Sunday, November 1, 2009

The distance between "us" and "them"

By Joel Cook

With regard to foreign powers, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington warned against the perils of "entangled alliances."  They did so for good reason and we can see throughout the 20th century and into the 21st where our alliances have gotten us.  Wars all over the globe at one time or another, foreign investors with their financial claws deep in our economy rendering even diplomatic confrontation nearly impossible. 

We can see it with multinational corporations headquartered in the US while their labor is in some third world country and their bank accounts are "offshore."

These entanglements lead to a great deal of ambiguity, they muddy the water, and make it difficult and in some cases impossible to understand the consequences of certain negotiating tactics or actions.  These men, along with Thomas Paine foresaw the consequences of getting too involved with their neighbors/competitors.  

"The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities." --George Washington

"Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none."--Thomas Jefferson

The NYCDCC has committed the sin of entangling alliances with the wrong people.  It has acted in a self serving manner, and in doing so has further damaged our credibility.  By engaging in the alleged offenses the NYCDCC has rendered itself impotent when dealing with contractor negotiations.

How can the NYCDCC demand anything when it has played golf with, taken bribes from, and used illegal narcotics with their opponent?  The optics are bad, and an ineffectual negotiating team will never accomplish the goals of, and meet the needs of the membership.

NYC residents voted in 1993 to impose a two-term limit and voted again in 1996 to maintain the earlier decision.  In our name, Mike Forde endorsed Mike Bloomberg for a third term as mayor.  Mr. Bloomberg has completely disregarded the will of NYC voters and NYCDCC has endorsed him.  By supporting this illegitimate candidate the NYCDCC appears antidemocratic.  This act clearly demonstrates their ability and willingness to ignore the will of voters be they NYC residents or members of the carpenters union.  We must ask ourselves what was given up in this political horse-trading. Did this endorsement dull the historically sharp instrument that is organized labors greatest weapon, direct action?

During the Stella Doro BCGTM50 strike, support committee leaders attempted to get city officials to divest city employee pension funds from the union busting owners of Stella.  The owner, Brynwood partners is an investment firm attempting to route the union from Stella in order to lower labor costs so they could sell it for a huge profit.  Raising the question in my mind; why would union pensions be invested in companies that work to bust unions or just don't use union labor.  At present it appears the workers have lost, the factory sold to Lance, the workers all laid off and the plant moving out of state.  Had the support committee succeeded would things have turned out different?

The carpenters union, like many others is guilty in the same way.  We invest our pension funds in companies that do not operate in the best interests of the American people, let alone the best interests of union members.  Toll Brothers is a prime example, we have invested a large unconfirmed sum, and since Toll operates south of the Mason Dixon it is clearly not using union labor because there is almost no residential union labor in southern states.

By participating in these political campaigns and investing in corporations such as Toll we are accepting and validating what has become the status quo.  Our involvement with the political system has at times yielded small victories but at what cost, and for the most part we have lost market share and membership rates partly because we rely on politicians to legislate for us.

We are the ones suffering due to fraud and mismanagement on the part of our so-called leadership and apathy and cynicism on the part of the membership.  The distance between "us," and "them" has grown too far.  It appears that those in the council who came from the field have lost touch with what it means to work with their tools.  Many never even came from the field at all and got their position through connections and nepotism.  They are so far from us that our faces have blurred into an inhuman mass to be taken from and used like a consumable resource.  If this weren't true, if they saw the hardship we face and had to look us in the eyes every day chances are this corruption would be less likely.

It is our organizations corruption and corporatism that are part of a trend or a common thread if you will, a thread in a needle, firmly torqued in the sewing machine of cynicism and apathy, government subsidized capitalism and corporate greed, tirelessly stitching the burial suit of labor. 

Many of us are in tough shape, having worked very little over the last 18 months.  We read news stories and wait with baited breath as congress debates the next unemployment extension in hopes that it will pass before our benefits run out.  We did not create this economic mess, we did not cause credit to stop flowing, we did not force lenders to lower standards for loans, we did not create the complex, and fraudulent mechanisms by which a very few individuals have gotten rich while seriously damaging the economy.  Yet when the shit hits the fan, lending stops, and building abates, we are the ones who are first to get pink slips.  While forced into desperate situations we get to hear accusations about our jobs being given away to non union and undocumented workers, our money being stolen, officials taking bribes, and getting paid way too much. 

Here is a quote by Edmund Burke, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Normally I find statements like this to be ambiguous and subjective.  Words like "good, evil, and triumph" are left to individual interpretation.  Yet in this instance our common goal is clear, as are the meanings of "good, evil, and triumph" we, the membership are all standing on common ground and we need to take our future into our own hands!


  1. Joel.Well done.It is good to see more voices speaking out with the guts to post your name

  2. Here is a quote by Edmund Burke, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Normally I find statements like this to be ambiguous and subjective.  Words like "good, evil, and triumph" are left to individual interpretation.  Yet in this instance our common goal is clear, as are the meanings of "good, evil, and triumph" we, the membership are all standing on common ground and we need to take our future into our own hands!

  3. That is not to say anonymous is not understood and respected.
    Signed..Silence Dogood

  4. Joel .Well written. It is good to see people speaking out witt the guts to post their name. That is not to say anonymous is not understood and respected..signed Silence Dogood

  5. <span>Joel, great writing...</span>

    <span>Here's another quote:</span>

    <span>Educate and inform the whole mass of the people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.</span>
    <span> Thomas Jefferson </span>

  6. Bill Walsh Local 157November 1, 2009 at 10:26 AM

    This article touches on the core of the cancer in our organization. We must come up with new members who can provide us with a new script for the future of our union's mission. These members are out there in our "working on the tools" membership. We can become a productive community if we clean house and select our real future leaders. Great job Joel!

  7. Much can be learned from our forefathers. Good post.

  8. The Steward Ad-Hoc CommitteeNovember 1, 2009 at 4:30 PM

    Why “Underground”
    It is common knowledge that some elements within our union are of the school of thought that, in the long run, it is not good practice to give contractors a “hard time” when enforcing contracts. It is believed that a company that deems it easier and more profitable to function outside the union contract will do so, causing the union to eventually lose said company as a signatory. It is therefore within “our” interests, according to this theory, to not pursue small and/or unintentional infractions of the contracts.
    To those of us who are charged with monitoring and enforcing the contract on a day to day basis, stewards in particular, such “schools of thought” can hinder ones efforts. This most times, creates an atmosphere ripe for potential reprisals, if you do not fall into line. Furthermore we believe that with thousands of members on the Out of Work List, such leniency towards contractors is not justified. As stewards and fellow rank and file carpenters we believe we must do all we can to assist those men and women languishing on the Out of Work List due to company Request Clauses and practices. Because of this activism on behalf of the rank and file some stewards have experienced subtle, and increasingly not so subtle, reprisals. Therefore, for the time being, many wish to remain anonymous.

  9. Thanks for the encouragement and feedback.  I am going to start another piece tonight about civic responsibility.


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