“Déjà vu all over again”
In 2014, Union Democracy Review covered an election controversy within local 157 of the carpenters union (UBC). Bill Walsh, a longtime member of local 157 of the New York City District Council of Carpenters (NYCDCC) was running for Recording Secretary. Walsh won the election handily and prepared himself to assume the responsibilities of his office. Almost immediately, however, a complaint was filed against him for not meeting the proper prerequisites to run, let alone hold union office. In Walsh’s case, the specific complaint was his “not working in the trade.”
The complaint was brought before the UBC international general president (GP) Doug McCarron, who upheld the objections to Walsh’s candidacy. Walsh, believing he had no further recourse in the union as the top officer had ruled, appealed to the NYC District Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS) disputing the factual basis for the finding that he did not work enough hours to be deemed “working in the trade.” OLMS provided no help however, claiming the candidate had not fully exhausted his internal union remedies, by failing to appeal the McCarron ruling. Therefore OLMS refused to take the complaint. Walsh was unaware he should have appealed since McCarron was the UBC General President and highest authority. There was no appeal process that he was aware of.
In 2014, Walsh was able to overcome this obstacle. The rerun election was held later that year and in the interim Walsh made sure he worked the enough hours so there would be no dispute. Once again, Walsh was elected by the membership as Recording Secretary and, this time, a working in the trade complaint was not issued.
Fast forward to 2017, at the end of his three-year term, Walsh found himself in the same boat. He ran for re-election and hoped to retain his seat with the approval of the membership. He achieved just that, running unopposed and winning the election by default, on May 18th, 2017, the date of the nomination meeting.
However, Walsh was cited in another “working in the trade” complaint, filed on May 23rd, by two local members whom Walsh says are both friends of the NYCDCC leadership (with whom Walsh is quite unpopular). The protests again cited Walsh’s semi-retired status and cited his collection of his pension as proof positive of his “out of work” status.
Again the protests went to UBC General President Doug McCarron. Then, by letter dated June 14th, McCarron ruled against Walsh, finding him ineligible to have been nominated as his investigation determined that Walsh was not “working in the trade.” A new election was held, of course, without Walsh.
Recalling his prior experience with the NYC OLMS, Walsh made sure to appeal the decision by McCarron to McCarron, writing the aforementioned GP a letter dated July 7th, a letter that challenges the decision of ineligibility and lays out a set of facts to dispute the finding of failing to “work in the trade.” McCarron responded to Walsh by letter dated July 12th: not on the merits, but rejecting the appeal based on the fact that Walsh had no grounds to file such an appeal in the first place, as the GP’s earlier, June 14th decision was final!
Walsh therefore, quite sure he had fully exhausted all internal procedures, took his complaint to the NYC OLMS, expecting to finally get a hearing on the merits of his case.
OLMS however, never addressed the merits. It again asserted that Walsh did not completely exhaust his union’s internal remedies. This time, OLMS cited a provision in the UBC Constitution that says an election complaint must be filed within 30 days after the date of the election. According to OLMS, the “election” was held on May 18th, when Walsh was nominated, unopposed, for office.
OLMS cited the July 7th date on Walsh’s internal union complaint, calling it untimely; finding that he should have invoked his internal union remedies on or before June 17, thirty days after the election, in accordance with the UBC Constitution. But the facts are that the union did not overturn Walsh’s election until June 14, so Walsh had no reason to file a complaint before then. Moreover, Walsh may not have found out about his disqualification until receiving the McCarron letter, which could have been several days later. Therefore, it appears that Walsh’s date of invocation should have been no earlier than June 14, and he should have been given 30 days from that date to file his complaint, in which case his July 7th letter would have been timely.
OLMS’ letter to Walsh adds, in a footnote, that the person who filed the protest against Walsh would have had 30 days after June 14th to go to the OLMS if McCarron had ruled in favor of Walsh. Why wouldn’t Walsh have had the same 30 days after he received a final letter from McCarron? AUD requested further explanation from OLMS, which has said it is standing by its decision, and offered no further explanation. Walsh is exploring his options.