legal and defence in any one year. This received 95% approval.
December 1999 McCarron tries to implement a Regional Full Service Council and merge local unions on Vancouver Island without membership approval, but the Provincial Council application to the LRB prevents it.
January 2000 Locals 513, 1812, and 2068 on Vancouver Island appeal McCarrons December 1999 decision to establish a Regional Council on Vancouver Island. The General Executive Board predictably denies their appeal in February.
February 2000 The LRB finds that the International breached the Labour Code in its appeal process. It further states that trade unions cannot be merged or have bargaining rights transferred without membership support. This is a serious setback for the International.
March 2000 The International appeals the Labour Relations Board decisions.
April 2000 The British Columbia Provincial Council of Carpenters Convention passes resolutions to amend their constitution (see article).
June 2000 McCarron orders an audit of the Provincial Council and all the local unions. He appoints KPMG to take possession for examination all books, papers, and other records...of the Provincial Council.
July 2000 The International, Douglas J. McCarron, General Executive Board member James Smith, Victoria Local 1598 Business Manager Wayne Cox, Floorlayers Local 1541 Business Manager Michael Autzen, and International Representative David Wright sue the British Columbia Carpenters Union.
September 2000 The Labour Relations Board dismisses the Internationals appeal of the Section 10 and 37 decision involving Dawson Creek Local Union 1237, Prince George Local Union 1998 and Fort St. John Local Union 2397.
The hearing between the Plaintiffs McCarron, Smith, Wright, Autzen and Cox and the Defendants Embree, Flynn, the Provincial Council et al is heard in August and September in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
October 2000 The International application seeking summary access to the union books is dismissed. The Council made a case that the International has another agenda. All the issues raised are ruled triable.
McCarron complains that his co-plaintiffs Autzen and Cox were removed from the September Provincial Council Executive Board meeting during a portion of the meeting that discussed the Council defence against their suit.
Membership to democratically decide future of Carpenters Union
The following resolutions on Canadian autonomy were overwhelmingly adopted by the 57th Convention of the BC Provincial Council of Carpenters in April. The Constitution Review Committee used these resolutions as a guide to their deliberations on proposed changes to the structure and governance of the BC Carpenters Union. The resolutions demand protection for the members democratic rights and an action plan to achieve autonomy for British Columbia carpenters.
M-21 UNION RESTRUCTURING
Carpenter Union members throughout British Columbia will be able to register their vote on two issues of major importance early in the new year. Two mail-in referenda ballots have been approved by the BC Provincial Council Executive Board and members can look forward to receiving them in the mail early in February.
Vancouver Sun, Saturday, October 14, 2000