Published by the Association for Union
Back in 1996, the Laborers adopted a model
set of job referral rules that presumably required locals to assign
jobs "in a fair and equitable manner." The rules, as
printed on paper, could actually impose a fair hiring system,
a spectacular achievement in the construction trades, if they
were enforced. Are they really enforced or are they just a public
relations gimmick? That's the overwhelming question.
In his report in the March/April issue of
The Laborer, General Executive Board Attorney Robert Luskin is
quite satisfied. He writes, "Results of Compliance Reviews:
At the direction of the GEB Attorney, the Regional Offices have
conducted on-site reviews assessing the compliance of each LIUNA
hiring hall with the Amended Job Referral Rules. The results show
that the overwhelming majority of local unions are in substantial
compliance, with minor administrative discrepancies." Sounds
lovely, even too good to be true. We remain skeptical because
his report does not square with all the facts.
How has he arrived at his rosy conclusion?
His report seems obviously based not upon any investigation independent
of the union power structure but upon the union's own Regional
Office reviews. Would he expect officials to report that they
permit wholesale violation of rules which are really imposed upon
them because of pressure from government monitors? What information,
if any, has Mr. Luskin received, not from union officials, but
from rank and file members?
In April, Nick Brkich wrote about the situation
in his California Local 300, "The Laborers that don't sympathize
with the business manager's politics are kept on the blacklist
and those few who dare to publicly manifest themselves against
the arbitrariness of our representatives are punished, threatened,
What he writes squares with what other Laborers
have experienced: Back in 1995,almost four years ago,Inspector
General Douglas Gow reported, "By far the most frequent complaint
we receive concerns inequity in the job referral process."
He had already received almost 100 hiring
hall complaints. We must assume that there have been hundreds
of others by now. What has happened to those complaints? How were
they resolved? How many are still pending?
Gow writes in March/April that he intends
to provide "the tools that will allow disclosure to the membership
concerning the finances, job dispatching, and membership record
handling of their local unions and district councils." He
could begin by reporting on all those complaints.
It would be instructive to learn from members,not
officials, if they are referred to jobs without discrimination
or favoritism; if their officers are demanding exclusive hiring
hall provisions in their contracts; if the rules are "conspicuously
posted"; if copies are available to members; if referral
records are accurately maintained and available for inspection.
Luskin's undocumented and unsubstantiated blanket claim of "substantial
compliance" tells us nothing except that he and LIUNA officials
are satisfied, self-satisfied.
In other respects Gow's report on "Statistical
accomplishments to March 1,1999" indicates progress: 191
individuals "removed" for criminal or ethical violations;
59 forced to resign; 20 trusteeships imposed; 41 officers removed
in 15 "problem" locals and districts; $625,000 recovered
for the union.
But the future fate of decency and democracy
in this construction union, like all others, depends upon the
right of members to work in dignity, under fair rules, without
fear or favor. On that subject, LIUNA members have learned little
from the union monitors.
What's the real story in Laborers' hiring halls?
Association for Union Democracy
500 State Street
Brooklyn NY 11217
phone: 718 855-6650
fax: 718 855-6799
The Association for Union Democracy is a national pro-union non-profit that promotes the principles and practices of internal union democracy in the North American labor movement.