The Voice of the Rank & File

Number 4

March 1997

Published by
Laborers for Justice & Democracy
1601 Ocean Avenue, #346
San Francisco, CA 94112


by Alex Corns

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The LIUNA Pacific Southwest Region has an organizing contest: The union officer who organizes the most contractors will win a vacation for two to Hawaii. This looked like a great idea - actually organize contractors and strengthen the union.

When I checked over the tally sheet of newly organized contractors, I was surprised to find that Local #261 has signed two contractors who already have agreements with my local, Hod Carriers #36, that run until 1999. But the new contracts with Local # 261 pay lower and less benefits then the contract with Local 36!

I talk to Regional Manager Max Warren about this, but nothing happened. I called the Business Manager of #261 and he could not explain why he did this. What an organizing drive-raiding another Laborers Local at a lesser rate of pay.

I recently saw the score card for the "contest":Memo Agreements 49; One Job Agreement 59; Bottom Up 0; Non Construction Plant: 0; Abestos 6 ; ASB: 4; CCMCA: 1(who already signed); Fence Erectors: 2.

The "One Job Agreement" should be called the whore agreement. This is where you allow a non-union contractor to come in and be "union" for one job only. They can (and will ) go right across the street and work non-union. This type of agreement weakens the union because it allows rat contractors to take good jobs from honest union contractors. Instead of forcing the contractor to go 100% union, he is allowed to "play both sides of the street."

Unfortunately, the leaders of LIUNA are famous for this type of sham organizing. A recent article in the Nation Magazine by Robert Fitch revealed that while LIUNA General President Arthur Coia talks a lot about organizing, he is spending less than 1% of he $175 million in dues the union gets on organizing.

Apparently, Coia was not happy with the exposure , so he assigned one of his hired hands, Linda Fisher, Director of Public Affairs, to write a rebuttal that appeared in the "letters" column of the Nation. Ms Fisher complained about Fitch's comments on Coia, and noted "Prior to Mr. Coia's presidency the Laborers had no organizing department."

I though Robert Fitch's reply to Linda Fisher was worth quoting here: „The pint of my criticism of LIUNA, which Ms. Fisher doesn't contest, is that its been run b the mob for sixty years. Given this history, what does organizing mean?

"New Yorkers who ride the subway can see exactly what it means; Look at the ads paid for by the SEIU 32B-32J. They charge that Citybank got rid of minority workers and hired lower paid whites at cut rate terms. What union represents the workers who displaced them? LIUNA.

"This kind of organizing fills Coia's coffers, but empties trade unionism of any meaning or advantage to the members."

Democracy in Fresno Local 294?

by Voice Staff

In our last edition we reported that real democracy was getting chance in Fresno Local 294, because Peter Vaira, the LIUNA Independent Hearing Officer, had overturn a tainted election and ordered that a new one be held. Vaira found many violations of the LIUNA election rules and found in favor of the rank and file slate candidates who had filed a protest, including Angel Padilla, Linda Cannon and Joe Velasquez.

The latest news is that Robert Purcell, Attorney and International Rep out of Sacramento LIUNA office has written a ten page letter to Independent Hearing Officer Vaira asking him to change his decision.

A New Member Writes

Dear Laborers for Justice and Democracy:
I'm a member of local 79 in New York. We recently organized a 1,000 non-member non-union demolition workers; mostly Latino workers. We did this through hard work and ringing doorbells. Our organizer, Mike Hellstom is to be congratulated for his work.
Some of the people have no papers and LIUNA is trying to get them free legal help.
- A new member of Local 79

DearNew Member,
Thank you for writing to us. It is always a pleasure to welcome new Brothers and Sisters to LIUNA; I hope you will stay in touch. Remember, without you the member, there is no Union.

Work Money & Hiring Halls...

by J. Jones

At a recent union meeting of Fresno Local 294, two members said they want to bring a class action law suit against sister Linda Cannon, because she is trying to get the new LIUNA fair hiring hall rules enforced in her local.

Unfortunately, the current hiring hall system in California leaves the rank & file members at the mercy of the Business Managers and the contractors.

An honest hiring hall is good for all members of the local - everybody get an equal shot at a job, and the union gets stronger because it is harder to divided the members against each other. A corrupt hiring weakens the Union. A few members get the best jobs by getting on there knees in front of the union official or the contractor. Everyone is fighting everyone for a chance to work while the contractors and the union officials laugh all the way to the bank.

Inspector General Gow has ordered that the LIUNA's new fair hiring hall rules be negotiated into each Laborer's contracts when it comes up for renewal. However, in at least two regions, including the Northern California District Council of Laborers, LIUNA officers decided to ignore Bow's order and signed new contracts without including the fair hiring hall rules.

It really is a shame that we have members fighting members over hiring hall rules and bringing law suits against one another for the chance to work. While the members at the bottom are fighting over the scraps the leaders of LIUNA are doing quite well.

What does a Laborer make? $40,000 if he has a good year. Most members will never even see Regional Manager Max warren of the Business Manager of the District Council Archie Thomas. Yet we pay these men thousand of dollars to "represent " us: $240,000 last year for Warren and $160,000 for Thomas.

What are we getting for our money? 59 one job agreements in the construction industry? Attorneys on retainer for the District Council and the International who work against the rank & file members? Attorneys who work for the leadership of the District Council and International defending a corrupt system where members seldom stand a chance? Our dues money is paying for legal council for an International and District Council who will not allow the members to vote on the contract.

So before we start killing each other over $40,000 a year job think about it like this: We live in a country where 14% of the workhorse is union. That means 86% of he work is being done non-union. Yet we have a leadership who thinks they are worth six figure incomes!

Let's make the leadership of LIUNA an offer: "you get paid the highest wages and fringe benefits of the very worst agreement that you have negotiated."
How much do you think they would make? ###

Voice of the Rank & File is published by the Laborers for Justice and Democracy<. We are dedicated to winning justice and true democracy for all members of the Laborers International Union of North America, working within the parameters of the LIUNA constitution. If you have an article or other useful information for the members of our Union please mail it to us at:

Laborers for Justice and Democracy
1601 Ocean Ave #346
San Francisco, CA 94112

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All original work Copyright 1998. All rights reserved.