A Carpenters Fight for Full Mobility

On March 11, 2013, Demian Schroeder filed a lawsuit against Michael Bilello and John DeLollis individually and as representatives of the New York City District Council of Carpenters (NYCDCC) and Association of Wall-Ceiling and Carpentry Industries of New York (Association), respectively. The suit hinges on Schroeder’s contention that Executive Secretary-Treasurer Bilello and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC) violated a 1994 Consent Decree and subsequent Court Order, entered into in 2009, requiring 33% of all hires on new contracts to come from the NYCDCC’s out of work list (OWL).

In May of 2011, the International released a proposed restructuring plan that would eliminate the 33%-67% hiring ratio required by the 2009 Court Order. Later that same year, Mike Bilello was elected Executive Secretary-Treasurer (EST) of NYCDCC on a platform that opposed so-called “full mobility” provisions that would allow contractors to bypass the union’s out of OWL when hiring for new jobs. Full mobility has advantages for carpenters who are company workers and do not rely on the OWL for work, but it poses a distinct disadvantage for workers who are often passed over, including older workers, women, and minorities.

Schroeder’s suit contends that the NYCDCC has failed to negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in good faith and have put forth a fraudulent vote of the Council Delegate Body ratifying a CBA containing over 50 blank pages. Instead, he says, the NYCDCC and Mike Bilello made agreements that are not in the best interest of the rank and file, making hiring from the OWL a punitive measure for contractors who have engaged in corrupt practices.

Review Officer Dennis M. Walsh, who has, by court order, acted in an oversight and investigative capacity relating to the NYCDCC for close to three years, submitted a letter on March 19th addressing the full mobility provision of the proposed CBA. Walsh argues that full mobility, implemented with strict compliance guidelines, would not create corruption risks for the NYCDCC. Walsh further argues that the original Consent Decree does not require specific hiring ratios, and is therefore not violated by full mobility. The Consent Decree, he maintains, is in place “to ensure that the District Council and its constituent local unions shall be maintained and run democratically and without lawful influence from outside its membership.” Although Walsh repeatedly notes that the hiring ratio is subject to the democratic processes of the NYCDCC, he also states that delegates have the authority to approve changes to the hiring system over the objections of the rank and file.

Many rank and file members wrote to the District Judge to voice their objections to full mobility, noting that the OWL serves an important purpose for working members. Referrals from the OWL help members get through slow periods by finding jobs they might not otherwise know about. It also prevents bias and discrimination against women, minorities, older workers, and those who have been vocal agitators against corruption and unfair labor practices.

Demian Schroeder and many others believe that full mobility is not in the best interest of the rank and file, yet has been pushed through by those in power who are less likely to be negatively impacted by the measure. They are doing everything in their power to maintain a required percentage of hires from the OWL list, despite pressure not only from union leadership, but also from the officer charged with ensuring that the union itself is run in a fair and just manner.

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