The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, September 29, 2000


By The Building Tradesman

Carpenters ready to further shun labor?
The United Brotherhood of Carpenters, whose Michigan chapter has already disassociated itself from the Detroit and Michigan Building Trades Councils, may choose to withdraw from affiliation with the entire AFL-CIO.

The Construction Labor Report quoted Carpenters General President Douglas McCarron as saying that his union's monetary contributions to the AFL-CIO are doing little more than paying the salaries of Washington bureaucrats. He also pledged to review how the Building Trades Department, AFL-CIO spends its dues money.

McCarron's statement was made during the UBC's general convention in Chicago, where he won a second five-year term as general president last month. McCarron claimed that the AFL-CIO has not been "reviewing their operations" when it comes to effectively targeting organizing efforts.

However, McCarron's criticism comes at a time when the entire AFL-CIO managed to turn the tide on organizing in 1999 by ending a string of membership losses. All of organized labor had about the same number in 1999 as there were in 1998. And the Building Trades Department was the most successful of all AFL-CIO unions, last year organizing half of all newly organized workers.

Travelers, beware of workers comp flaw
If you're working for your employer on an out-of- town project and get injured off the job, don't look to state law or the Michigan Workers' Compensation system for help.

A heavy equipment operator from Michigan on a business trip in Pennsylvania was seriously injured when he was hit by a car while crossing a street, while returning to his motel from dinner.

The operator was intoxicated, but it was ruled not to be a factor in the accident.

According to the Construction Labor Report, a state magistrate awarded workers' compensation to the operator, but the state Workers' Compensation Appellate Board reversed the decision, ruling that the victim's activities "presented a deviation" from the business purposes of the trip.

The Michigan Court of Appeals reinstated the workers' comp award, invoking the state doctrine that the traveling employees "are considered to be continuously within the scope of their employment during their trip, except when a distinct departure for a personal errand can be shown." The court said eating dinner wasn't a "distinct departure."

Then the case went to the Michigan Supreme Court, which reversed the court of appeals ruling and denied the award. A majority of the justices cited an amendment to state workers' comp law that says an employee on a business trip injured in a "social or recreational activity" is not covered under state law.

This case is among scores of Michigan Supreme Court rulings in the last few years that have gone against workers and in favor of the insurance industry.

Organized labor is endorsing Thomas Fitzgerald, Marietta Robinson and Edward Thomas for Michigan Supreme Court on Nov. 7 to help restore balance to the court.