By Miriam Lazewatsky
On April 15, 2014, United Brotherhood of Carpenters International President McCarron denied an election protest by Bill Walsh, former Local 157 Officer and Delegate to the NYCDCC (New York City District Council of Carpenters). Walsh was attempting to participate in a February 2014 re-run election for the very position he was removed from in October 2013. Walsh won election to the position of NYCDCC Delegate in June 2013, but was removed four months later by the International for allegedly failing to meet the “working in the trades” eligibility criterion. The International says it investigated Walsh’s eligibility and determined that Walsh had not worked enough hours to be eligible for office and should not have been allowed to run. Walsh, an outspoken critic of the policies of General President McCarron and the Council leadership, is a longtime member of Carpenters Local 157 in New York. In June of 2013 he ran for and was elected to the position of Delegate to the District Council. Walsh had attempted to run for Financial Secretary of Local 157 in an earlier February 2013 election but was declared ineligible by Douglas McCarron for failing to meet its working in the trade eligibility rule. But in March 2013 Walsh, who was collecting a union disability pension, began working in the trade part time, which was allowable for disability pensioners. In the June 2013 delegate election Walsh was deemed to have met the working in the trade requirement by Local 157, was permitted to run, and won.
Not so fast. At the October 9, 2013 Delegate meeting, Walsh was notified that he was no longer allowed to fulfill his duties and was being removed from all official responsibilities, including Delegate to the NYCDCC. According to an order from UBC General President Doug McCarron, Local 157 and the Review Officer had erred in allowing Walsh to run. McCarron ordered a rerun of the entire delegate election, finding that Walsh’s candidacy “tainted” the entire vote. Walsh filed an internal protest.
Working in the trades requirements are relatively common bylaw statutes that require a potential candidate to be working in the trade represented by the union. The US Department of Labor’s Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS) states that any union implementing a working in the trades requirement also allow to run those members who are unemployed but actively seeing employment. The OLMS guidelines do not specifically address a situation like that of Walsh, partially disabled and receiving disability income. Walsh worked part time, and the Local deemed him to be working in the trade. Local 157, the Election Committee and the court-appointed Review Officer (RO) looked into Walsh’s hours worked, and declared him eligible to run in the June 2013 election. At the time, collecting partial disability did not affect a member’s ability to run for office, so long as the monthly work requirement was also met.
Then, in July 2013 the Pension Trustees of the NYCDCC changed the guidelines for members collecting disability, disallowing anyone collecting even partial disability from working any number of hours. According to Walsh, this was never an issue before in the history of the union but for some reason, it was now a concern. This rule will effectively disqualify anyone collecting any amount of disability income from meeting the working in the trades rule and running for office. Walsh requested to review the minutes of the Trustees’ meeting during which the Pension Plan provision on Disability Pensions and Return to Work rules were amended in order to better understand the reasoning behind this new change. His request was denied. In a response, Walsh asked for clarification, noting that the changes were not posted anywhere on the NYCDCC web site or in the most recent NYCDCC Benefits publication for members to review.
The NYCDCC is still under a Federal Consent Decree, issued in 1994. Review Officer Dennis Walsh (referred to as RO, to distinguish him from Bill Walsh) has been in place since 2011 in an oversight and investigative capacity related to the Stipulation and Order. The RO wrote to McCarron asking him to reconsider his ruling on Walsh. The RO originally had no objection to the Walsh candidacy for Delegate; however, he later refused to intervene in Walsh’s defense, claiming that the status of his candidacy is outside the scope of the RO’s powers under the Consent Decree and Stipulation.
“Depending on the trade for a livelihood” is a vague concept found in the UBC Constitution as well as Local 157’s bylaws. The UBC Constitution states that members are not eligible to run for office “unless working for a livelihood in a classification within the trade autonomy of the United Brotherhood as defined in Section 7 or in employment which qualifies him or her for membership, or is depending on the trade for a livelihood, or is employed by the organization as a full-time officer or representative; […] A member must have been twelve consecutive months a member in good standing immediately prior to nomination in the Local Union and a member of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America for two consecutive years immediately prior to nomination.”
Walsh states that he met the requirements set out by the both the UBC and Local 157. In addition to being a continuous member in good standing, he says he also worked enough hours to qualify, at least by his Local’s definition of a minimum of 39.5 hours per month. Additionally, Walsh was, at the time, serving as Recording Secretary Pro Tem, a full time position with financial compensation. Walsh wonders if his disqualification may actually be retaliation for his vocal criticism of the UBC Internationa
Walsh’s internal protest of the Oct. 2013 removal went nowhere and he has gone to the Department of Labor’s OLMS for review. He is awaiting a decision on that protest. His just denied protest of his prohibition from running in the re-run is also likely to wind up at OLMS.
In March of 2014 Walsh discontinued his disability pension and switched over to his regular pension, which will allow him to work in the trade for up to one week each month. Regular pensioners were not affected by the July 2013 rule change. Walsh notes that employees of the union, including elected officers, are able to draw their regular pension and work full time, without the one week per month limit that others receiving a pension are required to abide by.