Rep. Fawell Probes Rank-and-File’s Troubles

The House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations held the second in a series of hearings Jun. 25 that could lead to reform of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959. According to Rep. Harris W. Fawell (R-IL), the purpose is to explore concerns brought to the panel’s attention by rank-and-file union members regarding “problems they are having in retaining a full, equal and democratic voice in their union affairs.” This hearing focused on the restructuring program implemented in the United Brotherhood of Carpenters following Douglas McCarron’s election as president in 1995. McCarron imposed a program to merge local unions and district councils into regional councils. Now local union members no longer elect their local officials. Instead, local union officials are appointed by regional council officials who have been elected by delegates. McCarron placed the union’s district council in NY in trusteeship in Jun. 1996. Frederick DeVine, the former head of the district council, which had reputed ties to organized crime, has since been convicted on 6 of 9 felony charges.
John Ligouri, a member of Carpenters Local 20 on Staten Island was one of union witnesses who denounced the way UBC took over operation of the district council and accused McCarron of trampling union members’ Landrum-Griffin rights. International union officials entered district council offices at night, accompanied by armed guards, “with no warning or due process,” he said. This and related activities had a “chilling effect” on members’ rights of free expression, he said, adding that he was “horrified at the unprecedented Gestapo tactics” of UBC.

William Lebo, a member of Local 45 in Queens and vice president of the NY branch of Carpenters for Democracy, said McCarron’s takeover of the district council “had less to do with fighting corruption and more to do with…McCarron’s methodical creation of his personal and publicized goal of restructuring our union, which is no more than the building of his own private empire.” Lebo asserted that his outspoken activities opposing the international resulted in internal union charges being filed against him for which he was convicted in a “kangaroo court” and fined $1,500. Lebo recommended that the panel consider replacing “delegate bodies” in unions with “one-man, one-vote referendums.” [BNA Daily Labor Report 06/29/98]