Friday, October 15, 2010

Carpenter tops his own union in free speech case


After two years absorbing shots from other labor organizations over its organization of an alternative unit representing electrical workers, the Carpenters District Council of Greater St. Louis has now been dealt a blow from within the ranks of its own membership.

The details of the internal dispute emerged in a legal tussle that last week prompted a U.S. district judge in Southern Illinois to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the council's bid to sanction a union carpenter who expressed his dissent by placing a sticker opposing Local 57 on his personal vehicle.

The carpenter, Kevin Price, has long challenged the decision by council of leadership to charter a local meant to challenge the dominance of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1 at area construction projects.

Local 57 "is anti-union, it's anti-labor and it destroys (labor) unity," Price said in a telephone interview from his home in Dongola, Ill., population 780. The town is 100 miles southeast of St. Louis.

"We didn't have a say-so (on Local 57) and we didn't have a vote," Price added. "Then they stifled our voices. And they always succeeded. Until now. I called them on it."

Terry Nelson, the executive secretary-treasurer of the Carpenters Council, supports Price's right to speak his mind.

But he questions whether the Constitution guarantees Price the freedom to exercise that right at a workplace guided by union rules.

"He publicly displayed the sticker on one of our job sites and we took exception to it," Nelson said.

"Sometimes, your freedom stops at the end of my nose. That's why we call this America."

Price drew the line after a council business representative ordered him to remove the anti-Local 57 sticker from his truck, parked outside a Carbondale work site on Aug. 9.

When Price returned to the site with sticker intact the next day, the representative followed up on a threat to bring Price up on "union charges."

A month later, after a review of the incident, the council executive committee ordered Price to answer allegations of dissent before an internal "trial committee."

The carpenters and most labor organizations have internal tribunals with the power to subject members who violate union rules with fines and other sanctions.

Price responded by suing the council, alleging the demand that he remove the sticker violated his right to free speech.

"I know what the Constitution is," said Price, a Navy veteran. "My dad was in World War II, my uncle in Korea, my brother in Vietnam and my son has served two tours in Iraq. The U.S. Constitution, to me, (supersedes) all the other constitutions."

U.S. District Judge Michael J. Reagan concurred.

In his decision, Reagan wrote that Price may "vehemently disagree(s) with certain policies advocated by his current union leaders — policies he believes are antithetical to the best interests (of the council.) But he is not sponsored by (or sponsoring) a rival union. He has not joined a rival union and is not encouraging others to do so. His expression of anti-Local 57 views occurred squarely within the context of his desire to reform (the) union's policies from within..."

Citing an infringement of Price's "right of free speech," Reagan issued a preliminary injunction preventing the council from convening the trial committee to hear the charges against Price on Oct. 19.

Nelson said the council will decide whether to proceed after review of the decision by counsel.

He emphasized that the union's request that Price remove the sticker was not personal.

"We respect his opinion. Voicing his opinion is not an issue. If he wants to sit at lunch (with other carpenters) and express his opinion, he has a right do that," Nelson said. "But I don't know if it's fair or right to support another union (Local 1 distributes the slashed 57 stickers) against our own local."

Since its inception in 2008, Local 57 has spurred contempt from the IBEW and other area labor groups.

Nelson says the carpenters chartered the unit in response to Local 1 work site rules he contends hamper development by artificially inflating labor costs in the St. Louis region.

IBEW officials counter that the carpenters formed the electrical branch to seize control of the construction trade to steal jobs from the oldest electrical local in the nation.

A recession that has sidelined between 30 and 40 percent of the construction labor force has helped to exacerbate the tension between the carpenters and other building trades.

The hostilities peaked in June when more than 1,000 laborers, representing every trade but the carpenters, descended on Forest Park for a profanity-laden protest aimed at Local 57 and, mostly, Nelson.

Still a "union man," Price has no intention of ending his 20-year association with the carpenters council.

By the same token, nor does he intend to back off his contention that Local 57 is at once divisive and retaliatory.

"I've flat out told them that I don't have a vote in this dog-and-pony show," Price said. "But I do have a voice. And they'll never shut it up."

Final Price(2)


  1. I hope the members understand the significance of this injunction.

    The moral of this story is to remember you do have rights that some arrogant pompous UBC jack ass cannot take away.The next time you want to stand up for your rights or to expose the rampant corruption,self serving nepotism and pompous arrogance in the UBC do it.When these clowns attempt to threaten you always remember that an attorney and a us district court will protect you and bitch slap the UBC every time if your case has merit and every victory sets precedent.Regardless of the trash these clowns spew their rules and regulations are not worth the paper they are printed on if they violate federal law or your rights.

    Going to bring me up on charges for speaking out..INJUNCTION

    Going after our Local in trusteeship for trying to protect our rights..INJUNCTION

    Forcing the blue cards on the membership and the DOL refuses to do their job..... INJUNCTION

    A US District Court reached into the UBC and spanked Nelson and stomped on McCarrons retaliation system. Do the members understand now that the UBC is not god and cannot violate your rights guaranteed as a US Citizen. You do have recourse and now someone has lead the way to show you that they are only doing this crap because nobody fights back. The tide is turning even if it to such a small degree. How enraged do you think council jack ass Terry Nelson is right now. Remember the UBC Slogan is "How dare you say no" How arrogant was some council rat to believe he could tell a US Citizen and UBC member to take a sticker off his car.How arrogant for some council rat to abuse his position as elected or appointed Council rat to force his opinion and policies on another. How arrogant is it for some Local rat to abuse his office to harass and abuse another member on a picket because he does not like his politics or was acting on the orders of a higher up Council rat.
    Say injunction. Say it loud and say it as often as a US District court will listen. A precedent has been set.Use the new tool.

  2. Speaking of Utilizing District Courts.
    You asked Spencer to go after Forde for restitution. If you do not like his answer or actions. Remember....GO GET IT YOURSELF


    Fiduciary Responsibility of Officers of Labor Organizations

    (29 U.S.C. 501)

    SEC. 501.

    (b) When any officer, agent, shop steward, or representative of any labor organization is alleged to have violated the duties declared in subsection (a) and the labor organization or its governing board or officers refuse or fail to sue or recover damages or secure an accounting or other appropriate relief within a reasonable time after being requested to do so by any member of the labor organization, such member may sue such officer, agent, shop steward, or representative in any district court of the United States or in any State court of competent jurisdiction to recover damages or secure an accounting or other appropriate relief for the benefit of the labor organization.

  3. Why just Forde damnit.


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