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From the November-December
2008 issue of Union Democracy Review #176
Relentless attack on democracy in the Machinists Union
by Judith Schneider
In its Local S6, the 3,400-member
shipbuilders local in Bath, Maine now under trusteeship, the International
Association of Machinists faces increasing rank and file opposition, a
federal lawsuit, and embarrassing press coverage, but it remains unmoved
in its efforts to make sure that a local leadership it favors runs the
In October 2007, Michael Keenan, local S6 president
since 2001, ran for reelection with incumbents Troy Osgood, for vice president,
and Michael Cyr, for Chief Steward. They had apparently not endeared themselves
to Grand Lodge and district officials by outspoken disapproval of their
spending habits and by a refusal to send local dues money to the Machinists
Non-Partisan League Education Fund after the membership had repeatedly
voted down a contribution.
In the October local elections, the international
supported an opposition slate, but when the three were reelected, the
international voided the election. In the February 2008 rerun election,
controlled entirely by the international, the Keenan slate did even better
than before. He, Osgood and Cyr were again reelected, this time with even
bigger margins. Cathy London, a candidate for trustee who had been defeated
in October, was also elected.
The international obviously could not tolerate the
membership decision. On March 17, the local was trusteed, the elected
officials were escorted out, and the locks of the union hall were changed.
After rummaging through years of records, the international alleged "financial
and other mismanagement," and charged that it found child pornography
on local computers. At trusteeship hearings in May, opponents of the trusteeship
were denied the right to be represented by their attorney.
The trusteeship hearing panel appointed by IAM President
R. Thomas Buffenbarger, finally reported on August 14. To no one's surprise,
it upheld the trusteeship, but it discarded 10 of the 14 charges leveled
against the local. The charges that remained: some unaccounted-for "union
label" merchandise like t-shirts and jackets, a backlog of grievances
(a common union problem but in this case attributed by the suspended officers
to District inaction), sloppy lost-time records (although there was "no
evidence" of illegitimate payments) and a charge that is becoming
familiar in the IAM, pornography on computers. (Actual evidence of pornography
may be skimpy. The officers say that time stamps prove that most of the
pornography was viewed after they were locked out of the union hall by
the international's investigators.) [See Nasty
aftermath to trusteeship for similar pornography charges in L. 2339N.]
In a pending federal lawsuit filed last May, Keenan,
Osgood, Cyr and London charge that the trusteeship violates LMRDA Title
III and the free speech provisions of Title I, and violates state law
on defamation. They are represented by AUD Advisory Board member Leon
Rosenblatt. Trial is expected in April 2009. Keenan claims under the trusteeship,
the local is actually being run by the slate rejected by the membership.
Meanwhile, 1,743 members have signed a "no confidence"
petition objecting to the trusteeship. And members denounce a dues increase
imposed at a convention which their delegates were not allowed to attend;
they protest a refusal to hold union meetings; they demand an accounting
of local expenditures.
Assorted disciplinary charges have been filed against
the four officers. If convicted by the usual tractable trial committee
appointed by President Buffenbarger, they will be deprived of the right
to run for office, and could not regain control of the local once the
trusteeship is lifted.
Articles on the IAM:
IAM election needless. All 20 officers
shipyard local reminds us: It's hard to resist a repressive trusteeship
attack on democracy in the Machinists Union
Local 2339N: Nasty aftermath to a Trusteeship
shipbuilders protest vs. IAM trusteeship
Court to IAM:
Inform members of their rights
U.S. Appeals Court says:
Let your people know!
Still Subverting Union Democracy in 2005
photocopying hiring hall records, longshore reform victory, peace pipe
for SEIU and CNA? and more.
to IAM member websites
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on labors lasting quest for ethical practices: from the Operating
Free Speech in the SEIU and MEBA?
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