By Tony Illia
A messy public feud between carpenters' union General President Douglas J. McCarron and his brother, Southwest regional council chief Mike McCarron, that resulted in an executive management shake-up and finger-pointing charges with legal implications, has rocked the 500,000-member union and related building trades.
Michael V. Draper, the national union's western district vice president, was named acting council supervisor pending an internal union trial, set to start on Sept. 9 at the union's Las Vegas training center. Eastern District Vice President Frank G. Spencer will hear the charges.
Industry insiders, including those close to both brothers, describe the move as shocking and unprecedented since the 65,000-member Southwest council is the carpenters' largest and most lucrative unit. Douglas McCarron ran it before becoming national president in 1995.
The removal notice accused Mike McCarron, once considered a candidate for national office, of secretly improving council finances by overcharging the union training fund to lease real estate.
Its nine properties in California, Arizona and Utah account for $4.48 million in above-market rents from 2008 to 2012, says an audit by Strategic Property Advisers, San Diego. Some rents were double current market rates.
A routine U.S. Labor Dept. audit found overpayments. The council repaid $4.7 million to the training fund, the amount owed with interest, on May 31.
Mike McCarron is the only trustee facing charges, although lease arrangements typically are reviewed by all trustees before approval, say union sources. Doug McCarron also is a trustee.
Mike McCarron accuses his brother of a "personal vendetta," he told ENR in an exclusive interview. "Our relationship began deteriorating in December 2011, but things came to a head when our mother died in May."
Eileen K. McCarron, 91, who suffered complications from a fall, left a $2-million estate, according to Mike McCarron, an estate trustee. "It's a fight over her estate. My brother is using the carpenters' [legal process] instead of civil court."
Doug McCarron referred calls to Los Angeles attorney Daniel M. Shanley, who declined requests for comment, citing "members' privacy."
But in the July 19 hand-delivered letter to Mike McCarron from carpenters' General Vice President Douglas J. Banes, the union alleges that council affairs were being conducted in a "detrimental" manner that failed "to assure the performance of collective bargaining agreements."
While union officials decline to weigh in publicly on the dispute, several say privately that Mike McCarron, who has won re-election uncontested four times, has done a good job managing the Southwest council, negotiating a $6.25-per-hour raise for Southern California carpenters from 2012 through 2016.
They describe him as his brother's eager, trustworthy and compliant apprentice. Doug McCarron prizes blind loyalty and unconditional obedience among his closest executives, say union officials who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal.
McCarron's tenure as general president has been marked by controversy and maverick moves, such as consolidating power by placing decision-making authority and assets of the union's 2,200 locals into 55 councils, each run by handpicked officers.
In 2001, the carpenters exited the AFL-CIO and its Building and Construction Trades Dept. (BCTD), claiming poor organizing efforts, among other things. Doug McCarron also has had jurisdictional disputes with other unions. "He has broken every agreement that was ever written between the carpenters and other crafts," claims a former executive of another BCTD union.
Even so, the department tried unsuccessfully to convince the carpenters to return. The union responded by filing a federal lawsuit last year against BCTD for "unlawful extortionate conspiracy" to force a re-affiliation.
The case, dismissed in December, is being appealed by the carpenters.
The union had a similarly bumpy experience in joining a breakaway labor group, Change-to-Win, in 2005 as a founder. The carpenters were forced out in 2009 for raiding affiliate unions. The carpenters' union remains unaffiliated with any umbrella labor group.
Meanwhile, Mike McCarron awaits his Las Vegas trial with trepidation. "It's a kangaroo court. I'm roadkill," he says. "But I'm going to take it to the mat."
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