Monday, January 9, 2012

Carpenters sue to block contract vote

Agreements negotiated by departing national leaders of the District Council of Carpenters are headed for a vote. In a blow to builders, who support the deals, a lawsuit filed Friday seeks to stop the process. 

By Daniel Massey

Rank-and-file carpenters filed suit Friday to block a vote on collective bargaining agreements that the union's national bosses hope to get approved before new local leadership takes power Wednesday.

Union members are also expected to hold two days of rallies beginning Monday afternoon to voice their displeasure with the national leadership's effort to fast-track ratification of the new deals. Votes by delegates on contracts reached with about a half dozen contractor associations are scheduled for Tuesday.

As of mid-Tuesday afternoon, a hearing on the suit in federal court had yet to be scheduled.

“The rank and file haven't had an adequate opportunity to be informed about the content of these agreements,” said Demian Schroeder, one three carpenters who are plaintiffs in the suit.

The 25,000-member District Council of Carpenters has been run by its national parent, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, since its chief was jailed following a 2009 racketeering scandal. But new local leadership was elected late last year, and national leaders—in their final move before ceding power—are trying to push through contracts they negotiated over the last six months.

Michael Bilello, the union's incoming executive secretary-treasurer, did not respond to a call seeking comment. A spokesman for the United Brotherhood of Carpenters also did not reply to a request for comment.

Mr. Bilello and his leadership team oppose the most controversial element of the deals, a change in hiring practices. Under the tentative agreements, employers would no longer be required to hire at least one-third of their workers via union referrals, and would instead be free to select any member of the union to work for them.

Contractors have argued that so-called full mobility will save them money by increasing productivity, but union members contend that it will kill important protections like seniority and could lead to discrimination. Union members also say that the national union has pressed for the change because it will help it avoid the deluge of National Labor Relations Board charges filed by workers who challenge the union's role in hiring decisions.

John Musumeci, a union delegate who runs a blog, said the United Brotherhood of Carpenters had brought in a motivational speaker to encourage delegates to vote in favor of the contracts. He said he would make a motion at Tuesday's meeting to postpone the vote, and if it failed, he would vote against the contracts.

“It might pass, but it's not going to pass with my vote,” he said.

In the court papers filed Friday in federal court in Manhattan, three workers allege that their “rights to due process” under federal labor law and the union's constitution and bylaws would be violated if a vote is allowed to proceed this week. The workers contend ratification at this point would run counter to directives by the federal judge overseeing a two-decade-old racketeering case against the union to ensure a “democratic process” with regard to the contracts.

“A vote concerning these agreements should be restrained until such time as the members of the union are permitted adequate time to review these agreements,” the plaintiffs argue. They say the union should hold a town hall meeting to go over the contract details before any vote takes place.



  2. Great post ,thanks. We will be rallying tomorrow(tuesday) as well 4-8pm.

  3. at this point , it's do or die ! dougie boy want's all the money's he can get out of the nycdc ! get rid of all those crooks that he has brought into 395- hudson street ! as for the new e.s.t don't any of mc morron's bullshit & help hin & spencer pack there bag's it's time for them to raid some other local's . good luck & god bless the working member's ! Im retired but i still care about my union brother's & sister's== tommy


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