“It’s like a bucket with a three inch hole that the water’s flowing out through, and we’re pouring water in through a one inch hole.” That’s how a Carpenter Union “organizer” described the situation.
All up and down the West Coast the evidence of that three inch hole is everywhere. In every major city, where once commercial construction was 100% union, now you see tower crane after tower crane for non-union jobs. I got to talking with a carpenter friend, and recalled an incident from years ago:
We were working on a dam spillway, and the company shifted our parking space to way down the hill. It was a steep incline, and the contractor refused to send a truck down to pick us up. So all the carpenters got together and decided we wouldn’t walk up the hill till start time. One of the few times, we all stuck together.
The foreman was furious. “I should fire you all,” he said, but we knew that wasn’t happening. We were all feeling pretty proud of ourselves. Then the business reps came out – both of them.
They spent a half hour talking with the foreman and superintendent. Never consulted with us, not even our steward. Then they came over to us and told us the company was right, that we had to be up at the top of the hill at start time. They took the wind completely out of our sails.
Since then, the Carpenters in Washington and Alaska have abandoned the pension plan. The contractors don’t have to pay into it anymore. That means it’s only a matter of time before the pension goes belly-up. Those won’t be the only ones. Other trades are planning the same thing, and this will spread throughout the Union. If not now, then when the next slump comes. And it’s exactly that pension that serves as a powerful tie, binding the carpenter to the union even when she or he is unemployed. Anybody who doesn’t think this will spread to other areas had better think twice. So, on the job, the members don’t get any support and in the contracts we’re keeping on going backwards.
Back to that three inch hole: The “organizers” can do everything they like, but as long as the policy of the union is to keep the contractors happy and the members be damned, that three inch hole will remain (if it doesn’t get bigger) and the one inch hole won’t get any larger.