Sunday, April 10, 2011

Grassroots discussion site for NYC Carpenters

Submitted by mnadmin

To give carpenters a place to discuss, debate and even just vent about what's going on in their union, John Musumeci, former treasurer of Local 157, has transformed his own internet site into an online discussion forum for the whole council.

Since then, Frank Spencer has been elevated to international-appointed trustee over the whole council, and Dennis Walsh has been installed as the new court-appointed Review Officer. Spencer's trusteeship reaches the end of its presumed validity in November 2011. Walsh's term ends in December 2012. In this unique and complex situation--oversight by both an international trustee and by a federal court-appointed officer--Musumeci's blogspot gives members an arena for exchanging opinions and for making their voices heard.

Although Walsh has wide powers under the consent decree, he has no authority over collective bargaining policy. Members complain that Spencer has used his authority as trustee to cancel wage increases previously negotiated by the council and has agreed to various concessions to contractors in exchange for their promises of providing more work.

Carpenters learn of such changes by postcard. When asked if he would give members the right to vote on ratifying contracts, they say he replied, "It's not going to happen." They want access to financial information and minutes of council meetings. They need information on contract grievance procedures. They object to how business agents are selected. They are suspicious of Walsh's appointee as inspector general because, they say, he has been too closely identified with the old corrupt council regime.

After meeting at the office of the Association for Union Democracy, a group of carpenters decided to prepare a petition to Review Officer Walsh with proposals for democratizing and reorganizing the council. On the Musumeci blogspot they are now discussing what those proposals might be. In his words, "If you agree, the petition will be embedded on this blog for members to sign and an e-mail will automatically be sent to the review officer. You will be able to print out the petition and collect signatures. The goal is to get hundreds of signatures telling him how we want this union to be governed."

Members called for the right to vote on contracts after full disclosure of proposed terms to allow for full discussion; rank and file representatives on negotiating committees, distribution to members of contracts, constitutions, minutes, and financial reports; direct election by members of council officers, supervised by an impartial outside agency; election of organizers and business representatives; council delegates to be barred from paid council positions; salary caps for council officers; benefit payments to officers to be on a par with what working members receive; membership input on the choice of benefit fund trustees.

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I would ask that if you would like to leave a comment that you think of Local 157 Blogspot as your online meeting hall and that you wouldn’t say anything on this site that you wouldn’t, say at a union meeting. Constructive criticism is welcome, as we all benefit from such advice. Obnoxious comments are not welcome.