Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Carpenters Mystery

By James McNamara

In late November 2007, the 4,500-member Carpenters Local 157 covering the East Side of Manhattan was suddenly placed under "emergency temporary suspension" by international president Douglas McCarron. At the same time, both William Hanley, local president and business manager, and Fred Kennedy, financial secretary, resigned. Vice President George DeLacio, who reportedly refused to resign, was removed as paid union representative. According to McCarron, Business Representative Daniel DeMorato was "suspended and reassigned." But precisely what prompted all this remains unexplained.

Local 157 is affiliated to the New York Carpenters District Council where corruption, and even murder, had been a problem for decades. A 1994 federal consent decree aimed to "rid the union of corruption-that is, the corruption that allows contractors to run 'cash jobs' that deprive carpenters of their benefits and fair pay... and that is used to and opens the door to organized crime." In 2002, the judge concluded that abuses continued; he modified the decree to permit the appointment of a court-approved independent investigator.

But nothing seemed to work out. One investigator followed another. The U.S. Attorney recently charged that the current investigator failed to pursue investigations and demanded his removal. Several district council heads have faced corruption charges. Its current CEO, Michael Forde, is scheduled for retrial on bribery charges this year Forde is one of McCarron's appointees to oversee "the orderly restoration of internal self-governance and the responsible management and conduct of the Local's and the District Council's business in Local 157."

Local 157 is the history of a dynasty. William Hanley (just resigned) was the third-generation ruler of the local. First there was his grandfather; then his father, who was convicted of taking bribes and sentenced to four years. Last year, two local shop stewards were indicted on federal charges of defrauding the union; one pleaded guilty and the other was found guilty on February 7, after an eight-day jury trial.

But in effectively trusteeing Local 157, Carpenters are not reminded of this record. In its press release announcing the emergency supervision, the district council said only that it "had been presented with credible information, showing that some business representatives assigned to work in Local 157 were not performing their jobs in the manner expected of them ...and that they had, in other respects, acted inconsistently with the standards expected of District Council employees." In an article in the Village Voice (12/11/07), Tom Robbins reported that McCarron told the local that the court-appointed independent investigator had charged that Local 157 was "a mismanaged mess where [business agents] come and go as they please..." Murky! Carpenters are wondering what really is going on.

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