Local 57 Facts

UBC deserts organized labor!

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Shame on Terry Nelson!

St Louis Business Journal

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Originally publsihed in the St Louis Business Journal on June 25, 2010

Labor's Business

It’s hard to believe that the man who publicly embarrassed St. Louis’ labor community is none other than a labor leader who heads a powerful union.

It’s hard to tell which is the greatest of carpenters district council chief Terry Nelson’s sins: falsely claiming labor costs are 28 percent higher here than in Chicago or creating labor strife with his union brethren Electrical Workers Local 1.

Both place our region in jeopardy.

Do you really think the Democrats will choose St. Louis as the site of their convention while there’s a labor turf war taking place? And those are the Democrats!

Outside investors who have choices of which developments to back look to minimize risks. Mr. Nelson seems intent on creating strife.

Labor observers say there’s a national backdrop that pits carpenters against the AFL-CIO all over the country. We don’t pretend to understand the subtleties of union work rules or the jurisdictional disputes. Theoretically we can tell the difference between carpentry and electrical work but quality craftsmanship is really the issue.

Mr. Nelson is called a bully by some, worse by others. In the past, he’s put his money where his mouth is. For example, the carpenters were among the investors of failed developer John Steffen.

But now he seems intent on tearing down the city, putting jobs and ultimately labor at risk: “If this feuding continues the door will be flung open to major non-union contractors who flood into town with their own work crews,” predicts Ed Finkelstein, publisher of the St. Louis Labor Tribune in a front page editorial this week.

And it could get worse, he writes: “...the livelihood of some 30,000 plus union workers and their families will be in serious jeopardy.”

St. Louis has a strong labor tradition. A new generation of labor leaders touts sustainability and teaches technology. All in the name of jobs.

It’s not business that’s in the way. It’s not environmentalists. It’s not the media.

This is a problem caused by labor. It must be solved by labor.

The livelihood of some 30,000-plus union workers and their families will be in serious jeopardy.

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Last Updated on Saturday, 10 July 2010 13:16

Abrupt consolidation raises questions locally

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Posted on Wed, Jul. 21, 2010

Carpenters District Council of KC dissolves

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 council’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 Carpenters’ 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 Carpenters’ 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 Davis’ tenure.

Wilson, who had been part of the Kansas City council, said the merger would help the local union members and might “create more work opportunities.”

“It’s about creating a more effective use of our resources, administratively and out in the field,” he said. “Carpenters who are currently working and picking up a paycheck won’t be affected by this.”

Nevertheless, the district council’s sudden dissolution and Davis’ removal from authority had local labor leaders wondering about what internal conflicts led to this week’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 “raiding.” A squabble surfaced last year during the Arrowhead Stadium renovation project, when the Carpenters union posted a “No Contract” banner because it wanted to do work that had been assigned to the Sheet Metal Workers Local 2.

“Whether 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,” said Louie Wright, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 42. “It’s hard to imagine that his absence won’t affect that landscape to some degree.”

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 -

St. Louis Carpenters Council expands to KC and beyond

by steve giegerich • This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it > 314.340.8172 | Posted: Thursday, July 22, 2010 12:00 am

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.

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Last Updated on Friday, 23 July 2010 07:51


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Fulfilling an obligation to be a voice against what threatens us all

by Ed Finkelstein, publisher St Louis/Southern Illinois Labor tribune

Originally published in the St Louis/Southern Illinois Labor tribune VOL 73 No. 48


It is with great sadness that we have to report on the details of the carpenter/electrician story in this week’s issue. . The Labor Tribune’s historic policy is to avoid jurisdictional issues between unions. What started as a jurisdictional issue between the carpenters and the electricians, however, has exploded way beyond that. For the last two years that this issue has been brewing, we did not report on developments as they were occurring, hoping that cooler heads would prevail and it would be settled “within the family.” But when a face-to-face meeting between the two union’s General Presidents failed to bring a peaceful resolution, we found ourselves standing at a crossroads of conscience asking, “What’s the right thing to do here?” Continue looking at the easier path of anguished, quiet hope, or the more challenging one of speaking out because to remain silent is to let harm survive. The “right thing to do” became obvious when the Carpenters leadership here made several decisions that changed the entire playing field:

• They launched an electricians local within their union, the first time in America (that we are aware of) that one trade has made such a blatant effort to move in on another trade’s traditional work.

• They took in non-union electrical contractors and deliberately created a sub-standard contract for them to undercut long-negotiated IBEW wages and benefits.

• They expanded their raiding efforts for this new electricians “local” by trying to entice union contractors who had existing bargaining agreements with IBEW Local I to join them.

• They launched a brazen assault on the unionized construction industry by publicly degrading every building trades worker with the false charge that because of alleged low productivity here on the part of our building trades workers, it is more expensive to build here than in Chicago. They claimed that St. Louis was losing industry because of it.

However, construction industry experts and the records refute that allegation. At this point, the AFL-CIO Building Trades Department in Washington said “enough” and organized a Unity Rally in St. Louis that is reported in great detail in this issue. With this major turning point, it was not feasible for the Labor Tribune to ignore what had become the biggest St. Louis labor story of the year. As a result of our recent reporting and editorials on this issue, the Labor Tribune has been accused by the Carpenters’ leadership of “attacking the carpenters,” a union that was the founding base of our newspaper 73 years ago. Our reporting is NOT an attack on rank-and- file carpenters. As noted in this issue, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters has been praised as a great union, and they are. What is being challenged is the Carpenter leadership’s tactic of hacking at the foundations of trade unionism that will hurt every union member, whether in construction or not. While it is with great regret that we have to report on this story, we are fulfilling our obligation to be a voice against what threatens us all. We plan on covering this issue until a fair resolution is reached. In labor disputes, wise heads get labor and management to sit down and work towards a resolution. We’ve seen worse fights than this get resolved where both sides walk away with a decision that creates winners all around. Nothing would please us more than to have a resolution to this unfortunate conflict as the next story the Labor Tribune reports.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 11 July 2010 20:45

Page 17 of 18


"Because they told me I could give them my money, I could pay my per capita tax and I could come to their meetings, but I couldn't vote. I said,-...'Scuse me?"

Nelson responds to the Post Dispatch journalist Repps Hudson's question as to why the St Louis Carpenters District Council are not in the AFL-CIO. Hey Nelson, now you know how your rank-and-file carpenters feel!