IUOE Seeks To Thwart Open Labor Websites
Fearful of Information Exposing Corruption and Lack Of Transparency
By Steve Zeltzer
THE GROWING USE OF WEB sites by union activists and union election slates
has now led to efforts to control such use by the International Union Of
Operating Engineers IUOE. In a memo sent out on Januay 12, 2007 by
International President Vincent J. Giblin, the union announces that as a
result of websites "non-members, including employers, have access to
The IUOE although small within the national labor movement is extremely
powerful since it's members can halt construction sites throughout the US
and Canada and also maintain and run thousands of buildings throughout the
US and Canada.
Giblin said the 450,000 member union was "concerned about the ability of
"unscrupulous non-members to take advantage of website-generated information
to harm Locals in negotiations and organizing, as well as the potential of
such non-members to intervene improperly in the elections themselves.
Using this justification, the International Executive Board passed a
resolution last year in Phoenix, Arizona that requires any election
"campaign websites" to have a "membership-related password protection
function using members' register number or another appropriate mechanism to
identify membership status." Failure to do this will be punished. "existing
websites have until April 15, 2007 to comply or be faced with internal union
Behind this new policy is not the fear of non-members or employers but the
earthshaking events in the largest local within the Operating Engineers
Local 3 which represents 41,000 operators and other workers in Northern
California, Utah, Nevada and Hawaii.
In the last election, the Gold Slate which ran against the John Bonilla and
the Unity Ticket was elected. John Bonilla had collaborated with the Donald
Dozer administration to pay him off if he would not run again. The Gold
Slate used their powerful website www.goldticket.org (no longer online) to
fully expose the myriad conflicts of interest and nepotism in the Local
including the business manager Donald Dozer and the support of Dozer by John
Bonilla and his supporters. Dozer had the notoriety of having one of the
largest compensation benefits of any union official in the United States
taking home $807,626 in 2004. This included his salary from the Local and
the International. He is now under investigation by the NLRB for illegal
compensation through transfer of sick pay benefits from other employees to
his account and other violations of labor law.
The Gold Ticket led by Russ Burns swept the election and committed to set up
a transparent administration with accountability and transparency. An
important part of the victory was the ability to put on the slate not only
their program and agenda but also the specific corruption and conflicts of
interests going on within the Local including collusion of the contractors.
Legal documents provided evidence for the members that the administration
had misused their power and authority to harm the interests of the members.
Dozer had given away control of money to contractors and had led the local
to a massive loss in pension funds with no accountability. The top down
centralized structures of not just most locals in the IUOE but throughout
the labor movement has led to a growing corruption crisis and scandal. The
lack of checks and balances and membership control is completely tied in
fact to the lack of information and transparency at all levels of many
The following is the proposed democratic bylaw changes proposed by this
slate now that they have won office:
Returning dues to the membership by creating a fair and equitable dues
structure for all was the focus of the elected Bylaws Committee. Since the
Bylaws Resolution was passed by the membership at the Semi-Annual Meeting
and will now go before the membership at large in each district, this vision
is one step closer to a reality.
Financial reports will be presented to the membership on a quarterly basis
in Engineers News beginning in May or June of this year, and reports will
also be available online at www.oe3.org.
Staff salaries have been reviewed, so the Executive Board could set
competitive salaries for field staff. As a result of this review, officers
have taken a pay freeze through 2009, staff pension hours have been reduced
from 55 to 48 and field staff have been brought up to market-rate
competitive salaries. Increases are now tied to master construction wagerate
Every issue of Engineers News will now be full-color, printed in-house and
with a Letters to the Editor section.
Freedom of speech Printed pieces on union issues or political commentary
that are distributed in the districts to members or anything of this nature
should include a name, since members need to know who to contact about this
These changes are like an earthquake for many locals of the International.
The fear that many business managers and the International have now is that
this reform movement will spread nationally and create even further
exposures and changes similar to the developments in the Local 3 struggle.
They in fact are absolutely right. The latest election struggle around
similar issues is in IUOE Local 150 with over 22,000 members in the Chicago
Mid-West area. It is the second largest local in the International and a
reform slate taking power in this local would seriously begin to threaten
the control of the International including possible changes in the
constitution to allow locals to elect business agents and require the
posting on all web sites of salaries and expenses of union locals and their
It is in this context, that the issue of labor websites becomes a critical
issue. Many members of the Operating Engineers are spread out over hundreds
and even thousands of miles working different shifts and completely
inaccessible to meetings in many cases. Only the internet and web pages can
offer these members instantaneous information and transparency about how
their local is operating. Running for office against entrenched
administration can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and requires taking
large amounts of time off work to campaign. Websites and election campaign
videos such are now playing on youtube and other sites evening out the
playing field and allow members to download flyers and information for other
members without the substantial costs of mailing out union campaign
It is for this very reason that the International is seeking to clamp down
on web sites used in election campaigns and threatening to prevent members
and slate of members punishment if they do not go along with the new rules.
Many IUOE members like members of other unions in the United States are
fearful of retaliation of their business agent or union officer finds out
that they are looking at supporting an opposition slate within a union
election. In some locals, members are afraid to even sign petitions to
nominate members for elections. The need to "sign in" would in fact identify
those members who are looking at opposition slates and their programs and
In IUOE Local 39 which is the largest stationary local in the country and
has over 20,000 members in Northern California and Nevada, it takes over 200
signatures to even get on the ballot for business manager. Candidates such
as IUOE Local 39 stationary engineer Paul Mueller was even physically
threatened by the business manager at a union meeting for attempting to run
for president of the Local. Perry Bonilla the number 2 man in the Local 39
which is run by present Business Manager Jerry Kalmar is also a brother of
deposed union official John Bonilla in IUOE Local 3. There has not been an
election in Local 39 for over 7 years. It indeed is a small world.
This intimidation and threats against union members who challenge or
question union administrations is not only common in IUOE Local 39 but
within many locals of the International and other unions within the US.
This IUOE new website procedure called the "Campaign Website Resolution" is
presently being challenged and will likely be ruled illegal but it clearly
provides evidence of the growing power of the internet among rank and file
workers along with those who challenge the administrations and the clear and
present threat this is to an apparatus that wants secrecy and control to
perpetuate their regimes.