Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Carpenters group to fight merger

Local concerned over health fund members had contributed to

By ERIC ANDERSON Business editor

ALBANY -- A group of carpenters, members of the now-shuttered Local 370 in Albany, plans to fight the consolidation of that and other locals in New York state.

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners last week announced it was merging the Empire State Regional Council of Carpenters into the New Jersey Regional Council to form the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters.

It also combined 33 locals in New York and New Jersey into 10. The Albany local had 900 members.

With the merger went more than $1.5 billion in various benefit funds that members of the state's locals had contributed.

"The big issue is they took the health fund money," said James Avellino, a member of Local 370. "There's a lot of members who don't have insurance right now."

Richard Dorrough, another member, said the number of hours in each six-month period that carpenters must work to qualify for coverage has gone from 400 to 700. He said the increase came about six or seven months ago.

Avellino said about $1,000 has been collected so far from members to help pay for a lawyer. He said the local members have consulted with several lawyers.

Dorrough said he's been in touch with the U.S. Labor Department over the changes that the national union undertook.

"They removed all the duly elected officers," Dorrough said. The national union "replaced them with hand-picked cronies."

Frank Spencer, vice president of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, said the formation of the new regional council "is an exciting opportunity for our union," and that it will "bring many more benefits to our members, including more organizational efficiency, enhanced market share and an increase in the value of carpenter brand throughout both regions."

The national union hasn't returned a call for comment.

"This wasn't an agreed takeover," Dorrough said Monday. "They sent individuals to each of the halls.

"In Syracuse, they escorted the duly-elected president out of the building," he said. "They changed the locks on the doors. The members are furious."

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