A Partnership for a Stronger Labor Movement; for the Members, by the Members.
In early 2011, local leaders of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) and the Building Trades were approached by representatives of the newly formed union. They sought a democratic alternative to the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners (UBC) These New York workers sought to replace the UBC and rejoin the AFL-CIO and its Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD.
Amalgamated Dockbuilders strongly objected to the UBC policies of suppressing rank and file democracy (by denying members the right to vote directly on their contracts), and the unilateral decision to consolidate UBC locals (including the dockbuilders. It is their firm belief that their best interests are no longer being served by the current leadership of the UBC.
To rejoin the Building Trades, Amalgamated sought to affiliate with a current member of the BCTD. In the interests of building a stronger AFL-CIO labor movement, and a unified BCTD, and to support the ideal of democratic trade unionism, the IUPAT offered to enter into an agreement of affiliation with the Amalgamated Carpenters.
In September 2011, the IUPAT and Amalgamated formalized this agreement. Although the two unions continue to act as independent, self-directed trade unions that are run by their respective memberships, the IUPAT is providing Amalgamated Carpenters with assistance on organizing, collective bargaining, contract administration and internal organization.
Importantly, the IUPAT and Amalgamated have pledged honor the traditional craft lines of all members of the BCTD.
The goal of this partnership is to give the members of Amalgamated every opportunity to rejoin the AFL-CIO and the BCTD as their own union.
False Rumors and a History that Shows the True Motives of the UBC
Not surprisingly, the UBC has retaliated by spreading false rumors in an attempt to defeat the efforts of Amalgamated to become its own union and return to the labor movement.
Without a doubt, Amalgamated overwhelmingly has the facts on its side, and more than enough support by the IUPAT to ultimately win self-rule.
As for the rumors, which attempt to intimidate current and prospective supporters of Amalgamated by claiming that Amalgamated, and inferentially IUPAT, is under the thumb of crime bosses.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The record of the IUPAT stands for itself when it comes to honest, democratic unionism and its dedication to running union business by the members, and for the members.
A shining example of this is IUPAT’s twenty year battle against a mob-controlled union of another trade that was trying to steal our drywall finishing work in the City. That local union was described by a federal judge as a local that was founded "by gangsters for gangsters and the companies affiliated with them," With the goal of forcing workers to do the same work as the IUPAT, but for lower pay and benefits.
The IUPAT was successful in ending this organized crime-controlled local's work in our industry.
This is but one example of the IUPAT reputation in New York and beyond, and our dedication to representing the best interests of all organized workers. Unfortunately for far too many carpenters, the UBC does not have the same reputation. That is why the New York City Council of Carpenters is under government supervision and why its leaders were removed and convicted of corruption. Maybe the new leaders will be better, but they are still saddled with a rogue International that is more interested in raiding other unions than fighting for its own members.
Although it has a long history of raiding other unions for members and work, the UBC began a concentrated campaign of raids against the IUPAT nearly ten years ago.
Here are just a few of the confrontations between the UBC and the IUPAT:
Iowa/Omaha - 2004
Armed with the knowledge that contracts with several IUPAT employers were close to expiring, UBC representatives approached IUPAT employers with promises of "sweetheart deals" if they signed the IUPAT work over to the UBC instead of renewing their contracts. IUPAT put its faith in democracy. We sought a secret ballot election conducted by the NLRB.
The result was IUPAT members overwhelmingly voting to stay with the IUPAT, and a harsh rebuke from our employers toward the UBC for attempting such raids.
West Virginia - 2007
The UBC secretly hired an IUPAT district council organizer who used his union hall access to collect personal information on local IUPAT members. Those members were then contacted by telephone and told by a recorded message that painters and drywall finishers were leaving the IUPAT to join the UBC.
The result was, once again, a failure for the UBC. Although some IUPAT members believed the call and attempted to join the UBC because they thought that it was their only option, the overwhelming majority held strong with the IUPAT.
San Diego, California - 2008
The UBC approached an employer that was signatory to both the UBC and the IUPAT for interior work and, with more empty promises of saving money, convinced that employer to give the drywall finishing work to the UBC instead of the IUPAT. That employer then literally held the IUPAT workers behind closed doors at the offices and told them that they had to sign with the Carpenters or lose their jobs that day.
The NLRB found the UBC and the employer guilty of unfair labor practices and ordered the UBC contract voided.
New Jersey - 2008
The UBC held a campaign to represent nearly 500 IUPAT drywall finishers by arguing to the NLRB that drywall taping was not a distinct craft. The NLRB decided otherwise and, in a later vote, hundreds of IUPAT drywall finishers voted against being represented by the UBC.
This list of confrontations like the ones described above goes on and on. Each time the UBC was unsuccessful in raiding IUPAT members. However, our "victories" came at the cost of substantial financial resources and manpower. Resources that could have been dedicated to building the IUPAT and the labor movement instead of being used to battle one rogue union.
It also wasn't just the IUPAT that came under attack from UBC raiding campaigns. Fellow Building Trades crafts have had their own expensive battles with the Carpenters over the last ten years, as well.
In response to the continued resistance of UBC leadership to stop its raiding practices, and recognizing the financial toll on its affiliates because of the raids, the AFL-CIO passed Resolution 70 at its general convention in 2009. This resolution authorized the BCTD to establish a new union for carpentry workers within the AFL-CIO. That is what Amalgamated is doing and why we are helping it.
Yet, to this day, the leadership of the UBC continues to rebuff any attempts by the AFL-CIO and the BCTD to rejoin the federation. In fact, shortly after the conclusion of the AFL-CIO convention where Resolution 70 was passed, the UBC established a local in St. Louis, Missouri to represent electrical workers. The clear purpose was to raid the membership and employers of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Only a united labor movement can grow, especially in these down times. The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, and the rest of the AFL-CIO, stands ready fight for all workers who choose to form a union that is run by the members, for the members.
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