Monday, June 11, 2012

Assessments and Working Dues should be Voted on by the Membership!

(John's note: Local 157blogspot, has obtain a March 2, 2001 letter written from Brother Michael Bilello to GP McCarron, stating that the delegate body imposed assessments and working dues on the membership without a rank and file vote, which in Bilello's opinion, is a violation of the UBC Constitution and the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA).

March 2, 2001
Douglas J. McCarron, General President United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America
101 Constitution Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20001

Dear Sir and Brother,

I am a member of Local 157 in New York City, and I am writing to you in regard to the recent assessment imposed on the membership of the New York District Council of Carpenters. As you may know, on June 22, 2000, the delegates of the Council voted to levy a $.30 assessment on the membership for every hour worked, effective July 1, 2000. This assessment is debited from each member's vacation account, commencing in December, 2000, when the vacation monies for the period beginning July 1, 2000 were dispersed.

The $.30 is distributed to three newly created funds: $.20 is for an organizing fund, $.05 is for a communication fund, and $.05 is for a political action fund. While these millions of dollars in additional revenue for the Council, used for its proposed purpose, is not something that any good union member would be opposed to, the concern that I am writing to you about is one of a procedural problem.

The fact that the delegate body imposed this assessment on the membership without a rank and file vote, in my opinion, is a violation of the UBC Constitution (as Amended January 1996), and the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA).

Section 45C of the Constitution states that: "Any Local Union or District Council may establish working dues, dues checkoff, supplemental work dues or work fees payable to the Local Union or District Council by members in its jurisdiction."

However, Section 45A states: "When a Local Union raises its dues, initiation fee or levies an assessment, a secret ballot vote shall be taken at a special or called meeting. All members shall be notified by mail of time, place, and purpose of the vote. All members in good standing shall be eligible to vote. All assessments must be approved by the General President." In my opinion, it is the intent of the Constitution that the membership is entitled to vote on any assessment.

Furthermore, Section 21C of the approved By-Laws for the New York City and Vicinity District Council states: 'The Council may establish monthly dues or increase working dues payable to the Council by a majority vote of the delegates voting at a Special Convention of the Council held upon not less than 30 day's written notice to the principal office of each Local Union."

It is my feeling that the insertion of this language into the by-laws was to provide an avenue to levy an assessment while circumventing the LMRDA, see Section 101(a)(3)(B)(i). Title I, - Bill of Rights of Members of Labor Organizations (29 U.S.C. 411), Section 101(a)(3), Dues, Initiation Fees, and Assessments. - Except in the case of a federation of national or international labor organizations, the rates of dues and initiation fees payable by members of any labor organization in effect on the date of enactment of this Act shall not be increased, and no general or special assessment shall be levied upon such members, except

(A) in the case of a local organization,

(i) by majority vote by secret ballot of the members in good standing voting at a general or special membership meeting, after reasonable notice of the intent to vote on such question, or

(ii) by majority vote of the members in good standing voting in a membership referendum conducted by secret ballot; or

(B) in the case of a labor organization, other than a local labor organization or a federation of national or international labor organizations,

(i) by majority vote of the delegates voting at a regular convention, or at a special convention of such labor organization held upon not less than thirty days' written notice to the principal office of each local or constituent labor organization entitled to such notice, or

(ii) by majority vote of the members in good standing of such labor organization voting in a membership referendum conducted by secret ballot, or

(iii) by majority vote of the members of the executive board or similar governing body of such labor organization, pursuant to express authority contained in the constitution and bylaws of such labor organization: Provided, That such action on the part of the executive board or similar governing body shall be effective only until the next regular convention of such labor organization.

The exact language used in Section 21C of the District Council By-Laws appears to be written to satisfy the requirements of Section 101(a)(3)(B)(i) for the imposition of an assessment, without the required referendum vote.

However, the delegate meetings held once a month at the Council cannot be considered "conventions". The delegate meeting held on June 22, 2000, to vote on this assessment, presumably was called "The Special Convention of the Council" as the minutes of that meeting reflect, to satisfy Section 101(a)(3)(B)(i).

However, conventions are held every five years in our organization as outlined in Section 17 A of the UBC Constitution, and are attended by delegates elected specifically to attend and vote at that convention only.

The delegates from the local unions elected to the delegate body, are not the same delegates who attend conventions. If the UBC holds a Special Convention as outlined in Section 17B of the UBC Constitution, the delegates are elected to attend and vote specifically for that convention, and the single issue the convention was called for.

Therefore, it would stand to reason that the delegates to the "Special Convention" on June 22, 2000, given special notice to attend and to vote on this sole issue, should have been specially elected delegates also. This would be in keeping with the spirit of the LMRDA, and the UBC Constitution in regard to special conventions and dues and assessments.

In addition, the recently instituted restructuring plan, which includes the delegate body system, was touted as a system where rank and file members would have access to a larger number of delegates, and be able to discuss their concerns. This assessment, among other issues, was not brought to the membership, it was raised on the floor of our regular meeting held on June 19, 2000 only by three members, myself included. This was after we became aware that the issue was to be voted on by the delegates at the "Special Convention" called for June 22, 2000, three days following our regular meeting.

My concept of the delegate body system, as it was proposed, led me to believe that when an issue arose that directly affects the membership, as this one does, it would be presented at a regular membership meeting, at least one month prior to the delegates voting on it. It would then be put to the floor of the meeting for debate, thereby allowing the membership to fully participate in important matters of the Council. Ideally, at the next meeting, the members would be given the opportunity to direct the delegates on how they wished them to vote on the particular issue. In this case, the majority of the members were not even aware of this assessment until they received their vacation checks this past December.

At the regular meeting of Local 157, held on January 18, 2001, the issue of the assessment and how it was passed, was once again raised by a member, and the Chair declared that the issue had been talked about enough.

Following that meeting, I discussed the matter with District Council President/ Delegate Body Chairman Peter Thomanssen and informed him that I considered all my internal remedies at the local level to be exhausted and that the next course of action to remedy this situation would be at the international level.

Respectfully Submitted,
Michael Bilello



  2. Your a dekegate, -Put up your delegate letter to Lebo regarding his by law violations.

  3. The NY District councils of carpenters, should not tuch our vacation money, this is our hard working sweat that was put in, not theirs. They are taking advantage of the members. I am getting a 20 percent pay for the same work as a regular job and the union is taking almost half of my vacation money. Why should a 20 percent job pay the same hourly rate as a regular job, the Union doesn't want to take a cut and they are the one who put that in place. They are a bunch of crooks and members need to stand up, go to court, picket the hall, do something, unity is strength and strength is power. Members we need to unite on this one to stop these illegal assessments by people who were put in place to protect up.


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