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Internet exclusive 7/02/04
deals setback for union democracy in Carpenters Union:
AUD encourages Carpenters continue their campaign for direct
elections and democratic reforms
In a 2-1
decision, the First Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court's
ruling that the Department of Labor was "arbitrary and capricious"
when it ruled
that the New England Regional Council (NERC) is a legitimate intermediate
therefore entitled to elect officers by delegate vote. Plaintiffs in the
who were supported in amicus briefs by the Association for Union Democracy,
sought to have the council declared a local that must elect its officers
direct membership vote every three years.
There was no opinion for
the Court as each of the two judges in the majority
wrote a separate opinion with little agreement between the two. AUD's
committee is reviewing the decision and discussing options including an
to the Supreme Court.
In the meantime, AUD encourages
Carpenters continue their campaign for direct
elections and democratic reforms of the authoritarian regional council
structure. Hundreds of Carpenters in regional councils around the country
circulating petitions calling for direct elections. Carpenters from eight
separate councils have come forward to coordinate the petition work in
A brief initial summary
of the decision: Judge Lynch accepted the DoL position:
that NERC is intermediate in the sense that there is something beneath
long as those locals retain some functions, which they do. Most of the
functions she mentions are not in fact performed by the locals. Judge
relied on an early 1950s article describing the Carpenters District Councils
that era as intermediate bodies that nevertheless were the effective contract
negotiators. Finally, she supported the DoL on one ground that it had
advanced, that contract negotiation is an intermediate function.
Judge Lipez concurred in
the result in an odd opinion: He finds that the DoL
policy is at odds with the policies of the Act, at odds given the legislative
history surrounding the addition of intermediate bodies to the statute,
generally bad idea. However, in the last paragraph he decides that it
arbitrary and capricious. Judge Torruella dissented, stating, as he had
first time, that the Department was arbitrary and capricious.
Over the past decade the
Carpenters union has been restructured from a network
of small to moderately sized local unions into a series of large autocratic
regional councils. In the restructuring, carpenters lost their right to
directly on collective bargaining agreements and to directly elect the
who represent them. Those powers, and others, were transferred to the
centralized regional councils. The council structure is dominated by its
executive secretary treasurer who wields immense powers, including the
to hire and fire all business agents, organizers, and representatives.
council official receives a salary by virtue of their office. Locals,
council system, are ceremonial shells, forbidden from spending money on
attorneys or officer salaries, limited, in essence, to electing delegates
can be done? Over several decades, AUD has learned that it is not
enough to rely on a lawsuit to win back your rights. Members must continue
to mobilize at the grassroots to turn up the heat on the International.
That's what Carpenters for a Democratic Union did in New England, winning
enough council delegate positions to elect Thomas Harrington to the Executive
Secretary Treasurer post without waiting for the legal case to wend its
way through the courts.
Volunteer to be a regional contact
or help organize your coworkers to collect signatures on the petition
letter. The more regions call for direct elections the better. Help establish
a national network of Carpenters.
(AUD's policy is to treat all contacts as confidential unless we receive
explicit authorization to the contrary. We recognize, however, that many
of you are already openly organizing for democracy in your union so if
you would like us to give your name to the other Carpenter reformers who
are interested in building the network, please contact
you have been asking us how to go about appealing for direct elections
in your regions. The first step is to submit a request to your regional
council. Alan Hyde has drafted a sample
letter for this purpose. However, it will be much more effective if
the letter is submitted as a petition, with many signatures. Coordinating
such a petition effort could be the work of the regional contacts. Feel
free to contact AUD for more advice on using the petition.
info, contact AUD.
appeals court's decision:
the Harrington case and the Carpenters reform movement:
win right to elect regional council officers
in the Construction Trades
form National Reform Group
Jolt Carpenters Convention
Reformers Win in New England
challenges DOL on Carpenters Regional Council
Harrington v Chao: Judge
Stearns's "memorandum and order" (pdf)
AUD Bill of Rights
for the Building Trades
AUD brief opposing stay of order
Sample letter requesting direct elections
Letter to Carpenters from Carl
Court deals setback
for democracy in Carpenters union
to Carpenters rank-and-file websites
forces Ironworkers to democratize its constitutions
Article: DOL undercuts
democracy in Carpenters union
made possible by contributions from union members and supporters like
you. Please help us build the movement for union democracy, join
or contribute to AUD.
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