I Was Expelled From the Carpenters Union (and kept on working)

Top: John Reimann (holding plaque) with his brother carpenters. Bottom: Carpenters General President Doug McCarron with Trump.
We all must pick a side.

I was expelled from the carpenters union in 2000. My experience might be helpful to those striking carpenters in Western Washington who are worried that if they violate the Council’s pro-contractor strategy they will be expelled.  Here’s what happened with me:

Some sisters and brothers may be worried about what it means to be expelled from the carpenters union. I was expelled from the union in 2000. I continued working until 2007, at which time I retired. In fact, as far as my pension contributions, those were some of the most productive years of my career. Here’s what happened:

In 1999, I led the 2,000 member carpenters wildcat strike in the San Francisco Bay area. Everything we did was a contract violation. We didn’t care about whether a job was a PLA job or not. In fact, the heart ad soul of the strike was the San Francisco International arrivals terminal. That was the biggest job in the country at that time. It was also a PLA job. We didn’t care. We shut it down anyway. In fact, it was the first job we shut down! Well, that’s not quite right: The carpenters on the job shut it down. In fact, the call for a wildcat strike originally came from them.

After the strike, I was brought up on charges for disobedience to authority. (I’ve been disobedient to authority since I was born.) I was expelled from the union for life. I kept on working under the full union contract anyway. I was granted the privilege of paying full union dues, but I couldn’t attend union meetings or vote in union elections or on contracts. But I was dispatched to jobs under the contract and received the full benefits just like any other member.

Legally, they couldn’t stop me from earning my living, and they didn’t try.

That’s not to say everybody will experience the same thing. They can illegally blackball you. That happened to a young brother in New York a few years ago. But they can do that – and have done that – to carpenters whether they were a union member or not.

For me, it was a big blow psychologically, because so much of my life was tied up in being active in the union. And it meant a lot politically too. But as far as my income? It didn’t affect me at all. And today, I am happily retired, getting my full pension, loving life, and visiting Seattle to help you brothers and sisters fight to win what you deserve. If my experience being expelled is any help, then I’m happy.


Categories: labor, Uncategorized

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