The American union movement long a bastion of pure Democracy, has been attacked. This attack does not come from the usual suspects, nonunion companies and anti-union politicians. But, from within the trade union movement itself, more specifically the leadership of the various so-called "hardhat unions".
The rank and file union membership, have always held a check against leaders assuming unbridled power, the simple right to vote. While an imperfect system the wishes of their membership was something even the most corrupt union official had to keep in mind.
The first major change in this system occurred when Douglas McCarron was elected General President of the International Brotherhood of Carpenters. One of McCarron's first acts was to change the traditional system of independent local unions. He dissolved many smaller locals and combined their members with larger locals. McCarron then combined the remaining locals into "Regional Councils" which took over the traditional functions of the local unions. Leaving the local union elected leadership as mere figureheads with no authority. The Regional Councils are ran by "Executive Secretary/Treasurers" (EST) who are mostly handpicked McCarron loyalists. The member's representatives, who were long chosen by direct membership vote, are now hired employees of the councils who own their livelihood to the EST and by extension, McCarron. The councils were allowed to decide whether the membership would have the right to vote on union contracts and working conditions. Not surprisingly, the councils universally rejected the right of the membership to accept or reject their contracts. While bylaws, contracts, and officers are supposed to be voted by elected delegates. The truth is that the vast majority of delegates are either employed by the council or hired as such soon after being elected.
McCarron's next step was to unilaterally withdraw the Carpenters union from the AFL-CIO citing" philosophical differences". Many observers felt that McCarron's real motivation was a wish to head a union combining all crafts under one untouchable leader.
Many worried observers saw his actions, as a naked grab for power in the historical tradition of many dictators. McCarron denied all reports of "raiding" other unions' areas of employment; while telling the leadership of the AFL-CIO he was prepared to return to the fold as long ascertain conditions were met. Most of these conditions were thinly disguised grabs for more power and influence for Douglas McCarron. Including the removal of the elected president of the Building Trades department. McCarron's third step has recently become evident. In late March of 2002 he informed a contractors group that he had formed a coalition of construction unions and would use it to gain concessions for them (the contractors) from the AFL-CIO.
April 4th 2002 may well mark an historic day in labor history as well as the death-keel for democratic rights. The Building Trades President is to present a plan to AFL-CIO President Sweeney for dealing with the Carpenters union. The proposal will require the support of the general Presidents of the various unions. Unfortunately a draft constitution for a new organization called the Building Trades Federation has been drawn-up. The General Presidents of the unions willing to affiliate with the carpenter seem to have forgotten the dangers of appeasement. If they feel that this will satisfy an unbridled lust for power and money; they have also forgotten McCarron's habit of dismissing and replacing anyone who has ever disagreed with him. His promises of lifetime employment have always carried the tacit threat of summary termination. They may find that the denial of rights to individual union members will now extend to individual unions.
Carpenters for Democratic Union International
Thank you for the critical analysis Brother Ken. Where do we go from here ? The AFL - CIO continues to blow smoke up the ass of Rank and File union carpenters. They take one step forward and two steps back. And they take good union people with them. Trumka and his predecessor Sweeney have done Jack Shit. They sell wolf tickets with no substance. Pied Pipers have quickly appeared and built up the hopes of rank and file members only to have those dreams evaporate twice as quickly. In the process they leave the real working men and women still on the battlefield to be slaughtered, while the Pied Pipers go on self imposed sabbaticals. Braveheart, they are not. Maybe it is McCarron, Sweeney, and Trumka's way to skim potential labor leaders off the top, relegate them to limbo, and protect their own kingdoms.
McCarron has done a great job of eliminating members rights. He has always pushed the envelope to the maximum. At the same time he has greased all the government agencies that might have come to our rescue. Years and years of government statutes, while they remain on paper, have been erased. And the people who are mandated to enforce labor law now have become experts in holding on to their government positions while eviscerating rank and file rights. They are the new Henry Fricks of the anti-labor movement. Christ, there is even a picture of one right on this page !
Labor history teaches us that real change came from the class conscious awareness of immigrants. Communism and Socialism expedited real labor unionism in this country. Maybe that will have to happen again. It sure as shit hasn't been coming from within.
Beer and Revolution
The German Anarchist Movement in New York City, 1880-1914
Understanding an infamous political movement's grounding in festivity and defiance
Beer and Revolution examines the rollicking life and times of German immigrant anarchists in New York City from 1880 to 1914. Offering a new approach to an often misunderstood political movement, Tom Goyens reveals a dedication less to bombs than to beer halls and saloons where political meetings, public lectures, discussion circles, fundraising events, and theater gatherings were held. By putting a human face on anarchism, Goyens helps readers understand an infamous political movement's grounding in festivity and defiance.
Goyens brings to life the fascinating relationship between social space and politics by examining how the intersection of political ideals, entertainment, and social activism embodied anarchism not as an abstract idea, but as a chosen lifestyle for thousands of women and men. He shows how anarchist social gatherings combined German working-class conviviality and a dedication to the principle that coercive authority was not only unnecessary, but actually damaging to full and free human development as well. Goyens also explores the broader circumstances in both the United States and Germany that served as catalysts for the emergence of anarchism in urban America and how anarchist activism was hampered by police surveillance, ethnic insularity, and a widening gulf between the anarchists' message and the majority of American workers.
20 MORE YEARS OF DOUG AND JOB SITE CONDITIONS WILL FURTHER ERODE. BEFORE DOUG MCCARON WE USED TO HAVE A 7 HOUR DAY SO THAT WE COULD SPEND MORE TIME WITH OUR FAMILIES, AND WE WOULD PUT MORE MEMBERS TO WORK AND SPREAD THE WEALTH. THAT'S GONE. WE USED TO HAVE A 15 MINUTE BREAK IN THE AFTERNOON. THAT'S GONE. WE USED TO HAVE 1 MEMBER OVER 55 TO 2 JOURNEYMEN COMMING OUT OF THE HALL, BASICALLY TAKING CARE OF OUR OLDER MEMBERS.THAT'S GONE. WE USED TO HAVE 1 APPRENTICE FOR EVERY 2 JOURNEYMEN SO THAT THE JOURNEYMEN COULD TEACH THE APPRENTICES, AND THE APPRENTICES COULD SAVE ON THE HEAVIER LABOR GIVING THE JOURNEYMEN A BREAK. WE NEVER HAD CONTRACTOR 100% FULL MOBILITY, EVERY CARPENTER CAME OFF THE LOCALS LIST OF CARPENTERS. THERE WERE NO STEADY COMPANY MEN. EVERY MEMBER LIVED AND WORKED IN THEIR LOCAL AREA. THERE WAS NO TRAVELING 2 HOURS TO GET TO A JOBSITE. ALL THIS AND MORE THE TURD DOUG MCCARON HAS TAKEN AWAY FROM US. SO VOTE HIM BACK IN AND OUR STANDARDS WILL BE BELOW THE NON UNION STANDARDS SOON.