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The UBC has submitted a letter to Judge Richard M. Berman announcing a restructuring plan which will recast the New York City District Council of Carpenters.
Review Officer ("RO") Dennis Walsh, has urged all members to read and consider this restructuring plan. For the next two weeks, through June 10, 2011, all members may submit written comments to the RO about the UBC’s plans.
To comment, simply send an email or letter to the RO containing what you want to say. In addition to general comments, the RO recommends that you cite specific sections when applicable. You must identify yourself and provide some contact information. Please clearly specify if you would like to have your comments kept confidential.
I posted the relevant part of the plan here for discussion. (Click here for the entire document)
THE PROPOSED NEW YORK CITY RESTRUCTURING PLAN
The proposed New York City restructuring plan has three principle objectives: (1) consolidation to achieve more efficient economies of scale, given the unnecessary number of Local Unions within New York City; (2) elimination of the overlap of certain New York City LUs’ geographic jurisdiction with other Councils’ jurisdictions; and (3) satisfaction of the needs of an industry and a membership that has become highly specialized. To meet those objectives, the UBC proposes the following changes:
• LU 1536 (Timberman) and LU 1456 (Dockbuilders/Pile Drivers) will be dissolved, with the members of both LUs to be merged into a newly chartered LU. The newly chartered LU will be a specialty LU for heavy construction (e.g., bridge, highway, waste-water treatment facilities, high-rise building construction, etc.). Note: The new LU’s geographic jurisdiction will be limited to the five boroughs of New York City and will include all Dock Building and Pile Driver work in that area. That is a change from the current arrangement pursuant to which the Dock Builder’s jurisdiction extends into New Jersey and Long Island.
• LU 20 (Carpenter) and LU 926 (Carpenter) will be dissolved and their memberships merged into LU 45 (Carpenter).
• A new Interior Systems (IS) specialty LU will be chartered. All members who are predominantly employed by signatory specialty contractors within the drywall industry will be transferred into the newly chartered IS LU. Interior Systems, as referred to in this report, includes, but is not limited to, drywall application, metal stud framing construction, acoustical ceilings, all forms of lathing, access flooring, demountable partitions, etc.
• LU 740 (Millwright) to be dissolved and its membership merged with LU 1163 (a Millwright LU residing in Syracuse, NY).
• LU 2870 (Industrial) and LU 2090 (Shop) will be dissolved and their memberships merged into a newly chartered LU.
• The geographic jurisdiction for LU 2287 (Floor Coverers) will be limited to the five boroughs of New York City.
The following two tables outline the existing LU configuration within the District Council and the proposed new configuration:
1. Chartering of a “Heavy Construction” LU by consolidating Dock Builders LU 1456 and Timbermen LU 1536
There are distinct but related skill sets in heavy construction, with Timbermen, Pile Drivers, and heavy forms Carpenters often times present on the Heavy Construction site simultaneously. The work performed by the Timbermen and the Pile Driver on a Heavy Construction project is often closely related, involving the driving of pilings (by the Pile Driver) and supportive rough timber work (by the Timbermen). That is particularly true as it relates to “shoring” or “lagging.” While the Pile Driver and Timbermen have different tasks, there is often a great deal of collaboration between the two specialties. Establishing a Heavy Construction LU would create an environment where Heavy Construction specialists can meet to foster this collaboration and address the common issues they face within the Heavy Construction field (e.g. safety, work opportunities, training, etc.).
It should be noted that Timbermen LU 1536 is currently the only Timbermen Local in the UBC. Moreover, the Timbermen’s principle involvement in Pile Driving is shoring, and, other than in New York City, shoring is generally performed by Pile Drivers. Given the close relationship between Timbermen and Pile Drivers, the UBC therefore believes that maintaining two different LUs makes little organizational sense. That is particularly true when considering the duplication of administrative costs (e.g., clerical costs, rent, professional fees, etc.).
2. The dissolution of LU 20 and LU 926, and the merger of their members into LU 45
The proposed LU restructuring for the above referenced LUs is based on the premise that, while Local Unions play an integral role in the structure of the UBC, there exists an unnecessary number of LUs that are holdovers from a previous construction era. During that earlier era, LUs were structured in a way that was consistent with the provincial attitudes of the members residing in the many ethnic neighborhoods throughout New York City. Additionally, in that era construction was largely localized and contractors rarely traveled outside of the boroughs they resided in, with many contractors not traveling beyond a limited number of neighborhoods within the borough.
However, in today’s construction market, Union contractors are increasingly mobile, chasing work across borough, city, and state borders. They employ Union Carpenters who may be members of a LU within a given borough, but are quite possibly residents of an entirely different borough or city. Given the mobility of today’s industry and workforce, it is not necessary to have numerous Carpenter LUs scattered throughout New York City. That simply results in unnecessary duplication of administrative resources and costs, resources that could be better directed towards organizing and work growth.
Because LU 20 only has 646 members, it lacks the ability to deliver the services a larger, better funded LU can provide its members. In light of the current state of the economy, and employment within the construction industry in general, LU 20’s future viability will continually be challenged by membership losses. While the other New York City based construction Carpenter LUs (LU 45, LU 926, and LU 157) face the same challenge, LU 20 is dramatically smaller and far more vulnerable to becoming totally irrelevant as a labor organization.
Though LU 926 and LU 45 are almost exactly the same size, combining them will allow for the leveraging of economies of scale. That potential benefit of the restructuring will outweigh any provincial concerns regarding the proposed mergers. For example, the proposed restructuring would more than double the size of LU 45, presenting the possibility of a significant reduction in LU dues from their current rate of $56 per month.
Although some critics fear that the loss of a LU physical presence will lead to the absence of UBC involvement within their community, that is simply not the case. A larger, better funded LU organization, regardless of its lack of physical presence, will provide for a more powerful influential voice in multiple communities. Additionally, the LUs can appoint committees specifically developed for those boroughs lacking a LU physical presence. These LU appointed “community based” committees could have sub committees for organizing, political action, charitable volunteer programs. In that way they could ensure an ongoing physical presence in the communities and report back to the LU on their activities.
3. The dissolution of Shop LU 2090 and Industrial LU 2870, and the merger of their members into a newly chartered LU
Both LU 2090 and Industrial LU 2870 currently represent members, many of whom are employed in the same or similar industry sectors: manufacturing of architectural millwork, cabinet manufacturing, elevator doors and cabs, metal doors and door bucks, and the installation, and service of revolving and automatic doors. While the newly chartered LU would be composed of the same membership from the dissolved LUs, a larger community of interest would be created through the consolidation of workers into one larger LU, potentially creating opportunities to leverage employers in order to meet both organizing and collective bargaining objectives.
Additionally, in creating a new LU, significant cost savings would be realized by eliminating duplicate administrative functions and related costs, such as clerical. For example, LU 2090 currently employs one clerical person with an annual salary of $41,040, while LU 2870 employs an Office Manager earning $100,465. Adjustments in clerical employment would result in significant savings to the membership, not to mention office rents, office equipment, and professional services.
Another consideration is the significant difference in the dues between the two Locals, with LU 2090’s dues set at $44.00 per month, while LU 2870’s members pay anywhere from $20 to $28 per month. Because of cost savings resulting from the restructuring, it might be possible to lower dues. That would provide a direct benefit to the membership, and remove an impediment to organizing.
As of May 20, 2011, LU 2870 and LU 2090 had total memberships of 1,326 and 1,554, respectively. The proposed merger and formation of a new LU would provide the new Local with a substantial membership base of 2,880 members and, consequently, a more secure funding base. That would help ensure the economic solvency of the new Local during these perilous economic times.
4. The chartering of a new IS LU
Given the size of the IS market relative to other UBC building construction sectors, the presence of an IS specialty Local improves our ability to (1) maintain and grow the Union’s IS market share; (2) raise the skill level of existing IS journeyman, and (3) engage in more effective collective bargaining on behalf of IS Carpenters. That is consistent with the UBC’s experience in other parts of the country, and it has proven particularly true where an IS contractor association exists (as it does in New York City).
Additionally, IS sector is extremely competitive. In order for contractors to make a profit, they require carpenters with (1) high levels of productivity; (2) distinct craft skill sets; and (3) related specialty training. All of those requirements can be more effectively fostered under the umbrella of a specialty Local.
5. The dissolution of Millwright LU 740 and the merger of its members into Millwright LU 1163
Construction Millwrights within the UBC focus primarily on heavy industry, both in new construction and maintenance. The majority of hours worked by UBC Construction Millwrights are for national contractors who are highly mobile and do not concentrate their operations within one single locale. As a result, Construction Millwrights are equally mobile and frequently travel at least regionally, and in many cases nationally.
Given the regional nature of the Construction Millwright specialty trade, Construction Millwright LUs are becoming more regionalized throughout the UBC. For example, MW LU 1263 based in Atlanta, Georgia, covers the states of Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina; MW LU 1192 based in Birmingham, Alabama, covers both Alabama and Mississippi; MW LU 216, based in Fort Smith, Arkansas, covers Arkansas and Oklahoma; LU 1607, based in Los Angeles, California, covers California, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona; and LU 96, based in Kennewick, Washington, covers the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana.
The proposed dissolution of MW LU 740, based in New York City, will result in the merger of its members into MW LU 1163, based in Syracuse, New York. While MW LU 1163 is currently affiliated with the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters, the UBC will charter a new specialty regional council with which MW LU 1163 will be affiliated.
The UBC recognizes that there are some concerns regarding how New York City members will be able to participate in a Local Union based in Syracuse. However, the new local will implement a system of satellite informational meetings that will serve as a forum for members to obtain information and provide input regarding the management of their Union. This system has been successfully used by other regional locals, including MW LU 1607 (based in Los Angeles), MW LU 96 (based in Kennewick, Washington), and Interior Systems LU 1506, (also based in Los Angeles). Moreover, given the mobile nature of Construction Millwrights and current technology such as the internet and email, there is less of a need to be physically present at a local union hall.
Finally, as previously discussed throughout this memorandum, the merger of Local 740 into Local 1163 will save money by eliminating the costs associated with maintaining LU offices that are unnecessary and duplicate administrative functions and costs.
6. Limit the Jurisdiction of Dock Builder LU 1456 and Floor Coverers LU 2287 to the Five Boroughs of New York City.
Currently the geographic work jurisdiction of Dock Builder’s LU 1456 outside of the five boroughs of New York City includes Nassau County, North New Jersey, South New Jersey, Suffolk County, and Westchester/Rockland Counties. Similarly, the geographic work jurisdiction of Floor Coverers LU 2287 includes Duchess County, Nassau County, Orange County, Putnam County, Rockland County, Suffolk County, and Westchester County.
There is no practical reason why LU 1456’s and LU 2287’s work jurisdiction should extend beyond the borders of the New York District Council, particularly in light of the national Regional Council structure. Throughout the UBC, Local Unions affiliated with District Councils generally possess geographic work jurisdictions within the geographic jurisdictional borders of the Councils they are affiliated with. LU 1456 and LU 2287 are currently outliers in that they have geographic jurisdictions that spill beyond the borders of the New York City District Council and overlap with the jurisdictional borders of the recently formed Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters, which covers New Jersey and New York (excluding New York City).
III. CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The proposed LU restructuring plan is consistent with the UBC’s national restructuring strategy. Moreover, it will achieve the UBC’s restructuring objectives of (1) creating more efficient economies of scale and more effective use of resources on behalf of the membership, and (2) creating specialty LUs that will better meet the needs of the industry and Union members with respect to training, productivity, and market share expansion.
If the proposed restructuring plan is adopted, LU 1456 will be dissolved and its work jurisdiction absorbed by the proposed Heavy Construction LU. However, even if that restructuring does not occur, I recommend that, based on the above analysis, the geographic jurisdiction of dock building/pile driving should be limited to the five boroughs of NY City. Similarly, regardless of whether any other structural changes are implemented, I recommend that Floor Coverers LU 2287’s jurisdiction should also be limited to the five boroughs of New York City.
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