As the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Dept. grapples with life without the carpenters and teamsters, a possible financial white knight could be on the way.

Machinists’ President R. Thomas Buffenbarger has approached BCTD seeking affiliation. In a brief Aug. 30 letter to BCTD President Edward C. Sullivan, Buffenbarger asked, without explanation, that affiliation be considered.

The AFL-CIO’s Metal Trades Dept. also is exploring affiliation with BCTD. It has 14 member unions, 10 of which are building trade unions–the plumbers, laborers, painters, asbestos workers, boilermakers, electrical workers, ironworkers, operating engineers, sheet metal workers and plasterers. The machinists’ union also is a member of the Metal Trades Dept.

The machinists could bring needed capital, in the form of per capita dues, to BCTD. Dues lost from the departure of the carpenters and teamsters is about $1.6 million, annually.

At their regular monthly meeting on Sept. 7, BCTD’s general board of presidents discussed the machinists’ bid to affiliate. No decision was made, but the 13 general presidents directed Sullivan to open talks with Buffenbarger. No deadline for a decision has been set.

While a large portion of the machinists’ union member-ship is employed in the aerospace industry, the union represents workers in about 200 sectors, including woodworking and shipbuilding. In 1994, the International Woodworkers of America merged with the International Association of Machinists, bringing more than 20,000 members.

The building trade union presidents also voted to offer an alternative to the AFL-CIO’s proposed solidarity charters that seek to allow local unions of the carpenters and the teamsters to affiliate with central building trades councils, central labor councils and state federations (ENR 8 22/29 p. 13). The initial AFL-CIO plan, offered in the aftermath of the July departure of the teamsters, service employees, and food and commercial workers, also has met with opposition from other sectors. The carpenters’ union withdrew from the labor federation in 2001. The AFL-CIO constitution requires membership for a local union to participate in the central labor bodies.

The building trade presidents think the solidarity charters as now proposed do not best represent the interests of the construction industry. The BCTD plan would require locals from those unions to adhere to jurisdictional accords set by the building trades. Affiliates also would participate in pre-job meetings, says one union president. The dues structure would be different, $12 per member, per year paid to both BCTD and the AFL-CIO.

The federation’s proposal asked local unions to pay the same dues on a per capita basis that were paid to those central labor bodies when the parent unions were affiliated with the AFL-CIO. In addition to those regular payments, the federation plan called for a "solidarity fee" that would be calculated at 10% of a local union’s per capita tax payment, with a minimum of five cents per member, per month.