Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Carpenters nail motion to courthouse wall

Rank-and-file union members don’t want union heads to hammer out a contract with contractors until they have a chance to elect new leadership. Union heads fire back.

Carpenters are fighting for new union leadership

By Daniel Massey

Rank-and-file carpenters have filed a motion in federal court seeking to freeze contract negotiations between their union and several contractor associations, arguing that no deals should be made until they have a chance to elect new union officers later this year.

The carpenters want to extend their currents agreements, which expire at the end of June, for a year, to give their internal political process a chance to play out.

“Members are upset with contract negotiations because we’re totally shut out of the process,” said John Musumeci, a 25-year carpenter, author of a blog about the union and one of the members who filed the court papers. “One of the things we’re asking is to freeze everything until we have the election in December and then negotiate the contract next year.”

The New York City District Council of Carpenters has long been plagued by corruption. In 1990, the federal government brought a racketeering suit against the union, beginning a two-decade long period in which the organization has been under monitoring by U.S. officials. In 1994, the government entered into a consent decree with the union, and last year, a federal judge appointed a review officer, Dennis Walsh, to oversee the operations of the union and its benefit funds.

Negotiations for the carpenters are being led by Frank Spencer, who was appointed in 2009 by the general president of United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America to oversee the local union after several of its officials were indicted for bribery.

In their motion, the carpenters allege that a restructuring plan and new bylaws for the union proposed by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters violate terms of the 1994 consent decree by usurping the autonomy of the local unions. In addition to freezing negotiations, the members call for all union officers to be chosen by members via a secret ballot election and for a halt to the bylaw review process until a ruling on the motion is made.

Mr. Spencer did not return a phone call seeking comment. Mr. Walsh, who is reviewing the bylaws, also did not return a call.

In response to the motion, UBC lawyer Kenneth Conboy wrote a letter to the court asserting that the union members who filed the motion were not party to the federal court case and therefore their motion should not be considered. He added that the members did not exhaust internal procedures before filing the challenge in court.

Carpenters were among hundreds of workers who protested last week outside the Building Trades Employers’ Association annual gala at Cipriani Wall Street. Their representatives are negotiating new deals with a half dozen contractor associations. Current rules forbid the 25,000 members of the carpenters union from ratifying their own deals.

1 comment:

  1. An update to this article, we have written to Judge Berman and are in agreement with UBC lawyer Kenneth Conboy, that a pre-motion conference is in order.


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.