online history of the San Francisco airport wildcat, July 1999
From: Crpntrs713@aol.com, August 25, 1999, UBCmembers Onelist:
Subject: [UBCMEMBERS] contract vote
July 31, 1999
Brothers and Sisters:
Today the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council met and voted by 195-127 to ratify the new contract.
We who opposed the contract have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of or to feel demoralized about. We waged a tremendous struggle and, in fact, our Council leadership never in a thousand years expected to have to campaign like this for this garbage contract.
We had some 500 members turn out to protest the contract, including a brother electrician (from Electricians for a Democratic Union) who came all the way from New York to lend his support. We may have lost the vote, but we won the argument.
They claimed that the wage raise was not all that bad, but they could not begin to explain why the carpet layers were getting $2.00 per year while we're only getting $1.25. They talked about how the carpenters in the valley area needed this contractor-friendly contract, but they could not begin to answer the point that it will only be by fighting for the members that we will get the members to fight for the union.
They tried to divide the valley carpenters from the Bay area carpenters. Yet they expect the bay area carpenters to turn out to support those in the valley. Then they turn around and tell us that we, in the Bay Area, have to take this sort of garbage contract to support the valley carpenters. This will never fly with the majority of members; in fact, it is the surest way imaginable to make the entire concept of organizing in the valley unpopular.
(I want to emphasize that I, personally, support organizing in all areas, but that the only way to do this effectively is to involve the membership. We will not be able to do this fully as long as our leadership is pushing contractor friendly contracts like this one.)
In any case, our struggle continues. We've made great strides forward; we have a membership that is many times more concerned and more involved in the union than they were at the start of this process. June of next year is local elections. We will take our union back.
To UBCMEMBERS onelist.com
Subject: WILDCAT IN SAN FRANCISCO
You are right if you mean that the wrong target (the contractor) got hit. But, it did get everyone's attention including the media on an issue that would otherwise have been ignored. Besides, the A.B.C. are always taking unions to court if it wasn't this it would be something else.
The court will look at all sides; and one of the questions that will have to be answered is: Was the violation a willful act on the part of the union? The court will have to decide on the definition of "union". I don't pretend to know what direction they will take but the arguments should be interesting. I mean is a union, members represented by the union or is it the organization as a whole? If workers make a unilateral decision to walk off is the organization; which opposed the action, still responsible? Are members still bound by a contract they didn't agree to signed by officials they didn't choose? I'm aware that project Labor Agreements contain "No strike clauses" but they usually mean no called strikes. Membership action could be deemed an exercise of free speech kind of like "blue flu". I'm sure the case will take years and probably end up with a ruling entirely unrelated to the question. If the case follows past practices there will probably be a 'we won't do it again' paper to sign and post at the cost of a lot of money on both sides and a few lawyers will buy new BMWs. My point is that the day fear turns the union into a bunch of sheep is the day we might as well close the doors.
Of course if Carpenters for a Stronger Union files a brief there could be a ruling on membership ratification of contracts.
San Francisco Attorney Reprimands Union Activist
Oakland Tribune article by David Scholtz, Business writer, Monday, June 28
An Oakland man who led a 50-person wildcat strike last month at the site of the San Francisco International Airport expansion will face legal action from the San Francisco City Attorney's office if it happens again.
John Reimann of the Carpenters Union, which has 20,000 members in Northern California, was put on notice in a letter June 8 from City Attorney Louise H. Renne's staff that he and his co-workers will be liable for damages if any further activities take place.
"As you undoubtedly know, your activities and those of your colleagues caused losses to the Airport through construction delays," stated Thornton C. Bunch Jr.
Reimann, viewing the letter as little more than posturing on the city's part, defended the action as an expression of his and his workers' constitutional rights.
"This threat is a violation of the first and 14th Amendments," he said, claiming the city is acting prematurely to stifle his rights without a hearing first. The wildcat action, which coincided with another work stoppage at a Lawrence Livermore Laboratory job site, was prompted by membership dissatisfaction
with a recently approved contract extension.
The extension is through 2005 and includes a salary increase of $5 an hour over the life of the contract for wages and retirement. It also features a Saturday makeup day clause that requires a worker who misses a day of work during the week to work that Saturday. On June 21, Reiman and his union's efforts were vindicated when that contract extension was ruled invalid. United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners general president Doug McCarron intervened and declared it invalid based on a technicality. McCarron found there was not enough notice given about the vote.
The contract extension is slated for a re-vote in August.
Paul Cohen, representative for Northern California Carpenters Regional Council, said officials expect approval of the contract extension on the re-vote. This is based on a recent survey that showed 73 percent of council members supported the extension.
For one thing, this article should answer those who are desperately clinging to the belief that we are lying about the fact that McCarron ordered a new election. Also, a question that should be answered is this: Where did SF City Attorney Louise Renne get my address?
Subject: WE WIN!!!!!!
June 21, 1999
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
This afternoon when I came in from work I received a phone call from John Reimann. He told me that there was a message on his recorder when he got home. The message was from our lawyer, Jim Eggleston, and he told John that there was being issued from McCarron, an order for a revote on the contract that was voted on last May. This is a great victory for those of us in the Northern Calif. and in the entire 'BROTHERHOOD.' This shows us as well as our leadership what we can do when we move in solidarity. This is not the end of it by any means. But, it is a major victory in our fight to form a stronger union. Union meetings become immensely important at this point. We need to attend every meeting and see to it that the vote now goes in our favor. We need to speak to each delegate to the district council and make our thoughts about this contract known to them. We need to see to it that they understand that we do not want them to vote in favor of this contract. We want them to know that we do not want them voting yes and using that bogus survey as their excuse. There is no way that we will stand by and let this happen again. There is no way we will stand for a concessionary contract in boom times. Stand up and cheer your victory and enjoy the moment. Then its back to work. Get to the meetings and force the changes that will make our Union stronger.
in victorious solidarity
Tue, 22 Jun 1999
Subject: WE WIN!!!!!!
Just a word of caution about what's happened out here: The battle is by no means over; we're only back at square one, where the contract proposal is still on the table and the Regional council delegates are expected to vote on it. Of course, in the meantime, we've given them a little taste of rank and file power, which should have an influence. Also, we still do not accept that we don't have the right to vote on our contracts and on July 1 we will be back out again in protest.
Letter from Mike Draper, GEB member
I have just received a faxed copy of the following letter from Mike Draper, General Executive Board Member of the 7 & 8 Districts. (Note, he's from two districts; I guess this is part of the consolidations. Pretty soon, maybe he'll be consolidated out of a job, and McCarron will be the only one running the entire show!)
The letter is addressed to all local unions and members of the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council. It says:
"I have recently heard that several Local Unions are considering expending money to set up a fund that is going to sponsor action designed to obstruct the administration of collective bargaining agreements that have been lawfully ratified by the Delegates of the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council. When I have questioned individuals about the specific purpose of the fund and use of the Local Union money, I have discovered that there is no clear understanding of what it will be spent on. I want to put you on notice that the UBC Constitution and your Regional Council By-Laws prohibit expenditures for unlawful purposes. Accordingly, you should make sure that any Local Union expenditure is lawful. If an unlawful expenditure is brought to my attention, I will bring charges against the persons making the expenditure under Section 14D of the UBC Constitution. Furthermore, other legal recourse may be brought against such persons.
"Next, I am appalled that certain Carpenters Union Members refused to honor the project labor agreement for the San Francisco Airport. The unlawful wildcat strike that was engaged in by certain members will not be tolerated and I may be bringing charges against the appropriate parties once my investigation of this matter is complete. The members who engaged in the wildcat strike are unwitting co-conspirators with the Associated Builders and Contractors ('ABC') and others who fight in the courts and legislatures to stop unions from getting project labor agreements.
An ABC backed bill was just introduced in the United States Senate and House that would prohibit federal agencies from requiring Union-only project labor agreements on federal projects. The ABC and our enemies in the United States Congress are using the San Francisco Airport strike to establish that a no-strike clause in a project labor agreement is useless even if it has been ratified by the Union. I am enclosing for your review a U.S. Newswire dated June 9, 1999 where the ABC states its argument to courts and legislatures: 'The guaranty of labor peace as part of a project labor agreement has been proven to be a hollow promise by the recent wildcat labor strike at the San Francisco airport.' Also, just this week, the ABC is arguing to the California Supreme Court that the project labor agreement at the San Francisco Airport is unlawful and that the project should be done non-union.
As you know, project labor agreements are hard to get, but they mean that the entire project will be built by Union labor and Union Carpenters. We cannot tolerate a few misguided individuals causing the Union to breach lawful agreements. It threatens getting future agreements. We all need to stand together and fight for more Union jobs rather than assisting the ABC and their friends by breaking the agreements that we have already reached. Our ability, along with that of other building trades unions, to win project labor agreements is at stake here.
Again, I will take action against any individuals who engage in unlawful strikes in the future."
Signed by Mike Draper
I would like to reply in the following:
First of all, I am proud to say that I was the one who made the motion for Local 713 to join in the legal action. That motion passed by an 11-1 margin. And as Recording Secretary of Local 713, I will have the HONOR of signing the check to pay for that challenge. I know that the Regional Council has its eyes and ears on this list, which is the same as saying that the GEB, including Mike Draper, have their eyes and ears here. So, for the benefit of Brother Draper, I would like to say that I will be signing that check as soon as it is cut this week and I urge Brother Draper in the strongest possible way to please, please, please bring me up on charges for it. I eagerly await the response of our membership to any charges that are brought. As a matter of fact, I think that our membership will find just the threat of charges as well as this letter in general to be very interesting.
Secondly, regarding the project labor agreement/no strike pledge: If the Union leadership had any sense, they would use our "wildcat" to show that building projects such as the SF Airport with partially non-union labor is a recipe for chaos. They would show that the minute the non-union sets foot upon the job, there will be walkoffs, mass pickets, rallies, etc. far, far greater than anything that has occurred up until now.
Of course, the leadership cannot say this because, above all else, they are dedicated to the proposition that the membership must not be mobilized en masse, that there must be "labor peace" above all else. ("Labor peace"means that they can declare war on us, kick the hell out of us, use, abuse, misuse us on the job, but the Union will do nothing about it.)
As for project labor agreements with no-strike clauses, I think we, the working members, must have a second look at them. Increasingly, this is what is happening on the large jobs. What it means is that when a Master Agreement expires, if we can't reach a new agreement and decide to strike the contractors, we can't strike them at their largest jobs. In other words, we can't really hurt them.
So the PLA's are great for labor/management teamwork and screwing the members while assuring that the dues keep rolling in.
In any case, it is the Regional Council leadership that must bear the responsibility for what happened at the airport and other jobs. If they had not shoved this rotten contract down our throats, all of this never would have happened.
Finally, note what Draper says: He blames the "wildcat" on "a few misguided individuals" (and no, he's not talking about the leadership of the Regional Council.) In other words, just a few agitators manipulated 2,000 carpenters into walking off their jobs, and gain the support of some 3,000 other building trades workers! This is the same theory that the southern segregationists used to use to explain the rebellion of black people in the South in the 1960s. Not that those rising up had any legitimate grievances! Heaven forbid the thought! Oh no, it was just a few outside agitators causing all the problems.
This letter, above all else, shows how totally out of touch Mike Draper and our International leadership really are. Well, brothers and sisters, we'll just have to keep on rising up until we take back our union from these people.
ONE MEMBER ONE VOTE
Fri, 18 Jun 1999 Subject: response to Mr. Drapers letter
Dear Brothers& sisters:
The following is a letter from Jim Eggleston (lawyer for locals 22, 713, 34) to the lawyers of the Intn'l. re: Mr. Drapers Letter.
Dear Mr. DeCarlo:
As you may know, we have been retained by several Local Union affiliates of the (NCCRC) to take all necessary actions to remedy a defective ratification process recently employed by NCCRC executive management to "ratify" a controversial contract amendment and extension.
The immediate response to this illegitimate ratification process was widespread wildcat activity by outraged members on major public works projects in San Francisco. These actions were followed by overwhelming membership votes in many local unions to take various actions to protest and overturn the unlawful "ratification," including legal actions. We are currently retained by LU22(SF), LU713(EB), & LU34(Pile Drivers). We have also been contacted by members and officers of other Local Unions who are in the processing of considering participation in legal actions by Locals 22, 713, &34.
Our clients would all prefer to resolve this controversy by agreement rather than litigation. Unfortunately, your client Michael Draper has joined the fray with an ill advised threat to Local Union officials who comply with the directives of their memberships to challenge the unlawful NCCRC ratification process. A copy of Mr. Draper's letter making these threats is enclosed.
Mr. Draper's threats plainly violate various provisions of the Landrum Griffin Act, including sections 411(a)(1), (2), and (4). His attempt to intervene in this controversy and quell legitimate member and Local Union dissent is unfortunate and has only inflamed the situation. We request that you have Mr. Draper immediately retract his unlawful threats. Our clients have no interest in drawing the UBC into this controversy and increasingly probable litigation. We hope you share that interest and can prevail upon your client representatives to act rationally and lawfully.
Thank you in advance for your anticipated assistance in avoiding a broader controversy and unnecessary litigation. Please give me a call if you would like to discuss this matter.
Very truly yours,
Mon, 07 Jun 1999
Although I did not participate in the California Wildcat Strike, I do support them and their right to hold back their labor. Historical FACT, we the working class owe all the work place and social benefits we receive because of the strike. My right to hold back my labor can never be given away by another! If I and others choose to strike because of a workplace injustice, or to make a statement about a contract, it is our right as individuals to do so. In my opinion the greatest failure of unionism is when the leaders become like police enforcing the rule of an unjust contract on the workers. In saying this I am not making a judgment on the California Contract the wildcatters are fighting. I support their right to strike in principle. I also strongly support the democratic principle that we as members should have the right to vote for our leaders, and on our contracts. If it takes a nationwide wildcat to get our right to vote back, THEN COUNT ME IN!!!
" Universal economic evils afflicting the working class can be eradicated only by a universal working class movement. Such a movement of the working class is impossible while separate craft and wage agreements are made favoring the employer against other crafts in the same industry, and while energies are wasted in fruitless jurisdictional struggles which serve only to further the personal aggrandizement of union officials. " This quote from the 1905 founding convention of the Industrial Workers of the World.
One Big Union Monthly March 1, 1919, volume 1, number 1 pages 24-26
Carpenters at Airport protest Against Union Leadership
Workers dislike new way to OK labor contracts
Lisa Fernandez, Chronicle Staff Writer Friday, May 21, 1999
Angry with what they say are low wages and a lack of coffee breaks, about 250 carpenters and 1,750 allies stopped work at San Francisco International Airport yesterday, bringing a $2.4 billion construction project to a near halt.
Smaller groups of carpenters also stopped working at the San Francisco construction sites of Kaiser Permanente Medical Center and the future PacBell Park in China Basin, where carpenters plan to focus their efforts today. Although it did not affect airline service, the loss of that many workers, which included a sympathetic group of electricians, plumbers and painters, cost the airport terminal project about $1 million, airport spokesman Ron Wilson estimated. It also added a day's delay to the project, which should be finished by late 2000 but is already more than a month behind schedule because of last winter's El Nino storms, Wilson said.
Carrying simple cardboard signs that read ``More Money,'' the jeans- clad members of the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council protesting at the airport yesterday said they wanted $10 more an hour, coffee breaks and every other Friday off. But they are not upset with the contractors, who pay them almost $27 an hour. Instead, they are angry with their own union officials, whom they say sold them out last Saturday by voting on a weak four-year contract. For the first time, only a delegation of representatives, rather than all the carpenters, voted on the contract. A union mandate 18 months ago ordered the change in voting. That erosion of internal democracy is at the core of the controversy, carpenters say.
``Times are booming,'' said Jonathan Noel of Hayward, who is helping to build a nine-story parking garage at the airport. ``Electricians and plumbers are making $34 an hour, and carpenters are the lowest- paid men on the job.'' Carpenters have urged their union leadership to have a new vote. They argued the delegation, which voted 127 to 107 for the contract, didn't represent the 16,000 working members. Some jeered at their union officials, pointing to their suits, leather chairs and six-figure salaries in contrast to the earnings of the rank and file.
Union officials say the carpenters' protest is an unusual situation. In his 25 years as a union official, Regional Council President Gary Martin said, this is only the second time he knows of when union members protested against their own leadership. Union leaders said 73 percent of union members who answered a survey said they approved the contract's language.
The union's delegation signed off on the best contract it thought it could get, he said, noting that the contract gives the carpenters an extra $5 an hour over four years. The trouble is, he said, that the union is not strong enough to negotiate more than that. If the union presses for more, contractors simply will hire from the large pool of nonunion workers who earn about $20 an hour with no fringe benefits, according to Martin.
Nonunion contractors also were critical of the carpenters' protest. Kevin Dayton, who represents a trade association of 325 Northern California nonunion contractors, says the carpenters' unsanctioned strike violates the labor agreement the unions signed with the airport in 1996. Construction unions signed a deal with the airport promising no strikes, pickets or work stoppages if the airport would hire only union employees.
Because of the no-strike agreement, Wilson said, an arbitrator determined last night that the unions must inform their members that anyone who honors the strike will be subject to discharge or ordered to pay damages. If the union leadership does not tell its members, Wilson said, the leaders will be subject to similar penalties.
Dayton's group is pursuing a lawsuit, which is now before California's Supreme Court, arguing that the deal violates competitive bidding. Union president Martin said he believes the carpenters deserve more money and a chance to sip coffee a couple times a day on the job. But he was firm that there would not be a new contract vote.
``That would be like taking a second bite of the apple,'' he said.
Date: Wed, 26 May 1999 To: UBCMEMBERS@onelist.com
Wildcat strike in the S.F Bay area
I was elected as chair of the Working Carpenters for a Stronger Union, the group that ran the strike. Below is the text of a few of the flyers we put out.
One Member One Vote!
Throughout San Francisco members of the Carpenters Union are shutting jobs down. They have walked at the SF airport, Pac Bell Park, Kaiser Hospital in SF, down in Silicon Valley and all over. We are getting support from brothers and sisters in many other trades and some are even joining our lines. We are getting requests for pickets from throughout the bay area. We are carpenters, drywallers, lathers, t-bar ceiling workers and all members of the UBC. (Lathers, remember your contract under the same Council comes up next year.)
Our movement is spreading throughout the US and Canada.
We all understand what is at stake. We are fighting to take our union back from that tiny handful of unelected, unrepresentative officials who are shoving this contract down our throats. We are the strongest union supporters there are, but we know that the only way the union will be truly strong is if
it fights for us.
Members who have walked off are being threatened by both the contractors and the Union leaders. The employers tell them they will be fired. How can they do that when we have full employment? As for the Union leaders threats of being expelled - this just shows how desperate our leaders are. They cannot legally expel us for this.
We demand the following:
· 1)This rotten contract must be taken off the table. It does not represent our interests and it was voted on illegally at a meeting that was called illegally. It must be removed.
· 2)No new contract voted on by the Regional Council delegates until it is voted on and passed by the working members at area-wide general membership meetings where we can discuss the pros and cons. No phony "mail-in" ballots, where they control the source of information, they keep the members feeling isolated, and they count the "results." We are united, we are strong, and we will take back our union.
Date: Tue, 25 May 1999
Due to the dwindling number of pickets, we have decided to return to work. We are returning to work united, strong and determined to take our union back. We voted to go back out again on July 1 if our demands are not met. We are going to continue organizing to take our union back. We thank you for any support you may have given.
Carpenters Local 713
There is nothing that can stop us if we stick together. I can only admire just how Courageous the SF Carpenters are, and which only can be inspiration to us all. Thank You Again.
JULY 1st seems like a good day to take off, what is your opion to this?
Gary Hull LU 1006 NJ ONE MEMBER ONE VOTE
Date: Thu, 27 May 1999 Day 2 of Strike at SFO
Gary--, you know what? July 1 seems like a good day to take off.
In reply to Louie who says that July 1 sounds like a good day to take off: Out here in California, we're planning to take off that day again if our demands aren't met. Are there any members out there in computerland who think that it would be possible to organize a national day of protest on that day?
From: JOHN LIGUORI
Date: 27 May 1999
DEAR MEMBERS, I HOPE WE'RE NOT PLANNING A DAY OFF FOR A PICNIC OR TO RAISE OUR GLASS FULL OF BEER TO TOAST THE SF CARPENTERS. I HOPE WE ARE PLANNING TO DEMONSTRATE IN FRONT OF OUR JOB SITES OR DISTRICT COUNCILS TO LET THE WORLD KNOW WE ARE PROTESTING THE INTERNATIONAL'S DENIAL OF OUR RIGHT TO VOTE! ONE MEMBER ONE VOTE IS OUR RIGHT!
27 May 1999
I am a Union Electrician out of Local 26 Washington D.C. I would like to know if and when anything is planned here for July 1.You can bet I'll be there. There is a saying on the IBEW list "United we bargain divided we beg".Thank all of you for allowing me to comment on your list
In Solidarity-Mike Sheridan ONE MEMBER ONE VOTE
27 May, 1999
I support what you're doing 100%. I'm a Journeyman Wireman in IBEW LU 292 in Minneapolis, MN. I will take that day off and tell my brothers about it if you decide that's what you want to do.
Sat, 29 May 1999
You know, I've heard a lot of criticisms of us carpenters who walked off the job all around SF in protest of the rotten contract that was shoved down our throats. All I can say is that it's been a long time in coming. We have a leadership that basically locks us out of the process, that ignores us, disrespects us, refuses to fight for us.
It's amazing -- We continually hear from that same leadership that carpenters are all apathetic, lazy, weak, unwilling to stand up. Now, when they finally do, all we hear is condemnation.
Many carpenters commented that they'd never seen so many business reps and organizers on the job as when we walked off. They only come out to disorganize us, not to help us organize, is the general feeling.
As for the future court ruling on Project Labor Agreements: If all we have to depend on is the courts, then we are sunk. If the Union would defend its members and stop pushing these contractor friendly contracts down our throats, then the members will stand up for the Union. No doubt about that one.
Sun, 30 May 1999
At our last meeting in Queens NY I have mentioned your actions to many of our brothers. You will be happy to know that, to a man we support you in your struggle! Keep on fighting for what you believe in and never give it up! It's good to know that there are still a few left that are willing to stand and fight!
John Collett Local 45 Queens NY
Tue, 8 Jun 1999
Subject: NATIONAL DAY OF PROTEST
JULY 1st 1999
ON THURSDAY, JULY 1st AT 1:00 pm ALL UNITED BROTHERHOOD OF CARPENTER
MEMBERS WILL BE MEETING AT THE FOOT OF THE BROOKLYN SIDE OF THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE TO MARCH OVER THE BRIDGE IN PROTEST OF INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT DOUG McCARRON'S RESTRUCTURING - TRUSTEESHIP DENYING THE MEMBERS RIGHT TO VOTE
WE WILL BE MARCHING OVER THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE TO THE FEDERAL COURT HOUSE AT 500 PEARL STREET. THE PROTEST WILL BE HELD FROM 1:00 pm UNTIL 5:00 pm
PLEASE SUPPORT THIS PROTEST BY LEAVING ALL JOB SITES BY 11:30 PM AND
PROCEEDING TO THE RALLIES STARTING POINT
THE TIME IS NOW FOR ALL CARPENTER UNION MEMBERS TO LEAD THE WAY OF THE
AMERICAN LABOR MOVEMENT IN DEMANDING THE MEMBERS RIGHT OF ONE MEMBER - ONE VOTE
John Liguori, Local 20
Date: Mon, 07 Jun 1999
The Sisters and Brothers of the BC Carpenters Union also stand in solidarity with members behind the SF Wildcat and their struggle for union democracy.
Your Struggle is our Struggle.
Local 1995, Vancouver BC