Team. McCarron, center, joins O’Sullivan and Teamster’s Hoffa. (Photo courtesy of Change To Win Coalition)

The carpenters’ move, while not unexpected, comes just weeks before the AFL-CIO convention where proposals for significant reforms are expected. On June 27, the AFL-CIO’s 54-member executive council approved two proposals for convention consideration. One increases resources for organizing and grassroots political action and a second supports increased leadership diversity. Officials also approved a two-year budget to fund the programs, including a 25% staff reduction.

But those reforms do not go far enough, say leaders of the dissident unions who formed the coalition and separately have offered their own reform packages that also focus on organizing and building political muscle. Some of those leaders claim they will withdraw their respective unions from the AFL-CIO if its current president, John J. Sweeney, is reelected. Sweeney’s reelection bid now seems all but certain. The carpenters union withdrew from the AFL-CIO in 2001 citing differences with its leadership.

The carpenters are "proud to join with the most dynamic unions in the country," McCarron said June 27. "Our union is about building power and strength for working men and women and that is what the Change to Win Coalition is all about." Coalition members, which include the laborers, teamsters, service employees, food and commercial workers, and hospitality and textile workers, have adopted bylaws and a constitution. Election of officers will follow (ENR 6/27p. 13).

Some labor observers have wondered if the coalition was created to serve another purpose, including a home for the carpenters if they do not agree to rejoin the AFL-CIO by a July convention deadline. If the union does not reafilliate, it will be forced to withdraw from the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Dept. There also is speculation that the laborers might depart BCTD if the carpenters are expelled.

In a recent memo to members, Laborers’ President Terence M. O’Sullivan says he has "no intention of withdrawing" from the AFL-CIO, and that the union will "work from within the AFL-CIO as well as being a member of Change to Win Coalition." His memo does not discuss BCTD participation.

The likelihood that at least one union will leave BCTD has caught the attention of contractor groups and owners.

Other building trades unions worry about possible work disruptions and jurisdictional disputes if the carpenters leave.

One union chief told the Associated General Contractors he was worried about a "vertical agreement" the carpenters recently signed with Archer Daniels Midland to build a $400-million cogeneration plant in Clinton, Iowa. The agreement reportedly eliminated the electrical workers, laborers and operative plasterers and cement masons. "Agreements such as this one signal a clear race to the bottom and neither the labor movement nor the employers will ultimately be able to survive the outcome if it continues," the union president wrote to AGC.

Building trades leaders are meeting regularly with union presidents formally and informally, say several sources. All options are on the table and they are preparing for every eventuality, including how to adjust the budget if per capita dues from any union are lost, says one labor source.

"I just hope [McCarron] chooses not to leave the house of labor," says BCTD President Edward C. Sullivan. "We’re stronger when we’re not divided. I will do anything in my power to make sure there are no disruptions on the job. We will continue to do the traditional work

of building trades." Sullivan notes that BCTD members have worked with carpenters inside and outside the department. "We have an industry that we want to keep going."

Change happens all the time, he adds, predicting that whatever happens, "We’ll adjust, we’ll be fine."

arpenters’ union President Douglas J. McCarron has made it official. The 530,000-member union is now the latest member of the Change to Win Coalition. The move strengthens the fledgling labor reform alliance and provides the carpenters with a formal platform to unite with unions outside of the building trades.