The Kansas City Star
The Carpenters District Council of Kansas City, a longtime fixture in local political matters and union issues, has dissolved, leaving most of its 14,000 members under the jurisdiction of the St. Louis Carpenters union.
The action occurred suddenly Tuesday under orders of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters in Washington, D.C., which oversees the carpenter district councils around the country.
The only reasons provided for dissolving the Kansas City district were to consolidate resources and provide more mobility for members and contractors to work in other parts of Missouri and Illinois.
In addition, the dissolution apparently results in the removal of Terry Davis as the Kansas City councilâ€™s executive secretary-treasurer. Davis has headed the local Carpenters council since 1992.
Davis could not be reached for comment.
Terry Nelson, executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Carpentersâ€™ District Council, now assumes that role in the Kansas City area, said Dave Wilson, assistant organizing director for the St. Louis council.
About 9,000 of the Carpenters union members in the Kansas City area, western Missouri and all of Kansas are now part of the St. Louis council, Wilson said.
The Kansas City district council also covered union members in western Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado and parts of Wyoming. Those members will now be part of district councils in Minneapolis and Phoenix.
The St. Louis Carpentersâ€™ council now has 27,000 members in Missouri, Kansas and southern Illinois.
The announcement stunned local labor leaders, who have watched the Carpenters district council expand and increase its political influence during Davisâ€™ tenure.
Wilson, who had been part of the Kansas City council, said the merger would help the local union members and might â€œcreate more work opportunities.â€
â€œItâ€™s about creating a more effective use of our resources, administratively and out in the field,â€ he said. â€œCarpenters who are currently working and picking up a paycheck wonâ€™t be affected by this.â€
Nevertheless, the district councilâ€™s sudden dissolution and Davisâ€™ removal from authority had local labor leaders wondering about what internal conflicts led to this weekâ€™s developments.
The national Carpenters union has long had a history as a renegade group, breaking from the AFL-CIO in 2001. The union joined the dissident labor federation Change to Win in 2005, but ended up dropping out of that labor group as well two years ago.
Under Davis, the Carpenters District Council of Kansas City has had a similar reputation of not always being in lockstep with other area unions. Throughout the years, the Carpenters union often posted informational pickets with huge banners chastising a business for not hiring union carpenters on a project.
The local Carpenters union also has had its share of run-ins with other construction unions, which have accused the Carpenters District Council of trying to recruit their members, commonly called â€œraiding.â€ A squabble surfaced last year during the Arrowhead Stadium renovation project, when the Carpenters union posted a â€œNo Contractâ€ banner because it wanted to do work that had been assigned to the Sheet Metal Workers Local 2.
â€œWhether you agreed with Terry Davis or not, the Carpenters union under his leadership has been a major force in organized labor and politics in the Kansas City area and the Midwest,â€ said Louie Wright, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 42. â€œItâ€™s hard to imagine that his absence wonâ€™t affect that landscape to some degree.â€Now compare the KC Star with the local St Louis Post Dispatch article reporting on the same issue where the dissolution is portrayed as a simple business move -
The embattled Carpenters' District Council of St. Louis announced Wednesday a merger that will expand the trade union's reach into Kansas City, Kansas and Southern Illinois.
Terry Nelson, the president of the council, will head the 27,000-member organization, redubbed the "Carpenters' District Council of Saint Louis and Vicinity."
The merger means the Carpenters' District Council of Kansas City and Vicinity will cease to exist.
"This was not hostile; it was a friendly business agreement," said Nelson.
The merger, orchestrated by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters headquarters in Washington, "will consolidate our resources to provide better services and extend mobility for our members and contractors," the council said in a prepared release.
Council spokesman Dave Wilson said union carpenters in western Iowa and Nebraska, once part of the Kansas City council, will be absorbed by the North Central States Regional Council, which encompasses Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Dakotas.
Nelson and Wilson both stressed that the merger is not connected to ongoing tension between the St. Louis council and other labor groups in the St. Louis region. "There's nothing sinister about this, it's just a consolidation of business practices," Nelson said.
The council is in the middle of a dispute that has fractured the relationship between the carpenters and organizations representing other building and construction trades in the region.
The dissension began two years ago when the carpenters, at Nelson's behest, formed a splinter electrical contractors association to compete with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1.
Leaders of area trade coalitions that have severed ties with the carpenters declined to comment on the merger.
Local 57 Facts contacted IBEW Local 1 and spoke with Organizer Frank Jacobs -"The Kansas City Star story has a very serious tone as apposed to the Post dispatch article that made it sound like a mild business move. There is something about the removal of a leader and changing the locks at the union hall that is not passive. Rumor has it the Secretary - Treasurer Terry Davis didn't want any part of local 57 because he had a good relationship with the building trades. You would think if the Davis was all for this you would see a comment in one of the articles."
Local 57 Facts would also like to correct the last line in the Post Dispatch article above by saying that it was Terry Nelson that severed ties with local area trade coalitions.Add a comment