TCL Statement on UBCJA Western WA Pension Fiasco

[The following can be downloaded and printed in as the original leaflet in PDF format PDF

Stand up for our Defined Benefit Pensions!

Fight to Organize for the Interests of Carpenters and the Working Class!

We need to create a democratic organization independent of the union leadership that will bring power to carpenters and all working people. This organization must be truly democratic and transparent, and the leaders must be held accountable for their actions. It must spread the truth: the interests of workers are diametrically opposed to the interests of the bosses.

Our pensions are having funding problems because our union leaders have become too close to our bosses.

Our union leaders such as Executive Secretary/CEO Doug Tweedy (yes he calls himself a CEO now) and General President Douglas McCarron have for decades, hammered home the lie that we cannot be confrontational with our bosses and that we must instead listen to them as partners. According to the latest Northwest Carpenter magazine our “negotiations” are grounded by this lie—and its why we didn’t put a nickel into our pensions or our health and welfare last year. Our pensions were deliberately defunded (along with the healthcare fund and the other benefits workers demanded) to give our employers an enormous discount on labor during the largest building boom in Seattle’s history.

2014 Tweedy

The long and the short regarding our pensions is that our “leadership” thinks the plan is “obsolete” and should be dumped for something weaker.

According to elected trustee Evelyn Shapirio, the defined benefit pension is “obsolete”, and is obsolete for unions all across the nation because many unions have mismanaged these funds and never bothered to shore them up; and Congress, the body of scoundrels, backstabbers, and jackals who grovel at the feet of Wall Street, continue to screw us over. According to her and her boss, who have a separate, secure international pension that is over 90% funded—our defined benefit pension is a part of an obsolete “union culture,” and we need to “let go of that culture”

Furthermore, a scheme is being considered by the six-figure salaried council, to switch thousands of Western Washington carpenters off of the most secure retirement that workers have ever had, to something called a “variable annuity.” There will be two ways of getting those thousands of carpenters to go along. 1) The carrot: The idea that a variable annuity can be very rewarding if the economy never crashes ever again, and a three legged unicorn hops over Wall Street’s double rainbow 2) The stick: If you don’t switch, you’ll lose everything. What do Wall Street’s savvy investors think of the variable annuity retirement plans? According to Forbes Magazine, those plans are junk.

The problems are bigger than the pension and there is no quick fix. We must all organize and fight for an organization that we can truly call our own

The pension crisis is only the latest symptom of a deeper crisis, the lack of education that we as workers have completely opposite class interests from our employers. These opposing class interests between the working class, and the employer class are at the center of the pension debacle. We as workers were left in the dark on our pensions, just as we get routinely left in the dark on our negotiating. We do not have the transparent, democratic union that we need in order to fight for our interests effectively. Instead we have an undemocratic union lead by opportunists and their flunkies that prefers to work hand-in-hand with the employers who make billions off our sweat and blood!

In their own words,

In the past, traditional bargaining has often been confrontational with employer and union representatives…But things have changed at the bargaining table..with a different model of negotiating called “Interest-Based Bargaining” (Northwest Carpenter)

Presently, there is movement to elect John Torkelson, the Financial Secretary of Local 30 to the position of Executive Secretary—the position that the 1980’s reformer Doug Tweedy, the now self-proclaimed CEO occupies. This movement is good, and so far John Torkelson has said publicly that one of the major problems in our union is the mistaken idea that business owners and workers must work together as partners. This campaign represents a small step forward and should be supported by all carpenters, but I must be candid: it will not solve our problems by a long shot. One way or another, John Torkelson is going to fail if we remain complacent. We cannot expect him to resist the pressures of our employers alone, or the pressures of the international leadership in Las Vegas. The more mass organization we can build, the more mass education we can spread among carpenters—the stronger his campaign will be. Not only that, the stronger we will be. We need to ensure that all of our union leaders who we support in the fight for our interests remain loyal and tied to the rank and file workers or there will be hell to pay.

We as carpenters have to organize ourselves. We have to have real, regular meetings that we are all determined to make. We have to build a democratic organization that is completely transparent and accountable with the right to immediately recall any officer who fails in doing their job. And moreover, those officers must not make more than the average carpenter, nor should they be on a different pension. Carpenters need to explain to each other, and to the apprentices that we are not partners with our bosses but rather the exploited party in the relationship and that there will never be a “fair” deal, rather, we must either fight to take total control over our industry as workers or we will beg for crumbs. I’m sorry to say that we can’t just elect someone, or depend on some mommy or daddy to make it all okay—we have to do this difficult undertaking ourselves. That’s real life.

Only with a democratic organization, that fights for our interests, can we turn the tables on not only our retirement but our standing in this industry as a whole. Only then, can we turn around the diminishing percentage of union workers which makes us weaker every year. I believe that only then will the carpenters in the field be willing to go from their jobsites in mass to meet, to plan and discuss real action to give both themselves and their families security and power. If we can organize ourselves, independent of the fraudulent union leadership, we will shake the very foundations of power in the Pacific Northwest and the nation. We will make our mark in history for all working people.

We need to hold our leaders and ourselves accountable, and the first way that we can guarantee any accountability is by forming a news and communications network. For this reason, I built The Control Line, a public blog for all trades which is also on Facebook. I would like to invite all carpenters to participate in it and help it grow. If there is a way to make it better, please let me know.

I also encourage others to write their own blogs to talk about the union and industry from the perspective of our interests—and I will gladly link to such blogs on The Control Line’s website.


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