Debate. Sweeney (left) and Sullivan differ over charters.

A plan by the AFL-CIO that would allow locals from national unions that disaffiliated from the labor federation to continue participating in central labor bodies is creating its own controversy.

Proposed Solidarity Charters, now under consideration by the AFL-CIO Executive Council, could enable local affiliates of the carpenters, teamsters and two other unions to continue participating in building trade councils, central labor councils and state federations (ENR 8/15 p. 14). But not every executive council member supports the charters as proposed. Several presidents of state AFL-CIO organizations also suggest fine-tuning is needed.

If the charters go forward as now proposed, local unions would have to pay the same dues on a per capita basis that it paid to those organizations when its parent was affiliated with the AFL-CIO. In addition to these regular payments, a new "solidarity fee" would be required, calculated at 10% of a local union’s per capita tax payments, with a minimum of five cents per member, per month. Officials of those unions could not hold elected office although members would continue to have the same voting and participation rights. The leadership element has one labor source questioning whether a local would "pay the premium if they can’t hold office."

James A. Williams, president of the painters’ union, says he is "vehemently opposed" to the charters. There can’t be a strong, unified labor movement unless everyone participates at all levels, he insists. "You’re either in or you’re out. You can’t be half pregnant," he says.

BCTD President Edward C. Sullivan is concerned that the solidarity charters do not take into consideration the different labor issues in the construction industry and service and industrial businesses. In a letter to AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney and executive council members, Sullivan says that a local construction union receiving a solidarity charter to reaffiliate with a building trade council must also comply with BCTD jurisdictional dispute resolution procedures. Sullivan also wants BCTD to decide the amount of per capita dues that the affiliate pays to a trades council it participates in and the department.

Sullivan says the 13 remaining building trade union presidents will meet shortly after Labor Day to discuss the proposed charters and determine if the proposal "needs to be modified in the best interest of our industry."

(Photos above courtesy of BCTD/Harry Brett)