Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Situational Ethics of Union ‘Raiding’

read full article at Talking Union by Steve Early "CWA organizer"

Whatever their roots or rationale, schisms in the “house of labor” are invariably accompanied by much-feared “rogue union” activity.

That’s why, in Pittsburgh this week, AFL-CIO conventioneers called a brief halt to their torrent of speeches and resolutions about corporate misbehavior to deal with a menacing labor miscreant and outlier—Doug McCarron’s United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC).

The 500,000-member UBC left the AFL ahead of other CTW unions, saying its per capita dues were being wasted on ineffective “New Voice” programs launched by the now-departed John Sweeney. Then, in 2005, the Carpenters joined CTW. Then, last Fall—in a development concealed by CTW until this month–the UBC stopped paying dues to Stern’s new federation as well.

A week ago, McCarron made it official—he has quit Change To Win, several steps ahead of John Wilhelm’s UNITE-HERE, which reaffiliated with the AFL-CIO yesterday.

In the meantime, McCarron’s critics say, he has been undercutting AFL construction unions by offering contractors wall-to-wall labor agreements designed to replace other skilled tradesmen with his own members, who will be employed for less pay under more “flexible” work rules.

Not surprisingly, this has made his fellow building tradesmen–plus manufacturing and even public employee unionists–quite irate.

Mike Sullivan, general president of the Sheet Metal Workers, was among those convention delegates who denounced the Carpenters and bemoaned the “millions of dollars” spent “defending the rights of members who don’t want to be in their union.”

Tom Buffenbarger, president of the Machinists (IAM), declared that “this is not just a building trades issue. This is an issue for all others” in the federation (as indeed it is, since the IAM has lately been poaching truckers from the Teamsters).

These more conservative speakers were joined by former UE organizer Ken Allen, now the top AFSCME official in Oregon and a past Labor Notes conference participant. Allen blasted both the UBC and SEIU, headed by Andy Stern. (Stern’s top-down “modernization,” centralization of control over bargaining, and forced consolidation of locals has often been compared to the Carpenters’ own restructuring under McCarren).

Allen told the convention that affiliates “who left in 2005 opened the door for all kinds of trouble… SEIU and the Carpenters are doing the bosses’ work when they raid our unions.