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Northern California Carpenters: Vote No Leaflet

Written by John Reimann Tuesday, 01 May 2007

Northern California carpenters have long complained about how their wages lag behind both the cost of living and the wages of other building trades workers. At present, our $32 per hour is as much as 25% less than the wages of many of the other trades. Also, our wages have not kept up with carpenters' living expenses. In the immediate bay area, houses typically sell for $500,000. In order to escape these massive prices, many carpenters have moved up to 100 miles away, where houses are cheaper. Now, they are being hit with the price of gas (close to $3.50 per gallon). On top of all this, almost all of the wage increases of recent years has gone towards keeping our pension and health care funds solvent. So it is, that when the Regional Council leadership announced a contract extension (to extend the current agreement until 2012), the wage increase of $1.00 to $1.50 per hour per year was not exactly met with great enthusiasm. On top of this, the union leadership proposes giving up the eight hour day for four ten hour days and a voluntary make-up day on the off day and/or Saturday in case of rain.

Typically, they are holding a mail-in vote on this contract. It should be noted that nobody can keep track of who is counting the ballots. More importantly, the ballot is sent out with pro-contract propaganda so members have no chance to hear all sides of the issue.

What lies behind this contract - just one in a long string of poor contracts - is the iron determination of the union leadership to mold the union into some sort of Labor Ready, temp employment agency. They are seeking to convince the contractors that they can get more built faster and at a "reasonable" wage by signing up with the union. As the Northern California Regional Council of Carpenters says on it's web site, they intend to be partners in construction with the employers.

In 1999, an even worse contract was pushed through, leading to a four day wildcat strike of some 2,000 carpenters throughout northern California. Already, in this instance, Local 713 (Hayward, CA) has voted to send a letter out to its members urging a "no" vote. Also, a small group of members is organizing outside the official channels. We will see where this all leads. Attached is a leaflet that this group of carpenters is handing out.

John Reimann
expelled member, Carpenters Local 713

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