Sunday, January 30, 2011

Spencer Does Little To Gain Member Trust

District Council Supervisor Frank Spencer

"I am frank to say that I have made mistakes, and I have learned from those mistakes. We asked the questions, is their anything we could do differently to regain the trust of our members and restore pride back to this union?"

I wish I could report that Supervisor Frank Spencer said those words at Thursdays Local 157 meeting. Or these and really mean it:

"I think we all agree that we have to change the way our Council works, our members have been abused and that is not going to be tolerated any longer. We are going to make our Council more accountable more transparent, and have more member participation in collective bargaining and every decision of this Council."

He said neither, nor anything close to them. It was a wasted opportunity. In the 535 days of supervision, this was the first time Spencer addressed the membership and he did little to gain any trust or give complete answers to members questions.

"The more I think about it, the worse I think of Spencer. I would not have believed he could sink any lower," a member commented

The Auditorium of the High School of Fashion Industries was filled with about 300 members in the first Local 157 meeting since the dissolution of Local 608. We had a major snow storm which may have been the reason attendance was lower than expected. Also in attendance was Review Officer Dennis Walsh and his staff, Assistant Supervisor John Ballantyne, Communications Director Audra Donohue, and about a dozen security personal.

President D'Errico called the meeting to order at 5 pm and suspended the regular business and turned the meeting over to Spencer.

Spencer began with a slide show presentation that highlighted among other things the dissolution of Local 608, the new Interior System Local 395, the decline in hours worked, Market Share, Welfare Fund, and Contract.

Spencer was interrupted by members shouting questions from the floor as he tried to get through his presentation. Members had little patience listening to Spencer's presentation and were more interested in asking him questions.

Spencer asked for patience and stated he "will answer all questions after his presentation."

Some members showed little respect for Spencer and continued to interrupt, screaming questions at him. Spencer stopped his presentation and started to answer the questions. He then pleaded with the members to let him finish his presentation and he would answer all their questions.

He informed us among other things, that the former Local 608 delegates to the Council will remain in place bringing the total delegates of Local 157 to twenty four. He said the former 608 Scholarship Fund, Pipe and Drum Band, and Hockey Team will continue under Local 157.

He said a new Interior System Local 395 will be chartered for drywall, metal studs, ceilings, finish woodwork, doors and hardware. The executive board will be appointed by General President McCarron and elections will take place one year later. He said the wage and benefit package for Local 395 will "not be lower and would be the same rate as other locals." He said the new local will have full mobility within the five boroughs as one of its benefits.

Spencer informed the members that the Welfare Fund will need an increase of $5 per hour over the next five years to say solvent and provide benefits.

He said the unfounded rumors of a "20 percent wage cut are not true, and there has been no promises or deals made to the contractor associations."

He displayed a chart detailing the decline in man hours worked from a high in 2007 of 25 million hours to 17.5 million hours worked in 2010.

Upon completion of his presentation, Supervisor Spencer opened the floor for questions from the membership. There was two microphones set up to the right and left of the stage, any member who wished to speak was given all the mic time they required. No member was cut short in their remarks or questions.

Members blasted Spencer, accusing him of doing nothing to clean up corruption and kepted and supported all of Mike Fordes cronies. Members wanted to know why the "Review Officer is able to find corruption and he has not," to which Spencer said "Dennis Walsh has better investigation power than he does."

Members ask why is there no promised transparency in the union, why doesn't he answer his emails or letters, why there is no information given to members even when he tells members he will get back to them. Spencer could not give satisfactory answers to any of these questions, he even said he did not receive the email, or couldn't understand the email questions and didn't remember saying certain things in face to face meetings with members. Spencer looked rather silly as he bobed and weaved avoiding every question and not giving complete answers.

Members commented "what was shockingly clear was that Spencer has done absolutely nothing since he came here. He did not mention one case where he found anything or did anything on his own."

"If Walsh brought him evidence of a Business Agent conducting a criminal act, and if the evidence was absolutely clear, Spencer would fire that individual," a member posted.

When asked why he has not attended one meeting in 535 days even after being invited numerous times by the membership of Local 608, Spencer had the nerve to say, "there was no business of the council for me to attend a local union meeting."

Spencer could not answer or give a good reason why members should join Local 395 as opposed to staying in Local 157, members said it makes no sense to join Local 395, Spencer said "you don't have to join."

On the question of contract ratification by the rank and file, Spencer said "it ain't gonna happen."

Members questioned Spencer's negotiating skills asking "why would you start contract negotiations by giving back our raise, it makes no sense."

Members were frustrated and demanded that Spencer remove himself as Supervisor, "Walsh has been to every local union meeting answering questions and doing his job, why do we need you."

“Spencer doesn’t have a lot of credibility with the membership, the sooner he is out of here the better off we will be," was what many members expressed.

"Bottom line is this, Frank Spencer has unearthed very little wrongdoing at the Council, has done absolutely nothing about anything that he has found and will only act if he is forced to by Walsh," a member posted.

(John's note: I lost my notes on the train ride home from the meeting so I may have forgotten other things that were said, members who attended the meeting feel free to add your observations.)


  1. So Spencer says 20% pay cuts are just a rumor or did he say they are not going to happen.

    If you are not forced to join local 395 how will they man it.If they are not going to be at a lower rate then why have they done so in California and other areas.If nobody is forced to join 395 how are they going to move 608 funds into it as they declared was going to happen when they dissolved 608

    Why create an Interior Systems Local. If the Pacific NW is the model for the UBC future why are we all not Carpenters but being broke up into Specialty Carpenters groups. Our Millwrights were forced into one local upstate and forced to declare themselves millwrights or carpenters. Why

    Wile NYC has the protection of the RO and consent decree we do not so lets see if we are offered at a reduced rate

  2. Rich, now that I think about it he said the 20% pay cuts are an unfounded rumor...but he did not say they are not going to happen!

    Many members already expressed that they will not join this new local 395 with its appointed e-board, it makes no sense.

  3. My question is, does the interior systems local require members to allow this local to impact our working lives. is the existence of a local with full mobility enough to make mobility a reality? is the sole purpose of this local to bring in mobility? Spencer stated that members have a choice of whether to join or not, the thing is, do we have a choice on whether mobility become a reality?

  4. I am a journey carpenter in Salem, Or. Our Union Local 1065,109yrs.old,has just been dissolved. This is an outrage!600 members with no place to call home. The U.B.C. is no longer a brotherhood it is a dictatorship.They came overnight and locked the doors and closed down the website and phone communication, without a word to the members.I find it hard to believe that this can happen without a challenge to the "leadership". It makes me sick inside to see this happen; we have become what we fought against!

  5. Gentleman who is to blame? All that is wrong with YOUR union is caused by YOU! We can blame the folks at the top, but WE did not hold them accountable in the past. So now it is starting to happen. I see you are asking questions, but are not organizing to set new standards for testing all officers from now on. Just like our political reps. there is little accountability, because there is fraud. People are waking up and that was evident in last election. Only members, if they band together, and demand truth through new standards, and accountability, will there be hope for our brotherhood! I was polygraphed for jobs I applied for in the past, why no-one demands this for our union is YOUR BIG MISTAKE!


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