– Re: Union Democracy
In Reply To
In 1980, McCarron was elected president of his local union. He was named to the negotiating team of the Southern California Council of Carpenters, a regional body covering contractors and other employers in 11 counties. During this time, he came to the attention of leaders with the national carpenters union.
In late 1984, McCarron was named a trustee of the Southern California Pension Fund, the carpenters' union retirement fund. In late 1985 and early 1986, McCarron discovered that $130 million in loans to construction companies were delinquent but no action had been taken by the other trustees. Working with Ron Tutor, a construction company owner and co-chairman of the fund's board of trustees, McCarron and others filed a federal civil suit alleging that the pension fund trustees had made sweetheart loans to employer trustees, masking the loans as investments. Several of the construction projects had failed, with the fund suffering significant losses. The suit was settled out of court 1989 when insurance companies representing the trustees and construction companies paid the fund $30 million. Under the terms of the settlement, all the defendants agreed to immediately and permanently resign from the pension fund's board.
McCarron's relationship with Tutor was not without controversy. In 1993, the carpenters' pension fund made a large investment in a company which held televised boxing matches at a Palm Springs, California, hotel owned by the fund, and a $40 million investment in a company that supplied nearly all the concrete for one of Tutor's construction companies. The value of the latter investment declined by 31 percent, leading union members to call for a federal investigation.
There was turmoil at the top of the national union as well, which eventually vaulted McCarron into the union's presidency.
 Turmoil in the CarpentersLeadership of the carpenters' union had turned over quickly in the 1980s, causing political instability in the union. President William Sidell had retired unexpectedly on December 31, 1979. William Konyha was elected to replace him on January 1, 1980, winning the regularly scheduled presidential election in August 1981. But Konyha served little longer than a year, resigning as union president on October 31, 1982. First vice president Patrick J. Campbell assumed the presidency, and won election outright in 1985. But Campbell, too, resigned from office, stepping down for health reasons in February 1988. First vice president Sigurd Lucassen was appointed president to succeed him.
Making matters worse, the union had been rocked by financial scandal. In 1989, Lucassen told union members that Campbell had approved $95 million in loans to various builders, only to have nearly all the construction projects lose money or declare bankruptcy. Half the union's annual budget of $200 million might be needed to write off the loans. Lucassen blamed Campbell and bad advice from investment advisors, and initiated several lawsuits against them. But several elected union leaders accused Lucassen in federal court of colluding with Campbell to approve the loans.
When Lucassen ran for election outright in 1991, he was challenged by the union's national secretary, John S. "Whitey" Rogers. It was the first contested election for presidency of the carpenters' union since 1915. The election split the union's 15-member general executive board, with half the members supporting Lucassen's slate and half supporting Rogers' slate. In a hotly contested election rife with allegations of fraud, Lucassen and his running mates Dean Sooter, first vice president; Paschal McGuinness, second vice president; Jim Patterson, general secretary; and Jim Bledsoe, general treasurer, won. Sooter stepped down in 1993, and McGuinness became first vice president. McCarron was then appointed by the executive board as second vice president.
Tenure as second vice presidentAs second vice president, McCarron won acclaim for helping to organize new members. A large number of Southern California non-union drywall workers had struck for higher wages and better working conditions in 1992. McCarron got the national union to provide the workers with money, staff and other resources. Still secretary-treasurer of the Southern California district council, McCarron used the district council's resources to support that drywallers as well. The workers not only won their demands but formed a union and joined the carpenters. It was a major victory for the union, and one which enhanced McCarron's reputation among rank and file members.
 Election as presidentRogers asked DOL to overturn the election on the basis of fraud. DOL sued the union, and in 1995 reached a settlement with Lucassen and the union calling for a new election. Realizing he could not win after having essentially admitted he had committed fraud in the 1991 election, Lucassen did not to run. McGuinness, meanwhile, had been accused of, and subsequently settled, racketeering charges and quit the union to run for secretary-treasurer of the Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) of the AFL-CIO. Lucassen then appointed McCarron as first vice president. At the 1995 convention, Lucassen announced his retirement and nominated McCarron as general president along with Jim Patterson for the merged secretary-treasurer position and Andris Silins as first vice president. McCarron ran unopposed, and easily won election as president.
 PresidencyMcCarron quickly implemented organizational reforms on a national level similar to those he had instituted in Southern California. The decision-making authority and assets of the union's 1,400 locals were shifted to 55 regional councils. In Michigan, for example, three district councils and 27 locals were merged into one regional council. McCarron and his leadership team personally appointed most of the leadership (most of them McCarron loyalists), although elections eventually occurred. Local members were stripped of the right to elect business agents and vote on contracts, and permitted to elect only regional delegates. Regional delegates now elected only the district council secretary-treasurer, and the secretary-treasurer appointed the local business agents. Even district councils were not immune to merger, as district councils in Michigan, New England, New York, Oregon, Utah and Washington were merged into large regional councils. McCarron also stripped authority over organizing, political action and union assets from locals, placing it with district or regional councils instead.
McCarron demolished the union's four-story headquarters across the street from the United States Congress in Washington, D.C., and built a 10-story office building in its place. He also built a $100 million training center near Las Vegas, Nevada, and increased training programs at 180 smaller centers throughout the U.S. and Canada.
The changes did not come without cost. Dissident locals, including large ones in Atlanta, Georgia, and San Francisco, California, were trusteed on (allegedly) thin evidence. In 2001, carpenters in the British Columbia Provincial Council of Carpenters voted to disaffiliate from the international union in protest against McCarron's actions. McCarron called the council communist-dominated and argued it had lost too much market share to survive. By 1999, angry union members had formed Carpenters for a Democratic Union to challenge McCarron's actions and unseat him as president.
In August 2000, McCarron won re-election with more than 90 percent of the vote.Rank and File members were not allowed a voice at the time the vote was taken. Only hand picked Regional Council staff members were allowed to vote at the election. The vote was held via a voice vote and no secret ballots were permitted at the time.
 AFL-CIO disaffiliationMcCarron led the carpenters' union out of the AFL-CIO in March 2001. "The AFL-CIO continues to operate under the rules and procedures of an era that passed years ago, while the industries that employ our members change from day to day," said McCarron in a letter to AFL-CIO president John Sweeney. As per the rules of the AFL-CIO constitution and bylaws, the carpenters were forced out of the BCTD. Nevertheless, McCarron told his district and regional councils to continue to work closely with BCTD unions. At the same time McCarron ordered his Regional Councils to engage in a campaign of raiding other AFL-CIO Unions
McCarron moved away from the AFL-CIO politically as well. He became one of president George W. Bush's strongest union supporters, and broke with the rest of organized labor to endorse the re-election bid of Florida governor Jeb Bush.
 ULLICO scandalsFor several years, McCarron served on the board of directors of the Union Labor Life Insurance Company (ULLICO). In this capacity, however, he was caught up in two scandals.
The first ULLICO scandal occurred in 2002. In June 1998, the New York City local of the carpenters union hired Zenith Administrators, a ULLICO subsidiary, to oversee the union's $1.7 billion pension and benefit funds. In 2002, federal prosecutors and DOL investigated the company for allegedly obtaining the contract through McCarron's influence. DOL sued ULLICO and Zenith Administrators for mismanaging the union's funds, although McCarron himself was not accused of any crimes.
In 2003, McCarron was caught in a second scandal at ULLICO. ULLICO president, chairman and chief executive officer Robert Georgine had instituted a stock trading scheme whereby ULLICO board members -- most of whom were labor union officials -- could purchase the company's stock at a low price. Since ULLICO was a privately held company, the board members themselves set the stock price. Once they had set the price higher, they could sell their stock at a large profit. The stock repurchase scheme was uncovered, and McCarron and the other directors accused of breaching their fiduciary duty and breaking federal and state securities laws. McCarron returned his profits to ULLICO and resigned from the board.
 Change to WinAlthough the carpenters' union was not part of the AFL-CIO in 2005 during the debate over the federation's future and John Sweeney's re-election campaign, McCarron voiced repeated approval of the goals of the Andrew Stern-led New Unity Partnership (which eventually became the Change to Win Federation).
McCarron led the carpenters into Change to Win in August 2005 as one of the coalition's founding unions.
In 2009 McCarron was forced out of the Change to Win Coalition when McCarron attempted to raid several Change to Win affiliate Unions.
 Notes1.^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Cleeland, "Organize or Die," Los Angeles Times, March 10, 2002.
2.^ Weinstein, "Union Trust Funds Accept $29.9-Million to Settle Suit," Los Angeles Times, January 31, 1989.
3.^ Willman, "Subway Builder's Link to Union Questioned," Los Angeles Times, May 24, 1993.
4.^ At the time, the secretary-treasurer was the highest office in the Council.
5.^ A union trusteeship is different from that of being a trustee for a trust. Most American national union constitutions contain a provision for the parent union to take over a regional, state or local union under certain conditions. These conditions vary from union to union. Some requirements are quite strict and require lengthy due process investigations; others may be imposed for little or even no reason, including mere political disagreement. Under most union trusteeships, the parent union is able to impose new leaders (commonly national union staff), take over the assets and offices of the union, depose existing officers, fire staff, and more. Federal law governs trusteeships, and unions must be returned to democratic control within certain time periods.
6.^ a b Bernstein, "All Sides Lose If Feuds Continue in the Carpenters Union," Los Angeles Times, April 26, 1988.
7.^ Flagg, "Judge Orders Carpenters to Conduct New Union Elections," Los Angeles Times, October 30, 1993.
8.^ Hartson, "Carpenters Union Leader Stepping Down," Associated Press, October 19, 1982.
9.^ a b c Crowe, "$94M Loss Spurs Unusual Carpenter Union Election," Newsday, October 9, 1991.
10.^ Swoboda, "Carpenters Union Could Lose $95 Million," Washington Post, September 20, 1989.
11.^ a b "Carpenters Get New Leader," Engineering News-Record, September 4, 1995.
12.^ Galvin, "Carpenters Union President to Step Aside," Associated Press, August 17, 1995.
13.^ Winston, "McCarron Remodels Carpenters," Engineering News-Record, May 26, 1997.
14.^ Crowe, "Carpenters Start Controversial Task of Retooling Union," Newsday, September 4, 1996.
15.^ Harrell, "Milwaukee, Chicago Carpenters Unions Merge," Milwaukee Daily Reporter, May 18, 2004; Dickson, "Brunswick Union Local Fights Merger," Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, May 13, 2004.
16.^ Lewis, "Carpenters Group: Union Has Stripped Our Rights Away," Boston Globe, May 27, 1999.
17.^ "Carpenters Union Withdraws From AFL-CIO, Citing Disagreement Over Internal Policies," Labor Relations Week, April 5, 2001; "Carpenters Ending Ties to AFL-CIO," Los Angeles Times, March 30, 2001; Strope, "Union Breaks Away From AFL-CIO," Associated Press, March 29, 2001.
18.^ a b Harrell, "Carpenters May Rejoin Building and Construction Trades Dept.," Milwaukee Daily Reporter, December 10, 2002.
19.^ Greenhouse, "Bush Finds a Friend in Carpenters' Union President," New York Times, September 11, 2002.
20.^ Chen, "Labor Department Is Suing 2 ULLICO Units," Wall Street Journal, March 26, 2002; Raab, "Critics See a Conflict in Union Contract," New York Times, August 9, 1999.
21.^ Hamburger, "How Union Bosses Enriched Themselves on an Insurer's Board," Wall Street Journal, April 5, 2002; Hamburger, "Global Crossing Courted Union Leaders," Wall Street Journal, March 18, 2002; Hamburger, "Grand Jury Reviews Stock Transactions by Insurance Firm," Wall Street Journal, March 15, 2002; Edsall, "Carpenters Union Head Facing Federal Probes," Washington Post, October 14, 2002; Greenhouse, "Report Said Directors of Union-Owned Insurer Should Return Unfair Trading Profits," New York Times, April 2, 2003.
22.^ Edsall, "ULLICO Forces Chairman Out Amid Stock-Trading Dispute," Washington Post, April 24, 2003; Strope, "Lawyer: Stock Trades Enriched ULLICO Exec," Associated Press,' June 19, 2003; Edsall, "Ullico Board Seeks Return of Stock Profits," Washington Post, May 14, 2003.
23.^ "Carpenters Joins Five AFL-CIO Unions in Coalition to Rebuild Labor Movement," Labor Relations Week, June 30, 2005.
McCarron was born in 1951 in Chatsworth, California. His father was a meat cutter in a supermarket. While still in high school, he married and had a daughter. Dropping out of high school his senior year, he took a job as a construction worker, hanging drywall. He quickly joined the carpenters' union.