ON THE LEVEL May 2001 Issue - excerpts
aslo available complete as 1.5 megabyte Adobe Reader PDF download
BC Carpenters vote yes for freedom
Results of two recent membership referenda conducted by the Provincial Council of Carpenters reveal the future path for the Carpenters Union in British Columbia. That path is an autonomous Carpenters Union in the province, free of edicts and directives being issued from Washington. With over 4,000 ballots returned, more than three out of four members want an autonomous, Canadian Carpenters Union.
The International spent tens of thousands of dol-lars on propaganda letters trying to discredit autonomy through vilification of the leadership and the Carpentry Workers Pension Plan. It did not work. On these ballots, the members indicated their desire to have a new Provincial Council constitution, free from interference from Washington, and an autonomous union.
These referenda results are the latest evidence that the members do not want General President McCarrons vision of a restructured union in British Columbia. Since assuming office in 1995, McCarron has gutted democracy at the local union level and imposed a regional council structure with appointed leaders. These councils have an executive hierarchy with tremendous powers. Recently he imposed new bylaws on these regional councils empowering each councils Executive Secretary-Treasurer, its supreme commander, to have full signing authority on their pension plans. This is another indication of McCarrons plan to extend authority to his appointed leadership while reducing members involvement and democratic rights.
The language of Ballot No. 1 sought support for the Provincial Council Executive Board recommendation to accept proposed amendments to the British Columbia Provincial Council of Carpenters Constitution, making it a stand-alone document. These proposed amendments remove McCarrons authority and transfer the highest decision-making in the union to British Columbia carpenters.
Ballot No. 2 asked for authorization for the British Columbia Provincial Council of Carpenters, on behalf of its affiliated Local Unions and District Councils, to negotiate an agreement with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (the International) that would result in the Provincial Council having (a) the authority to govern itself; (b) the authority to hold property and assets in its own name; and (c) the authority to make laws and amend its constitution without the approval of the International.
The ballots were handled exclusively by the firm of BDO Dunwoody, chartered accountants and consultants, who were responsible for collecting and counting them. The number of ballots returned far exceeded that of previous mail-in ballots.
In 1991, our membership voted on autonomy in a mail-in ballot. That ballot sought authority for the leadership in this province to obtain autonomy with the precondition that British Columbia carpenters remain within the International. The actual wording of the 1991 ballot was: Are you in favour of authorizing the British Columbia Provincial Council of Carpenters to pursue and negotiate with the International Headquarters for a Canadian section within our International Union? Many members at that time considered this a milquetoast position.
Results of the 2001 referendum on autonomy will be utilized to seek a negotiated settlement to the current impasse. A letter has been sent by the Provincial Council seeking the Internationals position on this matter. If a negotiated settlement is not possible, the delegates to this years Provincial Council convention and, ultimately, the members will decide on the next steps towards achieving autonomy.
Carpenters can no longer belong to Building Trades Councils
McCarron pulls UBCJA out of Federation
On April 4, 2001, AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department President Edward C. Sullivan sent a letter to the secretaries of all State, Provincial, and Local Councils affiliated with them. In that letter, President Sullivan wrote that on March 29 this year, Carpenters Union General President Douglas McCarron had notified the AFL-CIO and the Building Trades Department that the Carpenters had disaffiliated from the AFL-CIO Federation.
Sullivan noted that, Accordingly, by disaffiliating from the AFL-CIO the Carpenters knowingly removed themselves from the Building and Construction Trades Department as well as from every Building and Construction Trades Council in the United States and Canada. Let me make sure you understand that it was the decision of the Carpenters to leave, not ours.
In his letter, Sullivan outlines the steps decided upon by the Governing Board of the Building Trades Department:
Jurisdictional turf wars predicted for Trades
The Carpenters disaffiliation from the AFL-CIO and the Building Trades Department likely will spawn a jurisdictional turf war in most of North America. The new General President of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers sent a letter on the Carpenters disaffiliation from the AFL-CIO to the Iron Workers local unions in the US and Canada. In that letter, Brother Hunt pointed out that the jurisdictional dispute procedures in the AFL-CIO constitution would not apply for Carpenters. He cautioned the local unions that, despite the fact that there has been no raids or jurisdictional challenges, nevertheless given the apparent attitude that the United Brotherhood of Carpenters has expressed, it appears that there may be very shortly such attacks for jurisdictional claims.
Boilermakers claim Millwrights work
This may have deep repercussions in other parts of North America, but not likely in British Columbia. This province has laws that require disputes be resolved at the Jurisdictional Assignment Plan of the British Columbia Construction Industry.
However, the Boilermakers General President states, The Boilermakers are currently in the process of recruiting members of the Millwrights trade into our union. We are in contact with individual Millwright locals in hopes of having them affiliate as a whole with the International Union.
The split from the AFL-CIO is shaping up to be a war involving jurisdictional poaching. McCarron, in the April 9, 2001 Engineering News Record, a trade publication, is quoted on jurisdiction as stating It really is a matter left up to the contractor employing the workers.
An article in the AFL-CIO publication The Labour Educator speculated on McCarrons strategy with regard to the Carpenters AFL-CIO pullout. The author of the article wrote:
While McCarron said very little to Sweeny (President of the AFL-CIO) about his (McCarrons) organizing plans, he was more forthcoming in a March 23 address to the National Erectors Association convention in Hawaii. He told the contractors, You need the freedom to assign the work based on what makes sense, what makes all of us competitive on the job. If theres a dispute, let the owner settle it. Its his money and his job. Surely, weve learned that much.
While industry was demanding more for its construction dollar, McCarron said, our answer was to shut down your job while we argued over whether an iron worker or a millwright did your rigging. We not only refused to help solve the problem, but we refused to admit there was a problem. He concluded by saying, Were serious about reorganizing the industry. Were serious about customer service.
In McCarrons letter to the United Brotherhood member-ship, he denied any plans for wall-to-wall units or organizing other crafts into the Carpenters Union. McCarron accuses the AFL-CIO of operating under rules and procedures of an era that passed years ago. McCarron boasts, Weve done the hard work of restructuring our union and making real changes. As a result, our membership has begun to increase for the first time in decades and were in a stronger financial position than ever.
Despite McCarrons boasts, no evidence has ever been pro-vided that can be relied upon to substantiate McCarrons position. The numbers of new certifications have not been presented in a real empirical way that can be verified. Increasing member-ship has not been demonstrated in a verifiable manner. There has been so little information distributed in McCarrons new corporate union that there isnt even a telephone directory of local unions and councils published. In the February 26 edition of the Engineering News Record, however, the data presented claims that the Carpenters Union membership dropped by 7.3 per cent between 1995 and 2000. McCarron was first elected General President in 1995.
The reason cited by McCarron for this pullout from the Federation was money per capita taxes that the United Brotherhood remits to the AFL-CIO. He doesnt like the way the AFL-CIO operates. At the Carpenters General Convention held last September, McCarron stated, No member of this Brotherhood is going to see the money they work for, sweat for, risk their lives for, used to pay a Washington bureaucrats salary.
In a letter dated April 9, 2001, to Carpenters Union members, McCarron reiterated, We will not spend our members money to support a Washington bureaucracy.
This refrain from McCarron is not lost on British Columbia carpenters, sending upward of a million dollars a year to support McCarrons Washington bureaucracy.
Members have their say
Large majority support autonomy
COUNCIL COMMENT by Dave Flynn
"We want the right to govern ourselves without interference from Washington.
It has been one year since the delegates to the 57th convention of the BC Provincial Council of Carpenters directed the Council to take some affirmative action against the dictates coming from the International in Washington.
Since 1996, when General President Doug McCarron and his Executive Board introduced their myopic vision of a new structure for our union, the Provincial Council has been fighting for an alternative that is acceptable to our membership. When it became clear that the International was not prepared to entertain any variation from their proposed structure, the delegates to last years convention declared that they had enough. They passed a resolution directing the Council to amend its constitution. In effect, they were saying, We want the right to govern ourselves without interference from Washington.
Following months of hard work by the Constitution Review Committee, the new draft constitution was presented to the membership last winter at special called meetings throughout the province. In March, a mail ballot referendum was conducted. Two ballots were sent to every member; one seeking approval of the new constitution, and one asking the membership if they support the provincial Council to negotiate with the International for the right to govern ourselves.
Now, one year after the process began, the tally is in. With about four thousand members responding to the mail ballots, over 76 per cent supported the proposed constitution and almost 80 per cent supported negotiating the autonomy the members in this province have long desired.
No one on the Provincial Council is under any illusion that McCarron will look at the ballot results and immediately surrender. He seems to believe that his powers under the General Constitution are absolute, and he almost certainly will resist relinquishing any authority, particularly to some upstarts in the backwoods of Canada. He may simply refuse to negotiate with us. We fully expect that there will be many more hours and days spent in Labour Board hearings and in court before this matter is resolved. But through it all, McCarron will have to face some irrefutable facts. The membership in BC will not accept his proposed structure for our union. They are clearly fed up with being dictated to from a foreign country and are demanding the right to self-government. At some point he has to realize he cannot hold members by force.
In spite of the best efforts of the International and their agents in BC to discredit the Provincial Council, their campaign against the referendum ballots failed miserably. One would expect that McCarron, as a trade union leader, would believe in the fundamental principles of democracy and workers rights to determine their own destiny.
Well Doug, the members in BC have spoken. The prudent thing to do now would be to sit down with representatives of the BC Provincial Council and negotiate the terms of autonomy for the Carpenters Union in BC.
The results of the referendum votes are in, and the membership has clearly spoken. Despite a concerted and malicious attack on the Provincial Council leadership, despite deliberate misinformation and exaggeration around the Pension Plan issue, our membership has definitely stated its demand for autonomy.
Make no mistake, this ballot clearly sets out the direction the Provincial Council must follow. At the province-wide membership meetings, it became quite apparent that a lot of our members felt betrayed after the 1991 autonomy referendum. Ten years had not produced autonomy for our members in BC. Quite the contrary. The International took those results and proceeded to treat them and ourselves with absolute contempt.
For myself, the most invigorating result of the vote was the number of members who chose to participate. From my point of view, it completely validates the Provincial Council position of having a mail-out ballot. Could we have received a higher percentage at a meeting-only vote? Absolutely. But this vote, in my opinion, wasnt about percentages; it was about our membership having the opportunity to give their leadership clear and unequivocal direction. They have done that and now deserve, and quite clearly should expect, their leadership to follow those directions.
The first step in following those directions is detailed in the attached letter that we have sent to the General President:
April 23, 2001
Dear Brother McCarron:
The British Columbia Provincial Council of Carpenters has just received the results of two referendum ballots
The collection and tabulating of these ballots was conducted exclusively by BDO Dunwoody, Chartered Accountants and Consultants.
The results for Ballot No. 1 were 76 percent in favour, and for Ballot No. 2, 77 percent in the affirmative. Considering that over four thousand ballots were returned, which in itself is the largest referendum vote conducted by the British Columbia Provincial Council of Carpenters, the members have spoken clearly for an autonomous union.
I am sure you can appreciate the importance of this result, considering the significant resources and time that the International spent opposing the referenda.
The instructions in Ballot No. 2 for the Provincial Council to negotiate an agreement for autonomy are straightforward. We await your response on this matter.
Convention will set our course
A number of new delegates will be attending this years convention. Some excellent speakers are scheduled. Important guests will be there. All in all, we have a recipe for a positive and exciting event.
Will there be further referenda? Probably! It is impossible to predict how the International will conduct themselves.
Our role is to follow the wishes of our membership as expressed in the results of the vote. Anything less would be a betrayal.
Need help with Alcohol, Drug or Family Problems?
The Construction Industry Rehabilitation Plan is set up to assist you with any prob- lems you may be experiencing with alcohol and other drugs, family or spousal conflicts and emotional dilemmas relating to your substance abuse.
Confidentiality is guaranteed. In no case will your name or circumstance be made public. In most situations we can offer full or partial financial assistance. We at the PLAN are here for you and your familyConfidential and Caring. If you are experiencing any problems in any area, please:
Call the Plan -Our number is 521-8611 toll free 1-888-521-8611
ON THE LEVEL
Is dedicated to representing Carpenters Union members views and news and reporting on social issues of interest to working people in British Columbia.
ON THE LEVEL, the newspaper for Carpenters in British Columbia, is owned and operated by ON THE LEVEL PUBLISHERS L TD., which maintains its editorial offices at 304 - 2806 Kingsway, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V5R 5T5. Telephone (604) 430-8140. Fax 437-1110.
It is printed at Broadway Printers, Vancouver. Annual subscription fee $10.00 in Canada, US$10.00 in the USA. Active members pay $9.60 per year through their Carpenters Union dues. Editor: Ray Tickson
Members of the editorial board are: Len Embree, David Flynn, Jane Richey and Brian Zdrilic.
ON THE LEVEL is a member publication of the Canadian Association of Labour Media (CALM) and the International Labor Communications Association (ILCA)
this archived page last updated