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From the November-December 2006 issue of Union Democracy Review #159
Last year's scandal hangs over next Plumbers convention
Locals will be electing delegates to the international convention of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, to assemble. In Las Vegas on August 7-11, next year. In issuing the call, General Secretary Treasurer Pat Perno assures members that "The UA is moving ahead." In his September report, which accompanied the call, General President William P. Hite discusses, sadly and at length, the split in the AFL-CIO, concluding that the "Fight among unions will be resolved one way or another." In October, Hite reports, happily and at length, that six AFL-CIO construction unions have joined in the Mechanical Allied Crafts to advance their common interests. Hite writes: "I was surprised and honored to be elected president of MAC." But neither Hite nor Perno had been elected to their top positions in the UA. They were appointed to fill out the terms of their predecessors who had been expelled from the union in disgrace.
Last year, former UA president Martin Maddaloni and Secretary Thomas Patchell were removed by the Labor Department as trustees of the union's pension funds and, along with two other trustees, fined over $10 million after the funds had lost massive amounts in suspect and fraudulent transactions. When the two resigned their union posts, the union's General Executive board awarded them the usual golden parachutes. But the merciful and generous consummation could not stand. A special panel selected by the GEB found that they had cost the union treasury millions in suspect loans to friends. They were expelled from the union and fined heavily. That's how Hite and Perno got their jobs: appointed by the GEB. And so they seem willing to ignore that dark cloud of scandal that hangs over the convention proceedings: where was the GEB as all these millions evaporated?
But the delegates will be reminded by Thomas Preuett who is running as an insurgent against Hite, the administration's choice. When Preuett ran for president at the convention in 2001, he tried to focus attention on the looming evidence of corruption; he failed to get action, but he did succeed in rallying a surprising measure of support: Maddaloni was elected with 2,002 votes; but 1,233 delegates voted for Preuett. His local no. 669 is entitled to 100 convention delegates. In announcing his candidacy for 2006, he accuses the current leadership of a "complete abdication of responsibility."
"This is the same E-Board that did nothing to stop Maddaloni and Patchell until they were threatened with legal action... Now," he writes, "they ask us to believe that they were totally ignorant of the shameful events." He believes that the union is at risk.
Pipefitters Local 228 in Yuba City, CA, is a small local with 300 members, but it was the arena of a lively election contest. The incumbent business manager, Robert L. Carr was reelected with 68 votes. His insurgent opponent, Joe Gagne lost with 41 votes.
Carr based his appeal for reelection on his 11-year record as the Local's BM: "solidarity, business sense, success rate, and leadership" and upon his membership on the boards of nine different union and community groups. .He contrasted his record with his rival's failure to hold previous union office.
In three separate mailings to the membership, challenger Gagne wrote that he had been a union member since 1979. He argued that it was time for a change, suggesting that he would give the members prompt and accurate information, and would provide full financial accountability. "Too many members", he wrote, "are sitting on the sidelines and saying nothing for fear of reprisals. I was one. Yes, I am sticking my neck out and speaking up, but this is the foundation on which our union was built."
On his campaign literature, Gagne pasted standard AUD stickers reading "Clean up our union with democracy." Business Manager Carr denounced Gagne for "running his campaign on the logic and hatred of Democracy.org, a website funded and used by the non-union to dismantle the 'Union Machine.'" One of Carr's supporters parroted the charge. AUD informed them that they were misinformed.
"We have reported on election contests like yours," AUD's Benson wrote, "not to support one side or another, but as an example of the existence of the democratic spirit in the labor movement, something which enemies of labor often deny. I think that you and your union should be proud of the fact that your local is an arena for American democracy in action."
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Previous Article: In the Operating Engineers (IUOE)
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