from the ENGINEERING NEWS-RECORD:
Carpenters Join Coalition While BCTD Talks Heat Up
7/4/2005 By Sherie Winston
Carpenters' union President Douglas J. McCarron has made it official. The
530,000-member union is now the latest member of the Change to Win Coalition.
The move strengthens the fledgling labor reform alliance and provides the
carpenters with a formal platform to unite with unions outside of the building
The carpenters' move, while not unexpected, comes just weeks before the AFL-CIO
convention where proposals for significant reforms are expected. On June 27, the
AFL-CIO's 54-member executive council approved two proposals for convention
consideration. One increases resources for organizing and grassroots political
action and a second supports increased leadership diversity. Officials also
approved a two-year budget to fund the programs, including a 25% staff
But those reforms do not go far enough, say leaders of the dissident unions who
formed the coalition and separately have offered their own reform packages that
also focus on organizing and building political muscle. Some of those leaders
claim they will withdraw their respective unions from the AFL-CIO if its current
president, John J. Sweeney, is reelected. Sweeney's reelection bid now seems all
but certain. The carpenters union withdrew from the AFL-CIO in 2001 citing
differences with its leadership.
The carpenters are "proud to join with the most dynamic unions in the country,"
McCarron said June 27. "Our union is about building power and strength for
working men and women and that is what the Change to Win Coalition is all
about." Coalition members, which include the laborers, teamsters, service
employees, food and commercial workers, and hospitality and textile workers,
have adopted bylaws and a constitution. Election of officers will follow (ENR
Some labor observers have wondered if the coalition was created to serve another
purpose, including a home for the carpenters if they do not agree to rejoin the
AFL-CIO by a July convention deadline. If the union does not reafilliate, it
will be forced to withdraw from the AFL-CIO's Building and Construction Trades
Dept. There also is speculation that the laborers might depart BCTD if the
carpenters are expelled.
In a recent memo to members, Laborers' President Terence M. O'Sullivan says he
has "no intention of withdrawing" from the AFL-CIO, and that the union will
"work from within the AFL-CIO as well as being a member of Change to Win
Coalition." His memo does not discuss BCTD participation.
The likelihood that at least one union will leave BCTD has caught the attention
of contractor groups and owners.
Other building trades unions worry about possible work disruptions and
jurisdictional disputes if the carpenters leave.
One union chief told the Associated General Contractors he was worried about a
"vertical agreement" the carpenters recently signed with Archer Daniels Midland
to build a $400-million cogeneration plant in Clinton, Iowa. The agreement
reportedly eliminated the electrical workers, laborers and operative plasterers
and cement masons. "Agreements such as this one signal a clear race to the
bottom and neither the labor movement nor the employers will ultimately be able
to survive the outcome if it continues," the union president wrote to AGC.
Building trades leaders are meeting regularly with union presidents formally and
informally, say several sources. All options are on the table and they are
preparing for every eventuality, including how to adjust the budget if per
capita dues from any union are lost, says one labor source.
"I just hope [McCarron] chooses not to leave the house of labor," says BCTD
President Edward C. Sullivan. "We're stronger when we're not divided. I will do
anything in my power to make sure there are no disruptions on the job. We will
continue to do the traditional work
of building trades." Sullivan notes that BCTD members have worked with
carpenters inside and outside the department. "We have an industry that we want
to keep going."
Change happens all the time, he adds, predicting that whatever happens, "We'll
adjust, we'll be fine."