In the Fall of 2018, the Union Democracy Review reported on a civil action being adjudicated before the Superior Court of New Jersey regarding a whistleblower within the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC). The man’s name was John Ballantyne and was Executive Secretary Treasurer of the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters (NRCC) from his election in 2015 until his termination in 2018. Ballantyne, in his capacity as executive secretary treasurer, investigated several employees of the NRCC for such crimes as embezzlement of union funds and “self-dealing” for the purpose of getting a paycheck and pension concurrently. Finding other leaders in the union unwilling to properly pursue these charges and bring them to the attention of law enforcement, Ballantyne contacted the Departments of Justice and Labor and the IRS to investigate the abovementioned alleged crimes. His reward was a termination (along with his assistant and fellow whistleblower from the UBC’s Human Resources Department) on October 1st, 2018. He and the two other fired colleagues filed a civil action against the UBC on the grounds that the latter violated the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) by retaliating against the former. The suit was eventually settled out of court.
The case has gained new relevance, however, in light of a round of terminations done by the UBC in March of this year. The timing of the terminations and their temporal proximity to COVID-19’s most damaging stretch in New Jersey and the New York Tri state area is not incidental. The sacked parties were all informed their respective terminations were due to the coronavirus and the resulting lockdowns. Like their precursors, five of those fired are not taking their treatment sitting down. Left unsaid by the employer is the fact that these members were all former allies of the abovementioned John Ballantyne. Indeed, one them is Justin Ballantyne, John’s son, a sixteen year veteran of union carpentry and, like his father, a loud voice in the union calling for both transparency vis a vis the union leadership’s behavior and more accountability for UBC members and employees voicing sexism, racism, and other forms of bigotry.
The other four members of the suit against the United Brotherhood of Carpenters are all, as stated in the legal brief filed in their favor, “…friends, relatives, colleagues, and supporters of John Ballantyne and his efforts to protect union funds from fraud and embezzlement”. Such plaintiffs include Anthony Verrelli, Alex Lopez, Vanessa Salazar, and Susan Schultz; active members of the Carpenters all and advocates of reform and a UBC better representative of the union rank and file, as well. According to the legal team of the above group of individuals, their reward was much the same as Ballantyne the elder’s was when he attempted to blow the whistle on their union’s leadership apathy or active participation in corruption. First, they were harassed with accusations of having betrayed the union or informing for the government to that end. As well, several of the plaintiffs claim credible evidence that the UBC’s higher ups actually placed tracking devices on the formers’ cars and computer software. Finally, all were dismissed by the UBC on March 27th with the justification that such layoffs were due to COVID-19, despite the fact that members of the NRCC with less seniority continue to work with assignments arranged by their locals.
As a result, Ballantyne, Verrelli, Lopez, Salazar, and Schultz are seeking remuneration for their troubles before the Superior Court of New Jersey of Essex County, claiming the United Brotherhood of Carpenters has violated the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act and the New Jersey Law of Discrimination. Their case awaits adjudication.