In early 2011, local New York leaders of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) and the Building Trades were approached by representatives of the newly formed Amalgamated Carpenters and Joiners Union, and its dockbuilders local. They sought a democratic alternative to the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners (UBC) and to rejoin the AFL-CIO and its Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD.
Not surprisingly, the UBC has retaliated by spreading false rumors in an attempt to defeat the efforts of Amalgamated to become its own union and return to the labor movement.
Without a doubt, Amalgamated overwhelmingly has the facts on its side, and more than enough support by the IUPAT to ultimately win self-rule.
As for the rumors, which attempt to intimidate current and prospective supporters of Amalgamated by claiming that Amalgamated, and therefore the IUPAT, is under the thumb of crime bosses.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The record of the IUPAT stands for itself when it comes to honest, democratic unionism and its dedication to running union business by the members, and for the members.
A shining example of this is IUPAT’s twenty year battle against a mob-controlled union of another trade that was trying to steal our drywall finishing work in New York City. That local union was described by a federal judge as a local that was founded “by gangsters for gangsters and the companies affiliated with them.” It operated with the purpose of forcing workers to do the same work as the IUPAT, but for lower pay and benefits.
The IUPAT was successful in ending this organized crime-controlled local’s work in our industry.
This is but one example of the IUPAT reputation in New York and beyond, and our dedication to representing the best interests of all organized workers. Unfortunately for far too many carpenters, the UBC does not have the same reputation. That is why the New York City Council of Carpenters has been under government supervision for a decade and why its leaders were removed and convicted of corruption. Maybe the new leaders will be better, but they are still saddled with a rogue International that is more interested in raiding other unions than fighting for its own members.
Although it has a long history of raiding other unions for members and work, the UBC began a concentrated campaign of raids against the IUPAT nearly ten years ago.
Here are just a few of the confrontations between the UBC and the IUPAT:
Iowa/Omaha – 2004
Armed with the knowledge that contracts with several IUPAT employers were close to expiring, UBC representatives approached IUPAT employers with promises of “sweetheart deals” if they signed the IUPAT work over to the UBC instead of renewing their contracts. IUPAT put its faith in democracy. We sought a secret ballot election conducted by the NLRB.
The result was IUPAT members overwhelmingly voting to stay with the IUPAT, and a harsh rebuke from our employers toward the UBC for attempting such raids.
West Virginia – 2007
The UBC secretly hired an IUPAT district council organizer who used his union hall access to collect personal information on local IUPAT members. Those members were then contacted by telephone and told by a recorded message that painters and drywall finishers were leaving the IUPAT to join the UBC.
The result was, once again, a failure for the UBC. Although some IUPAT members believed the call and attempted to join the UBC because they thought that it was their only option, the overwhelming majority held strong with the IUPAT. Those that did leave, returned when they discovered the deception.
San Diego, California – 2008
The UBC approached an employer that was signatory to both the UBC and the IUPAT for interior work and, with more empty promises of saving money, convinced that employer to give the drywall finishing work to the UBC instead of the IUPAT. That employer then literally held the IUPAT workers behind closed doors at the offices and told them that they had to sign with the Carpenters or lose their jobs that day.
The NLRB found the UBC and the employer guilty of unfair labor practices and ordered the UBC contract voided.
New Jersey – 2008
The UBC held a campaign to represent nearly 500 IUPAT drywall finishers by arguing to the NLRB that drywall taping was not a distinct craft. The NLRB decided otherwise and, in a later vote, hundreds of IUPAT drywall finishers voted against being represented by the UBC.
This list of confrontations like the ones described above goes on and on. Each time the UBC was unsuccessful in raiding IUPAT members. However, our “victories” came at the cost of substantial financial resources and manpower. Resources that could have been dedicated to building the IUPAT and the labor movement instead of being used to battle one rogue union.
It also wasn’t just the IUPAT that came under attack from UBC raiding campaigns. Fellow Building Trades crafts have had their own expensive battles with the Carpenters over the last ten years, as well.
In response to the continued resistance of UBC leadership to stop its raiding practices, and recognizing the financial toll on its affiliates because of the raids, the AFL-CIO passed Resolution 70 at its general convention in 2009. This resolution authorized the BCTD to establish a new union for carpentry workers within the AFL-CIO. That is what Amalgamated is doing and why we are helping it.
Yet, to this day, the leadership of the UBC continues to rebuff any attempts by the AFL-CIO and the BCTD to rejoin the federation. In fact, shortly after the conclusion of the AFL-CIO convention where Resolution 70 was passed, the UBC established a local in St. Louis, Missouri to represent electrical workers. The clear purpose was to raid the membership and employers of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Only a united labor movement can grow, especially in these down times. The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, and the rest of the AFL-CIO, stands ready fight for all workers who choose to form a union that is run by the members, for the members.