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IF YOU STILL HAVE IT IN YA ?    Respectively speaking of course.

                membersfordemocracy@gmail.com




IMPEDIMENTS TO UNION DEMOCRACY PART II:

RIGHT TO VOTE IN THE CARPENTER’S UNION?

HEARING

STATEMENT OF WILLIAM S. LEBO, CARPENTERS FOR UNION DEMOCRACY, baldwin new york *

BEFORE THE

SUBCOMMITTEE ON EMPLOYER-EMPLOYEE RELATIONS

OF THE

COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND

THE WORKFORCE

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS

SECOND SESSION

 

HEARING HELD IN WASHINGTON, DC JUNE 25, 1998

OPENING STATEMENT, CHAIRMAN Harris Fawell, SUBCOMMITTEE ON Employer-employee relations, COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND THE WORKFORCE, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES *

OPENING STATEMENT, Ranking member Donald Payne, SUBCOMMITTEE ON Employer-employee relations, COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND THE WORKFORCE, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES *

STATEMENT OF HERMAN BENSON, FOUNDER AND FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ASSOCIATION FOR UNION DEMOCRACY, BROOKLYN, NEW YORK *

STATEMENT OF JOHN F. LIGUORI, UNITED BROTHERHOOD OF CARPENTERS AND JOINERS OF AMERICA, LOCAL 20, Plainfield, New Jersey *

STATEMENT OF WILLIAM S. LEBO, CARPENTERS FOR UNION DEMOCRACY, baldwin new york *

STATEMENT OF CLEMENS WITTEKIND, CARPENTERS FOR DEMOCRACY IN UNIONS, Royal Oak, Michigan *

STATEMENT OF JOHN DURCAN, UNITED BROTHERHOOD OF CARPENTERS AND JOINERS OF AMERICA, LOCAL 608, Wappinger Falls, New York *

STATEMENT OF SALVESTER ZARZANA, UNITED BROTHERHOOD OF CARPENTERS AND JOINERS IN AMERICA, Brooklyn, New York *

STATEMENT OF DOUGLAS MCCARRON, GENERAL PRESIDENT, UNITED BROTHERHOOD OF CARPENTERS AND JOINERS OF AMERICA, washington, DC *

Appendix a - written statement of the honorable harris fawell, chairman, subcommittee on employee-employer relations, committee on education and the workforce, u.s. house of representatives *

Appendix b - written statement of the honorable donald payne, ranking member, subcommittee on employee-employer relations, committee on education and the workforce, u.s. house of representatives *

Appendix c - written statement of herman benson, founder and former executive director, association for union democracy, brooklyn, new york *

IMPEDIMENTS TO UNION DEMOCRACY PART II:
RIGHT TO VOTE IN THE CARPENTERS' UNION?

As I explained at our first hearing, the term "union democracy" embodies all of the rights granted to rank-and-file union members by the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, the LMRDA, or as it is commonly called after its sponsors, the Landrum-Griffin Act.

The subcommittee was privileged to receive an overview of the Landrum-Griffin Act last month from Professor Clyde Summers who helped draft the act at the encouragement of then Senator John Kennedy, and for those who missed the first hearing, let me briefly mention the five basic rights the act protects. They are, loosely stated, the right to financial information of the union; the right of free speech and assembly, including broad protection to speak out against union policies and officers; the right to participate in decision-making, including the right to nominate candidates and vote in union elections; the right to fair and honest elections; and the right to impose fiduciary obligations upon union officers, particularly in regard to the use of union funds.

 think we'd all agree that authoritarian control of unions is contrary to the spirit, the traditions and the principles that should guide the labor movement. The Landrum-Griffin Act recognizes that unions derive their strength from the democratic rights of rank-and-file membership. The subcommittee continues to hear stories alleging violations of these rights, and it is my intention that this series of hearings will identify, if necessary, areas in which the act could be improved or, perhaps, better enforced.

The subcommittee's focus today is upon the membership's right to vote upon union affairs, and for union officers in the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. We're privileged to have, today, as a joint witness of the majority and the minority, Mr. Douglas McCarron, general president of the Carpenters. Mr. McCarron is undertaking a nationwide restructuring of the Carpenters' Union, a plan that, according to one Business Week article, other union leaders are watching closely. That could be good or bad; I'm not quite sure. To quote the general president from that article, "We have a product to deliver, and we have to do it more efficiently."

The restructuring, however, is not without its critics. It has led to the dissolving and merging of certain carpenters' local unions which has not sat well with many rank-and-file members. Also testifying today will be members of the local unions from Michigan and New York who object to the restructuring and feel that a democratic right to vote on the changes has been violated. They also object to the laws of local autonomy resulting from Mr. McCarron's, quote, "streamlining" end of quote and feel he is consolidating his power at the expense of the will of the rank-and-file. We also will hear, today, allegations of physical assault in retaliation against Carpenters' members for opposing the reorganization plans.

The subcommittee is not here to take sides. We're here to listen, which is somewhat unique in Washington, and to consider what role, if any, the Landrum-Griffin Act should play in protecting the rank-and-file membership of the Carpenters' Union, and at the conclusion of this series in the labor movement in general.

So, I look forward to today's testimony. Let me say at the outset that I do have some concerns. It appears that so long as a union's constitution is not violated, most any action by union leadership is protected activities. However, regardless of whether the merging and dissolution of local unions violates Landrum-Griffin, I believe we'll hear, today, testimony that raises the questions of whether such action should violate the act.

I'm also particularly interested in the specifics of how the Carpenters' constitution allows this sort of reorganization to occur.

 Did the constitution have to be amended? If so, was it amended in a democratic fashion? Have any of the rights of the rank-and-file been sacrificed to the reorganization? This is an area, as I've read all the testimony, that is of interest to me. You have roundly being condemned by Professional Summers of any corruption. Obviously, we all condemn that, and then most everybody takes the view that we don't want authoritarianism either. And, then, the question, I guess is, in the restructuring, do we end up with so much authority being exercised that we, again, are trading over the rights, the democratic rights, of the rank-and-file members? I think that appears to be a very key question. I'll be very, very interested in how Mr. Benson analyzes that particular question and just where the Landrum-Griffin law comes or doesn't come into play. Also, how the law doesn't cover the instances where you have the transferring of the authority in power from local unions to the district council, then the rearranging or dissolving of the district council and things of this sort. I find it kind of fascinating that we have this dichotomy between corruption and then trying to change the corruption, do we corrupt when we're trying to take care of the corruption?

Well, it seems to me that a union is not a private, profit-making enterprise, not completely, at any rate. Rather, unions exist to express the will of the membership, and should not necessarily be run as a business enterprise. Unions belong to the members, and the bottom line is the desire of the rank-and-file. On the other hand, truly democratic moves to strengthen and render a voluntary organization more efficient would appear to be positive. The Landrum-Griffin Act is on the books for a reason, and I look forward to what I anticipate will be a healthy give and take as we consider whether the act is doing the job it was intended to accomplish, giving the rank-and-file the tools they need to govern themselves.