Part 1: What can the District Council do to sign non-union employers, increase market share and increase employment for its members?
We must stop 'ignoring' work that we can not unionize at our 'commercial rates'. We must identify and control the entry points into the NYC construction markets. We must demonstrate to all carpentry contractors working in our geographical jurisdiction that their work is noticed and being tracked. That we will not tolerate them in our city when their wage, benefits, and/or working conditions are not equal or better than ours.
There are four major divisions in the construction markets: large public works (highway; dams; bridges; etc.); industrial/ heavy commercial (airports; factories; warehouses; very large office/mixed-use buildings); light commercial (small neighborhood restaurants; mom-and-pop-shops; deli's, small office buildings; 3-4 family homes; etc.); residential (1-2 family homes). We are able to command the highest wages with 'highway' and 'industrial/heavy'. We are not able to command the same wages in light commercial market and, even less so, in the residential market. This, however, does not mean we should ignore these markets, the contractors, or their employees. In doing so we allow for and encourage the small non-union companies to prosper. We need to unionize companies at or near their infancy. We must not allow them the opportunity to build a financial and clientèle base. This will allow them to resist unionization more heartily. When well-established companies work in our geographical jurisdiction we need to mobilize against them as soon as possible. We must demonstrate to our communities that it is in our collective best interest to have our communities' structures better constructed by unionized labor.
With thousands to tens of thousands of projects occurring simultaneously within the geographical jurisdiction of the NYCDCC, it is not possible for a few dozen organizers to handle this number of jobs. Even with hundreds of organizers the task is still not plausible. The only way we can begin to cover the entirety of NYC and vicinity is to inform and empower the entirety of the membership.
It is inefficient and ineffectual to watch for and attempt to organize work by targeting each job or even each company. There must be an operational plan in place to automatically detect and notify us that carpentry work is being performed within our area. Of great assistance to this plan would be the weekly data of projects produced by the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB). With this info it would be very easy and quick to discover what companies are working in NYC, when, where, for how large a project, and for how much. We would then begin to coordinate our unionization efforts with simple letters of introduction to the contractor letting them know they are being monitored, to leafleting to their workers and the community, to informational and area standards picketing, to full-out rallies.
We must encourage members to be more knowledgeable and trained not just with carpentry skill but also 'unionization' skills. We must develop and implement a program to certify members to set-up and operate picket lines. A training program that will train members as to what are legal and illegal actions and speech at a picket line and rallies, as well as work with other trades and the communities. The training program would include a method to certify members as Picket Line Coordinators (PLC's). PLC's would have the necessary skills to set-up and operate the picket lines and to coordinate with the Organizing Department. Organizers, for the most part, would then be PLC managers. Thereby, enabling them to manage multiple picket lines simultaneously.
Part 2: What is your position on full mobility? Please explain why you are for it, against it or are undecided or indifferent.
I am against 'Full Mobility' because I view it to provide contractors additional opportunities to: 1) commit age, race, and sex discrimination; 2) violate health and safety laws; 3) implement production quotas; 4) violate our agreements, amongst other reasons.
There are three major components that have been proposed to address 'Full Mobility' corruption: Scanners, Certified Payrolls, and a Labor Management Corp.
Scanners: There are two conditions for use: 1) worker on-site; 2) worker not on-site. The scanner can be duped very easily both ways, just like a paper steward report. On jobs where the employer desires workers on-site to remain 'hidden' the steward simply would not scan a members card. On jobs where the employee desires to appear to be on-site when absent the steward simply would scan a photocopy of a members card. However, admittedly both situations hinge upon the steward's complicity. The scanner does not prevent corruption. It only changes the speed at which information is submitted.
Certified Payrolls: While it will be helpful with members scanned-in, it will not eliminate fraud with members not scanned-in. If a different account is used to pay workers that were not scanned-in then the certified payroll has been completely bypassed.
Labor Management Corp. (LMC): The LMC will have limited funding which will be based upon the participants and will thereby have a small number of workers. When the LMC eventually detects or is notified of possible fraud they then will have to begin an investigation when possible. Constricting the number of workers involved is likely to cause th process to take longer and/or at additional costs.
Essentially, we have had 'Full Mobility' or near 'Full Mobility' for many years now through the International Agreement or the 'Request System'. Giving the employer complete control over the selection of the workforce, with the exception of the steward, will only compound our problems; not solve them. Additionally, with 'Full Mobility' and most of our council representatives for it, the steward will often be 'between a rock and a hard place'; often seemingly ineffective and alone when attempting to address job site issues.
I view the relationship of the union and the employer as a partnership where we are supposed to meet one another half way. With being a union our systems must work for all capable carpenters, not just 'the best of the best' or the 'connected'. 'Full Mobility' does not work toward this goal. It further distances us from it. I view it as anti-union. It further converts our labor organization into an employment agency.
Moreover, members may feel more and more pressured to not notify the union of agreement and law violations because of the lack of connections to work elsewhere with other companies and/or the decrease in OWL dispatches relative to the percentage of companies participating in the 'Full Mobility' program. Older, non-white, female, and 4th year apprentices are the most likely to be affected with reduced job opportunities. Furthermore, when members do notify the union of agreement and law violations, companies will know who the 'trouble-makers' are and their employment opportunities will be reduced as well.
Part 3: What can be done to help ensure that pension and health benefits will not be reduced in the future? If you do not believe that they will have to be reduced, please explain why.
First, we must assess whether the contributions to the Benefit Funds package can be reallocated to prevent or reduce the erosion of the pension and welfare funds.
Second, an evaluation of the costs of services must be conducted to determine whether: 1) unused or underused services can be eliminated; 2) equal or better services can be negotiated for less; 3) equal or better services can be purchased elsewhere.
Third, we must increase the contributions into the Benefit Funds by increasing the number if hours worked and, if possible, increase the contribution rate.
Part 4: Can corruption in the District Council be ended once and for all and if so, how?
No. To state otherwise would be an admittance of naivety. It, however, can be nearly eliminated.
All societies have members that have a distorted sense of entitlement. All societies have people that will attempt to take what is not theirs or more than their fair share.
We must implement systems that detect, prevent, notify, and remedy incompetence and corruption. A key component to these systems is transparency/disclosure. Any activity that the memberships affect or by which the membership is affected must be transparent and disclosed to the membership, not withstanding the disclosing of private or confidential information.
We must implement systems of transparency and disclosure so that the members will expect to be notified of particular information and will notice its absence. No system is likely to be perfect to catch all corruption. However, systems can easily be implemented that will cause people to refrain from committing corruption and to catch it sooner rather than later.
[Essay updated with spelling corrections and expanded commentary.]
[Essay updated with spelling corrections and expanded commentary.]