The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, March 01, 2002

Carpenters demand drastic changes before re-affiliation with Building Trades Dept.

By The Building Tradesman



The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners International Union would agree to re-join the other 14 international unions in the AFL-CIO Building Trades Department, but only if there is a drastic realignment in the department's structure.

In a Feb. 21 letter to Building Trades Department President Edward Sullivan, Carpenters President Douglas McCarron said there are "four primary conditions" for the Carpenters' re-affiliation. The top demand includes the resignation of the current building trades officer positions of secretary-treasurer and president and elimination of those offices, to be replaced by a part-time president and an executive director.

Noting that talks about realignment had been conducted with the Carpenters for more than a year, Sullivan said in a Feb. 21 letter to the rest of the building trades that he is "terribly disappointed" in the Carpenters' decision.

"Mr. McCarron's 'conditions' for re-affiliating are unacceptable and most could not even be achieved without wholesale constitutional changes supported by our fourteen affiliates," Sullivan said.

In March 2001, the Carpenters withdrew from the AFL-CIO in a dispute over how the national federation spends dues money, and how it allocates resources to organizing. At the time, the Carpenters did not officially abandon the AFL-CIO's Building and Construction Trades Department. However, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said according to the federation's constitution, any international union that disaffiliates is not allowed to remain in any subordinate body of the AFL-CIO - which effectively banned them from the building trades.

In May 1996 the Michigan Regional Carpenters Council stopped paying per capita tax to the Greater Detroit and Michigan Building Trades councils, effectively withdrawing from those organizations.

Since last March, ongoing talks have taken place between McCarron, Sullivan and Sweeney, culminating in McCarron's Feb. 21 letter. McCarron's other demands in that letter include:

  • Implementing a modernized plan for the settlement of disputes in the construction industry;
  • Instituting a plan of weighted voting on the governing board of general presidents, based on the per capita tax paid by each affiliate to the department; and
  • Reconstituting" the administrative committee, comprised of the top five per capita tax-paying affiliate international unions. McCarron said they should meet regularly "and have a substantial role in the direction of the department's activities."

Sullivan said he and Building Trades Department Secretary-Treasurer Joe Maloney were elected unanimously to five-year terms in July 2000 and "plan to serve our complete terms in office, with the gracious support of the vast majority of our affiliated unions."

Sullivan in his letter then upped the ante on the Carpenters. He said over the past year the Carpenters have been permitted to participate in building trades activities in order to work out a solution, and they "have not experienced any real sanctions for their disaffiliation."

Now, wrote Sullivan, "Because of Mr. McCarron's decision, I believe it is time for us to begin divesting the Carpenters from the benefits of Building Trades affiliation."

  • Implementing a modernized plan for the settlement of disputes in the construction industry;
  • Instituting a plan of weighted voting on the governing board of general presidents, based on the per capita tax paid by each affiliate to the department; and
  • Reconstituting" the administrative committee, comprised of the top five per capita tax-paying affiliate international unions. McCarron said they should meet regularly "and have a substantial role in the direction of the department's activities."
Sullivan said he and Building Trades Department Secretary-Treasurer Joe Maloney were elected unanimously to five-year terms in July 2000 and "plan to serve our complete terms in office, with the gracious support of the vast majority of our affiliated unions." Sullivan in his letter then upped the ante on the Carpenters. He said over the past year the Carpenters have been permitted to participate in building trades activities in order to work out a solution, and they "have not experienced any real sanctions for their disaffiliation." Now, wrote Sullivan, "Because of Mr. McCarron's decision, I believe it is time for us to begin divesting the Carpenters from the benefits of Building Trades affiliation."