By ED FINKELSTEIN
The shakeup at the St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters’ District Council (CDC) was allegedly launched by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC) as a result of a detailed anonymous letter sent to the UBC’s general president outlining many issues that forced the International to launch an internal investigation that resulted in the UBC last week relieving the union’s top leadership of all their responsibilities. This included all staff resigning and having to re-apply for their jobs. Interviews were held last week.
In a shakeup that shocked the entire regional Labor Movement, the UBC on Sept. 27 dissolved the St. Louis-Kansas City Regional Council and merged its 34 locals into the Chicago Carpenters Regional Council. The St. Louis Council for decades has been a darling in the International Union.
In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, UBC General President Doug McCarron said an internal report prepared by UBC’s representatives precipitated the sudden action but details were not released.
In a general news release on Sept. 29, McCarron simply said that administrative responsibility for the St. Louis Council had been moved to Chicago. The movement of 20,000 St. Louis/Kansas City/S. Illinois carpenters makes the Chicago Council 50,000 members strong and one of the largest single carpenters councils in the U.S. with jurisdiction in Missouri, Kansas, Illinois and Eastern Iowa.
While McCarron’s statement said “…the decision was made as a means to increase oversight of operations, reduce costs, maximize available resources, and increase market competitiveness,” what it didn’t say speaks loudly as to the possibility of serious issues that caused this drastic action.
Rumors abound as to the real issues that caused the sudden move, a highly unusual one in Labor circles without strong justification. Under normal circumstances, a problem local group is placed into receivership, all the officers are removed and the International Union assigns a receiver to run the organization until all is set right. That can take years. To dissolve the group and move the management as has been done here is unusual, sources have told the Labor Tribune, and speaks to the potential seriousness of the situation.
In breaking the news first last week, KMOX radio reported that an internal investigation was underway and that Al Bond, the Council’s executive secretary-treasurer and a union carpenter for 39 years, had been removed from office. Bond, who was appointed by McCarron to the top position in 2015 to replace former chief executive Terry Nelson, was formerly president of Local 5. He came into the CDC in 1999 as a union representative and organizer.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
“I look forward to building a long and productive working relationship with the representatives, staff, instructors, contractors and members of the former St-Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council,” said Gary Perinar, executive secretary-treasurer of the Chicago Regional Council. “This reorganization presents real opportunities to increase our market share above and beyond our 70 percent target goal. It’s a win for our signatory contractors, it’s a win for the communities in which we live and work, and most importantly, it’s a win for our members.”
He emphasized that the restructuring will not impact the terms of the current collective bargaining agreements, including the payment of wages and fringe benefit contributions.
ISSUE TO BE RESOLVED?
When the Carpenters formed an electrical unit within their council in 2008 to compete with Electrical Workers Local 1, allegedly because of a grudge between the two union’s top leadership at the time that revolved around hanging electrical shades in a casino jurisdictional dispute, it created a major rift within the building trades and the Carpenters withdrew from the Building Trades Council. Serious efforts over the past few years by the Building Trades Council and Local 1 to resolve issues were rejected by the Carpenters’ leadership.
Whether or not this change can solve that rift is yet to be seen. It would be beneficial to the entire building trades if that were to happen.