More than a dozen contracts have been negotiated and ratified in 2013 and more are expected before the New Year. Some members are already seeing wage increases, while others will be implemented soon. With the certainty of working under current collective bargaining agreements with wage and benefit contribution increases, workers can once again focus on the job at hand. This is also good for the members and their families because we have made responsible additional allocations to the Welfare Funds and have seen real improvement. With guidance from our actuaries and in cooperation with Management Trustees there is potential for some restoration of benefits lost over the last few years. We know these changes have been a burden on many of our members and look forward to the day when we can make even small positive changes.
The electronic reporting system was rolled out as part of some of the new CBAs. Over 90% of Stewards are reporting their time electronically daily. Like any new system there are issues that we are working to re- solve. I’d like to thank the hundreds of Stewards who have embraced this new process. Members are encouraged to check their hours on the District Council website. Our ultimate goal is to reconcile reported hours with the Benefit Funds weekly confirming payment so that discrepancies and shortages can be ad- dressed in a timely manner and every hour worked is accounted for and benefits paid.
In the midst of signing all these new contracts, we were forced to go on strike twice. In July, we went on strike against the Manufacturing Woodworkers Association of Greater New York (MWA) for about three weeks. This has been the most frustrating negotiation I have ever seen or been a part of. One way or another this travesty will end and it will end soon. Members have since returned to work, but while they were out we put in place a strike compensation fund for the first time ever. The Delegate Body-approved fund sought to provide members with some type of financial assistance while out on the lines. It wasn’t much, but it was hopefully some- thing that provided a little comfort for the members and their families.
In October, we were again forced to go on strike against the New York Cement League. After more than three years of negotiating, the league failed to put forth any real solutions toward reaching a new contract. Thankfully, that strike only lasted 2 days before we were able to come to terms.
One thing we must remember is that striking is always a last resort and extremely risky. However, our hard working men and women deserve wages and benefits that help support their families.For more than 100 years we’ve fought for these standards. We won them but at the cost of the blood, sweat, and tears of carpenters past. Our tenacity still rings true today so if it takes a work stoppage, then that’s what we will do to honor them and fight for our rights toward a better life. I’d also like to add that the comraderie the brothers and sisters of this union showed during these tough times was absolutely amazing. We may have differences of opinion sometimes, but when that battle cry sounds, we’re a united front.
With that said, I implore you all to stay informed and get involved. We have instituted a number of new ways for members to become engaged such as monthly town halls and forums; local and delegate meetings; and new electronic and web-based communications tools.
Unfortunately, turnout numbers have been low across the board. There was a demand for a sounding board and more transparency within the council, yet only a handful have provided comments or attend the forum and meetings. The anti-labor movement is depending on our apathy and fear so they can come right in and take away our hard fought rights. We’re holding them at bay, but we are only as strong as our members’ involvement. This is your union Brothers and Sisters and we need your help and input. Please, get involved. Attend your local and delegate meetings as well as the new EST monthly forums. The dates, times and locations of these meetings are always posted on the DC website.
Thank you and it has been an honor serving you this year.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!
The Carpenter | FALL/WINTER 2013