Union Carpenters Losing Their Pension

The carpenters pension plan in Western Washington is going down the tubes. This comes after the carpenters pension plan has already been abandoned in Alaska. Here, Bill Knowles explains part of the reason why. I think there are a couple of things that should be added to what he says:

1)On the failure to organize: This is not because the union leadership hasn’t invested money into what it calls “organizing”; it’s because they are going about it in the completely wrong way. They are hell-bent on keeping the contractors happy rather than fighting for the members. So how can they overcome the resistance of the contractors if they can’t and won’t mobilize their own members in a serious way, when “serious” means disrupting construction?
2)We should add to the three reasons that Bill Knowles mentions a fourth one: As part of their strategy of keeping the contractors happy, they settle every contract on the cheap. As a result, they are not forcing the contractors to put enough money into the pension plan.
What is happening in the Pacific Northwest, what has already happened in Alaska is just the warning for all of the union and, in fact, for all the building trades. As part of the union leadership’s determination to keep the contractors happy, they are determined to relieve the contractors of any responsibility for the unfunded liability of the pension plans throughout the US and Canada. Either organize to fight to change the direction of our union or lose it all!

Categories: labor

2 replies »

  1. it’s always a pleasure to hear from our union brothers in the Bay Area,the work that has been done there should be both a lesson and a caution to us all. Unfortunately the wildcat strike that occurred there a few years ago failed to build a long term movement against the reactionary elements that still dominate the Carpenter’s there locally. Members were expelled, including some very long term organizers, mostly because of their affiliation with left political parties, If, as the speaker in this video suggests there is going to be a need to “put down the tools”, there needs to be a ongoing organization within the union that builds towards that. It is important NOT to believe that this represents some kind of “vanguard” movement of the working class. It is simply workers acting in their own self interest to protect their wages, hours and working conditions. The attempts by left movements who wish to claim these movements as their “children” and to control these groups of union carpenters is not founded in reality. These are movements of the educated and organized working class and not part of some vanguard movement; they have different objectives and different dynamics. Remember that this is a movement of the carpenters, by the carpenters and for the carpenters, which should not be influenced, controlled or claimed by some political party of the left

    • I was the one who was expelled from the union, and there is not the slightest evidence that my expulsion was related to my being involved in a group called Labor’s Militant Voice at that time. In fact, none of my fellow carpenters ever even mentioned that as being the cause. That’s because that tiny group was not in itself ever a real threat. The fact is that I believe I was targeted because of my long history of opposing the leadership and because of my role in that particular wildcat strike and because the strike, itself, was such a threat to the entire strategy of the union leadership. That strategy was and remains trying to keep the union going by guaranteeing a steady, reliable supply of skilled carpenters at a not-too-expensive price to the contractors. If union carpenters are going to take job action, that upsets their entire apple cart.

      “Anexarchus” writes that the wildcat “failed to build a long term movement.” That is only partly true; there was a movement that continued for a year or so after the strike, although it’s true that it didn’t continue to this day. What “Anaxarchus” seems not to recognize is that movements are not built simply because a few people want it; the objective conditions have to be there. Just as we explained in the article about the wildcat strike and in the video on it that are on this web site, it was the objective condition of full employment that made the wildcat possible in the first place. How a new movement to change not only the carpenters union but the entire labor movement can be built is a different and very long story. Yes, the will and the understanding have to be there but so do the right objective conditions.

      John Reimann
      former Recording Secretary and expelled member, Carpenters Local 713

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