All posts by Jim DeCaro

Life is good at the big kids table

A recent commentary I wrote regarding the unjustified actions taken with constituency groups at Local 46 has really stirred up the supporters of the Local’s Leadership Team. I have received many messages online demanding I take down what I wrote. Accusing me of being drunk and ignorant of the facts. It really troubles me that members of minority groups are accusing me of making up my accusations. If a victim of discrimination or worse makes a claim, shouldn’t we start off our conversations with them from a viewpoint of support? When we are told a story or presented with information about something that has happened, we should not discount the individual just because we have loyalties to the accused.

I am NOT accusing anyone of anything as heinous as a sexual misconduct, racism, or bigotry of any type, but I am accusing the Local leadership of discriminatory past practices. Myself and others were prevented by the Local Leadership from performing protected acts of freedom of speech, and our unchartered constituency group was not given the same level of access as other unchartered constituency groups within the Local. We have sought out legal support over these issues. Which ultimately was the reasoning for the sudden issuance of “free speech rules” this last September / October.

You probably don’t know about these issues because you were not involved. We didn’t make our fight public because we were honestly trying to work through the issues with Local Leadership. Their continued harassment of our group, forced our hand in taking up the cause for freedom of speech.

Our efforts has put the the Local Leadership in a protective posture. They are trying to protect themselves from any further accusations of unfair treatment of members. It is these efforts that they are making which is coming at a cost to the different constituency groups. Their efforts are really a defensive posture against CORE and unfortunately, the other groups are now caught up in the unfair practices that the Local Leadership has supported for years.


When you are part of a favored group of people, you often don’t see the discriminatory practices that are occurring around you. The situations I have written about here are examples of this very situation. Members are accusing me of making up these issues in some kind of slime ball attack against the Local Leadership. Maybe if these detractors were actually there when these events took place they would believe me. Or maybe they would keep their blinders on while they give their continued loyalty to Local Leadership that may not be deserving of such treatment as they strongly believe.

I had hoped that members of minority groups that have been discriminated against would be more supportive of other members who were experiencing discrimination. We should not be supportive of bad behavior just because the accused usually act in good faith.

Member Groups and the IRS*

The recent outing of RENEW, EWMC, and ESU from the Hall is motivated by additional layers than is being presented. The prevailing message from Karleena is that ESU has run amiss of the IRS regarding taxes. In researching the issue they discovered that ESU is not chartered by the IO, and neither was EWMC, or RENEW. On the surface, not being chartered doesn’t seem like a big deal. So what if members of our Local want to form a group, or two, or three, to get together and organize around some issues? All three of these groups have been allowed to hold meetings and events within the Local 46 Hall for years.

There is one group of active members that has not been allowed to have a meeting at the Hall, and that is CORE. When we approached Bagsby about scheduling time in one of the class rooms so we could have a meeting, he told us that we would have to put down an $800 security deposit. By placing a high financial burden in front of the group, Bagsby effectively prevented the Local Members from being able to meet together at the Hall.

The Caucus Of Rank & File Electrical workers has been organizing for 3+ years as an independent group which has chafed at the Local Leadership Team over this time period. CORE has maintained a no admittance to our online communications for Officers of any Local or Management Employees of any Contractor. At the same time, we have always had an open door at our meetings and we have extended invitations on multiple occasions.

Our invitations to our meetings have gone ignored, and instead The Local Leadership Team can be found making comments from the microphone about groups that exclude people. As was the case at the last General Meeting. While he did not cite CORE specifically, while attempting to give validity to EWMC / RENEW / ESU, the Local Leadership Team made reference to “groups that exclude people”. The reality is the only exclusion we maintain is our internal communications and online presence.

So, back to the issue of not being chartered… If there is a group of members who are being allowed access to the Union Hall and another group of members who are not being allowed access there is a problem. Prior to this last week, none of the committees mentioned in this article have been charted by the IO. With all the groups essentially being equal on the level of being chartered or not, access to the Hall has been being given out arbitrarily. If the group was in The Local Leadership Team’s favor, then they were allowed access. If they were not, such as CORE, they were given an arbitrarily high bar for access to the very same resources.

Recently, I led a fight for freedom of speech out our Hall with the support of many of members of our Local and CORE. We forced the Hall into a position to reevaluate their stance on blocking and restricting our rights to communicate with our fellow members. The Local Leadership Team made some wrong decisions about freedom of speech, but they have come to their senses and we all have greater rights now. Union officers cannot arbitrarily tell members that they can or cannot communicate with each other, and they cannot arbitrarily give access to the Hall to one group of members while denying others.

The IRS notice gives the Local Leadership Team a smoke screen to cover up their arbitrary practices of giving different groups favorable access. They have forced these groups out not because of the IRS, but because they have been in the wrong for years. To clean up the problem and allow them to continue to block CORE from being able to schedule meetings at the Hall, the favored groups will attain a charter from the IO. This charter will be the measuring stick by which they can say that some groups are okay, while others are unacceptable.

The picture is further muddled by the claim that the IO is pushing to bring all these groups together across different Locals. The IO is not suddenly pushing to have these groups sanctioned for the benefit of the groups, and the IO had already been pushing for these groups to be chartered for years. This is just another distraction to help cover up the truth. Bagsby & Bud fear rank and file member groups that they cannot control. By formalizing these groups, they inoculate themselves from claims of being biased, and arbitrary favoritism.

The members of CORE 46 believe that the members of any Local, whether they are chartered or not, should have the right to meet in their Hall.

*This letter has been edited to help not single out any one of The Leadership Team too much. Ultimately, the issues presented here are about unfair treatment of members by ALL of the The Leadership Team.

IUOE 302 on Strike

Hello Fellow Electrical Workers,

The Caucus of Rank and File Electrical Workers (C.O.R.E. 46) hopes that you have already heard that The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302 (I.U.O.E. 302) has rejected their contract offer and is now on strike. There are pickets going up all around the Puget Sound. C.O.R.E. 46 stands in solidarity with the Union Operators. As decided by our members, it is the position of C.O.R.E. 46 to NEVER CROSS A PICKET LINE, and never work with scabs (someone performing the work of a striking worker). Our industry is made up of many Unions, but we are all one working class and we are united in the fight for a higher and higher standard of living. There are some questions that fellow electrical workers may have regarding the strike and we would like to offer possible answers to some of these questions.

Q: There is a picket on my job, what should I do?
A: Our unions were built on the principle of labor solidarity. Honor your fellow workers, NEVER CROSS A PICKET LINE.

Q: There is no picket on my job, what should I do?
A: Obey your conscience. Pay attention to the positions that operators usually fill on your jobsite. Are those positions being filled by other workers or by management themselves? How would you feel if you were on strike and some scab came and did your job, possibly for a lower wage than you do it? Never work with scabs.

Stand strong Fellow Workers, and keep I.U.O.E. 302 in your thoughts and prayers. If you have any questions you can email C.O.R.E. 46 at contact@core46.org

In Solidarity,

The Caucus of Rank and File Electrical Workers
C.O.R.E. 46
www.core46.org

Cross Trades Rally – May 2018

CORE 46 hosted a Cross Trades Rally in support of all workers fighting for better contracts. We were joined by nearly 150 members of the various building trades and other local unions at Westlake Center in Seattle on May 31st, 2018.

Labor Notes – Steward’s Corner: Legal Rights in a Contract Campaign

May 16, 2018 / Robert M. Schwartz

In today’s dysfunctional economic climate, straightforward bargaining frequently comes up empty. Employers come to the table with lengthy lists of takeaways and refuse to compromise. Claiming impasse at the earliest opportunity, they threaten to carry out their final offer or impose a lockout.

To cope with these realities many unions are turning to militant contract campaigns. Creative and aggressive tactics can demonstrate members’ solidarity, resolve, and willingness to act.

Successful contract campaigns rely on wide participation. Months before negotiations begin, the union selects a contract action team. Using individual and group meetings, surveys, and house calls, the team reaches out to every worker, soliciting suggestions for bargaining demands and ideas for exerting pressure. Films, speakers, and handouts educate members about labor struggles.

READ MORE.

Excerpted from No Contract, No Peace: A Legal Guide to Contract Campaigns, Strikes, and Lockouts ($20).

#7 – Sick & Safe – Pay Off at Lay Off

Supportive details for reason #7 of the 10 reasons to Vote No


Many have expressed frustration that the Sick & Safe hours accrued are not put into an account like the health care or vacation funds. Part of the reason for this is that the law requires employers to pay out current wage hours, not wages earned at a previous wage scale. For our trade a clear example is an apprentice who moves up in year would get paid at their current hourly wage, not the wages from the previous school year when they actually accrued the benefit. So, banking wages does not work and banking hours is not possible due to these discrepancies.

Unlike most workers however, many if not most of us are continually switching employers. As one job winds down, we are laid off and re-dispatched to a new employer. When we are released from employment we are relieved of the Sick & Safe hours which we have accrued under the law. This of course leads to workers trying to figure out how can they work the system to ensure that they receive the benefits that they earned before those benefits are taken away. Often this leads to workers taking time for Sick & Safe situations during the last stretch of the job when they are most needed, putting them at odds with the contractor.

To avoid a loss of the benefit and ensure that the jobs are fully staffed to complete the job, the benefit should be paid out when the employee is laid off. This would help keep the workers on the job until the end, and still give them the opportunity to take care of their Sick & Safe situations which the benefit is intended to accommodate. When a worker is able to count on being able to afford to go to the doctor, get check ups, and what ever else they will be in healthier condition for the next job. Allowing this to occur after lay off, helps mitigate the downtime the contractors will occur during the project.

This is a Win Win.

West Virginia Strike

For most of us, the strength of the labor movement in the United States has been steadily declining for our entire lives. The monumental victories of the first half of the 20th century (the 8 hour day, closed shop union contracts, unemployment insurance, etc.) have been under attack and for many workers these fundamental rights have been all but eroded. With the loss of union power we have also lost the methods and tactics of struggle that made those victories possible in the first place.

That is why the recent strike of the West Virginia teachers union is so important. Not only were they able to win the 5% pay increase they were fighting for in the era of “right to work”, they did it by returning to the rank and file militancy of the past. In order to win their strike the teachers had to defy state law as well as their own union leadership and in doing so they reminded us all of where our true power lies: with the rank and file and on the job.

The strike in West Virginia began with the blessing of the statewide teachers union leaders. Frustration had been boiling over among teachers across the state for years. Teachers in West Virginia in 2016 were the 48th lowest paid in the country, the average salary being around $45,000. Wages were not keeping up with rising healthcare costs and cost of living. A vote was taken and a work stoppage began on February 22nd, closing schools in all of West Virginia’s 55 counties.

From the beginning the strike was dynamic and explosive. Union members didn’t simply sit back and wait for the leadership to tell them to act, they took matters into their own hands. A rank and file Facebook group was started that quickly grew to 20,000 members voicing their frustrations and updating teachers in other parts of the state about unfolding events. The teachers had broad demands which brought in other public sector employees in West Virginia who supported them on the picket lines.

It is this strategy of action and solidarity that made it possible to continue the strike even after the official union leadership called for it to end. After the leadership struck a deal that was unacceptable to the membership they didn’t hang their heads and go back to work, they continued the strike as a “wildcat”. A “wildcat” is a strike that is called without the approval of the local, national or international union leadership. This tactic was common in the past and crucial to the strength of the labor movement in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s but has been suppressed and forgotten in more recent years.

In the end the teachers won a 5% pay increase which was approved not just for teachers but for all State employees. They did it by remembering the lessons of the past, not just the lessons of the labor movement but other movements of working people like the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s as well.

That lesson is this: the rules are often written not for us, but against us. They are written by politicians who line their pockets with donations from big business. They are written by companies that want to drive down wages and erode conditions to maximize their profits. They are written by so called union leaders who want to advance their own career no matter the expense to the workers they are supposed to represent.

But these rules are also arbitrary. They exist only as long as we let them exist and they can be overcome when we realize the power of our solidarity. This is what we are going to have to do if we want to rebuild a powerful labor movement that can defeat attacks like “right to work”.

There is an analogy that I think best illustrates this point. To a lion, the whip of the lion tamer seems too powerful to overcome. The lion might believe that for weeks or even for years, and during that time he will do what the lion tamer says. But we know that the lion is much greater than the whip, and the tamer knows this as well. All the lion has to do is realize it.

Harry Bridges Prowls the Stacks at Powell’s

This article is found in Trouble Maker’s Handbook 2, published by Labor Notes, and is reproduced here with permission.

Imagine if the call was for Henry Miller…

by Michael Ames Connor

Harry Bridges works at Powell’s Books. He keeps an eye out for fellow workers. At least, that’s what they say.

The story, repeated by many members of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 5, goes something like this: Every once in a while, over the store intercom, comes a page for Harry Bridges. “Harry Bridges to manager Block’s office.” “Harry Bridges to the loading dock.” It’s a pretty good intercom system, so everyone can hear it.

These union folks who work at Powell’s — clearks, booksellers, loaders, techno-cats, and book buyers — they know, together, a little about everything: cooking, fly fishing, Japanese poetry, and labor history. They know about Harry Bridges. People know Bridges has been dead for years. But they know his reputation — fierce ILWU fighter who led the 1934 longshore strike that established the union. Part of joining ILWU means learning a little about their union and learning what Harry Bridges stands for: members know that if he’s going to check out the loading dock, they should too.

When they get there (and it’s usually 30 or 40 people who show up), they find one of their co-workers in a little difficulty with the boss. A disagreement, an argument, a confrontation. Before they show up, maybe that co-worker is in a little trouble. Maybe the boss is taking a hard line, getting ready to make an example, thinking about tossing a troublemaker out the door. That’s why Harry Bridges gets the call.

So 30 or 40 people show up, and the manager backs down. Happens every time. With one or two people there, the boss can do what he likes. But with 30 or 40 people, as Arlo Guthrie once pointed out, you got yourself a movement.

Nobody’s ever seen Harry Bridges at Powell’s. They just know he’s there, watching to make sure nobody gets picked on, or picked off.

 

Solidarity at IBEW LU 46

Looks like there is some solidarity developing at IBEW LU 46! Last week Rank & File members put forward a motion to declare Wednesdays as Union Pride Day. The motion specifically asked the Local’s leadership to send out a “robodial” to their membership asking the members to wear IBEW t-shirts each and every Wednesday starting this week.

This is an effort to show unity for a strong Sound & Comm contract as the unit goes back into negotiations in November. When the Inside Wire unit joins in this effort, not only does it support the Sound & Comm unit, it will also help get Inside Wire members geared up for their contract negotiations starting early next year. If you are with IBEW make sure you and your coworkers wear a union shirt, button, or hardhat sticker starting this Wednesday.

Don’t have a union shirt or sticker? You can show your commitment to solidarity by not wearing the company clothing on Wednesdays, or by wearing a button if you have a company uniform!