Sunday, August 9, 2009

Culture of Corruption, How Forde and His Unity Team Sold-Out The Carpenters

Cash in an envelope. In return, a promise that a development project will speed along, unhindered by the union's CBAs. A nod and wink to seal the deal.

It is the most clich├ęd, unimaginative form of corruption — and its persistent hold on New York City Carpenter's elected leaders seems unrivaled in the UBC. Over the last few years alone, hundreds of working carpenters and shop stewards have been charged with corruption and expelled from the union.

Members have been arrested and charged with leaping at the chance to engage in this lowest-common-denominator crime, at times for laughably small sums of money.

On Wednesday August 5, 2009, federal authorities in a predawn roundup arrested Forde and his team of Cheats, Crooks and Cronies as they made their way to work.

The 29-count indictment which was unsealed in Federal District Court in Manhattan hours after the arrest charged New York carpenters union leader Michael J. Forde, seven other union officials, a contractor, and contractor’s representative with 29 counts of corruption, including racketeering, fraud, bribery, and perjury. According to the charges, bribes were paid out to union leaders to allow contractors around the city to pay cash to workers at below union-rate wages and therefore avoid paying benefits.

Here we go again, "nobody knows what the hell is going on," griped a veteran carpenter, the city's carpenters union is again embroiled in a corruption scandal.

Why is New York City's largest trade union so unshakably corrupt?

That answer, it turns out, has as many nuances as corruption itself. Interviews with law enforcement officials, prosecutors and, perhaps the best authority on the subject — those arrested in previous sweeps, reveal a culture of corruption so ingrained that it has become impossible to resist when the envelope appears.

A decade-long building boom has flooded New York with millions of development dollars, but sources say the latest round of corruption can be traced back to the signing of the 2001 collective bargaining agreement where Forde and his "Unity Team” sold-out the carpenters by "bargaining away" the job referral rules giving the contractors what they wanted—The unfettered right to "request" anyone they want from the out-of-work list!

Forde and his Unity Team negotiated this shocking contract change without notifying or seeking the approval of the 15-member negotiating team, the 88-member elected delegate body, the rank-and-file who were expressly opposed to the contractor request and the federal government who has oversight supervision.

Forde and his Unity Team had absolutely no constitutional authority to bargaining away the job referral rules. They have abused their authority, violated their oath of office, violated the 1994 Consent Decree and more importantly violated the trust of the membership they claim to represent.

“Rather than doing what they were elected to do — safeguarding wages and benefits for union members — they took cash and other bribes to turn a blind eye on contractors’ schemes to cheat the rank and file,” Joseph M. Demarest Jr., the head of the New York F.B.I. office said.

They turned the out-of-work list into an absurd paperwork dance, where "non requested" carpenters languish on a phony out-of-work-list and job site corruption is encouraged by "cash" contractors said several rank-and-file members who expressed dismay.

"It doesn't seem like it's ever going to change," said a carpenter who had supported Forde.

History Lesson 101, How the Carpenters were sold-out:

December of 1999, as our council emerged from International supervision, The Unity Team, among other things, campaigns against the "contractor request" promising to eliminated if elected!

September 7, 2000 The Manhattan district attorney charged 38 union officials including Michael Forde , contractors and reputed mobsters yesterday with bribery, bid-rigging or other racketeering schemes that he said siphoned millions of dollars from construction projects in the last two years.

May of 2001, John Greaney, Local 608’s President/business manager mailed questionnaires to the Local’s membership to ascertain its views on issues relevant to the collective bargaining. Greaney learned through compiling data from completed questionnaires that the members wanted to “eliminate the contractor request”, Greaney then presented his membership’s “collective sentiment” to The Unity Team, but the change was not made.

June 2001, The Unity Team "bargained away" the job referral rules in the 2001 contract negotiations without notifying or seeking the approval of the 15-member negotiating team, the 88-member elected delegate body, the rank-and-file and the federal government who has oversight supervision.

November 5, 2004, former Independent Investigator, Walter Mack filed a report on the 50/50 Rule and Request System. Mack concluded that the “current request system reduces the out-of-work-list into a paperwork dance with little value to anyone but the contractors who can select the Carpenters they want to work for them.” (read Independent Investigator Walter Macks November 5, 2004 report about the 50/50 rule and the request system.)

April 12, 2005, we learn for the VERY FIRST TIME, the disastrous 2001 contract change made by The Unity Team. Unity Team President Peter Thomassen, testifying before judge Haight (click to read testimony) about the 2001 contract negotiations said "we enhanced the request system for the contractors of the association". We gave them what they wanted—the unfettered "right to request" anyone they want from the out-of-work list.

July 2005, After learning the truth about the 2001 contract negotiations, a member of the 2001 negotiating committee commented "no one ever informed me about the change in the job referral rules, I was shocked to find out about it."

September 15, 2005, Federal prosecutors ask judge Haight to hold The Unity Team in contempt for changing the union's job referral system without government approval, arguing that the changes will encourage more corruption.

December 2005, As The Unity Team campaigns for re-election and as the truth about the 2001 contract becomes more know to the membership, The Unity Team promises to fix the job referral rules and address the "contractor request" issue.

February 20, 2007, after years of costly ligation, The Unity Team was found GUILTY OF CONTEMPT by the United States Court Of Appeals for violating provisions of the Consent Decree when they eviscerated the job referral rules with the 2001 contract change, which has encouraged job site corruption by "cash" contractors!

August 11, 2008, citing continued corruption, Judge Charles S. Haight Jr. of Federal District Court in Manhattan wrote, The Unity Team "has not demonstrated they can combat corruption and adequately police themselves without further government involvement and court supervision."

October 24, 2008,
Federal District Judge Charles S. Haight has scheduled a hearing. The Court will hear oral arguments on the issue of remedy for the contempt charge against The Unity Team. Click for transcript of hearing

December 2008, As The Unity Team again campaigns for re-election they deny any wrong doing and deny bargaining away the job referral rules in the 2001 contract.

May 26, 2009, after years and costly litigation, Federal District Judge Charles S. Haight issued his final order and judgment of contempt and remedy to the 2001 collective bargaining agreement.

August 5, 2009, Forde and nine others - including two mob associates - were charged with taking $1 million in bribes to let contractors cheat workers of wages and benefits.

This is why you cannot trust anything The Unity Team says!

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