read full article By Michael Mishak, Las Vegas Sun
The fight goes back to 2001, when the carpenters, under the leadership of Douglas J. McCarron, split from the country’s largest labor federation, dismissing the AFL-CIO as a lumbering bureaucracy that had failed to adapt to changes in the modern construction industry.
The carpenters pledged to organize nonunion workers through so-called “wall-to-wall” agreements, designed to place all workers on a project under the carpenters umbrella. Such pacts, however, effectively meant poaching members from other trades, thus setting up jurisdictional warfare across the country.
After years of fighting, the battle seemingly came to a head in August at the painters union convention in Las Vegas. Painters officials called on the AFL-CIO to condemn what they called the carpenters’ “predatory behavior” and asked the federation’s new leader, Richard Trumka, to help them fight back.
Delegates exclaimed in unison: “It’s about time!”
The AFL-CIO responded at its convention in Pittsburgh last month, passing a resolution urging the carpenters to rejoin the federation. Failing that, the AFL-CIO gave its Building and Construction Trades Department permission to start organizing carpenters — with the ultimate goal of forming a competing carpenters union.
In a statement, McCarron dismissed the resolution as “a solution in search of a problem,” adding that his carpenters work with AFL-CIO unions on a regular basis to complete construction projects.
He said the federation’s officials should spend their resources “organizing the craft workers in the markets they used to represent, before they divert their members’ hard-earned dues in efforts to reach out to workers they lack the knowledge to represent and the skills or resources to train.”
The carpenters’ aggressive organizing strategy, McCarron said, reflects “the industry our members work in, instead of the industry our founders knew.”
Labor experts said they expect the conflict to intensify as more and more contractors engage in work that cuts across traditional jurisdictional lines.