New Carpenters Call for Direct Members Vote
Court Action by Rank and File Carpenters Blocks Quick Ratification of CBA that Eliminates Hiring Rights. New Leadership Calls to Conduct Direct Membership Referendum on CBA.
New York carpenters elected a member with a long record of fighting for reform to the top spot of the 25,000 member District Council in December, just in time to win a key legal battle delaying a vote on tentative agreements that would eliminate the union hiring hall. Mike Bilello, a 36-year member who started campaigning for union democracy nearly two decades ago, was elected Secretary Treasurer with nearly 63% of the almost 5,000 votes cast. Bill Lebo, his running mate for Council President also won. A month after taking office, Bilello's administration and the council's powerful 100-member Delegate Assembly unanimously called for a membership referendum on the agreements.
The election follows a two-and-a-half-year long trusteeship imposed by the International after Michael Forde, the prior EST, was removed in a 2009 racketeering scandal, for which he is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence. Frank Spencer, the International trustee, had sought a quick vote on tentative collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) he negotiated that would end decades-old hiring rights that refer one third of all carpenters jobs based on qualifications and seniority. The CBAs also included 20% pay cuts for many carpenter jobs.
A few days before taking office, Bilello testified in support of an action in federal court brought by rank and file carpenters seeking an injunction to stop the ratification until carpenters and the 100 members of the Delegate Assembly, who are elected by the locals, had a chance to review the provisions of the agreements.
Many members view the hiring provisions as the key to contract enforcement, protecting them against retaliation for health and safety complaints, and preserving dignity on the job. The agreements eliminate the 2-1 system in which a third of all jobs are referred through the hiring system according to seniority and job skills. Employers hire the other two-thirds directly from the membership and can easily skip over members who complain about contract violations or health and safety violations. In other construction unions where members lack hiring rights, grievances and safety complaints are rare or non-existent. Members passed over for work in retaliation for filing such complaints must rely on federal bureaucracies such as the NLRB, OSHA, or the EEO, as opposed to the grievance machinery.
To be ratified, the tentative agreements needed approval of a majority of the 100 members of the Delegate Assembly. The delegates were elected local by local last fall. Spencer sought a quick vote of the assembly on January 10, the day before installation of the new officers. At its second meeting, under pressure from below to reject the agreements, the Assembly unanimously adopted an extraordinary measure to hold a membership referendum on the agreements by mail ballot conducted by the American Arbitration Association.
“It was complete silence at a time when it was most
important to get this information to the members.”
“It was the end-all for due process rights," said Demian Schroeder, a nine-year member and shop steward, who was a plaintiff in the case. "No mass mailings, no robo calls, no newsletter, no announcement. It was complete silence at a time when it was most important to get this information to the members."
The carpenters argued in court that members and delegates need adequate time to review the CBAs. In December, a federal judge had ruled that the UBC was required to post proposed CBAs online for two weeks. Bilello testified at the hearing on January 6, just days before he was sworn in as EST, that the vote be postponed because important provisions of some of the contracts had been left off the union's website.
Carpenters report that the Delegate Assembly and much of the membership is divided over the CBAs. The employer associations are threatening a 20% wage cut if the CBAs are rejected, and a rival-union sponsored by the Painters union, an AFL-CIO affiliate, has petitioned the NLRB for representation of important areas of jurisdiction. If the Painters are successful, the NYCDC could lose countless jobs. UBC President Douglas McCarron disaffiliated from the AFL-CIO in 2001.
After a decade’s long battle for members' rights, Bilello is in the strongest position possible to wage a campaign to protect what is left of carpenters' right to fair hiring and to rebuild a union plagued for years by corruption and organized crime influence. His testimony in support of the Carpenters action in federal court and his support for the membership referendum are promising signs. It remains to be seen whether he will speak out in favor of the crucial hiring rights and how hard he will campaign for them.
-- Union Democracy Review
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campain promisses were just used to get into office.
In reply to this post by AUD
Spencer sought a quick vote of the assembly on January 10, the day before installation of the new officers. At its second meeting, under pressure from below to reject the agreements, the Assembly unanimously adopted an extraordinary measure to hold a membership referendum on the agreements by mail ballot conducted by the American Arbitration Association.
Sumthins not right about this. What actually did happen Jan 10. - under pressure from below?????
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