Saint-Louis unions face uncertainty after carpenters union shut down local regional council

Last week, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters shut down its St. Louis area council, moving oversight of the St. Louis area union locals to the organization’s Chicago office and ousting the executive secretary-treasurer based in Saint-Louis, Al Bond.

Bond had been the regional leader of the union since 2015 and has been with the organization since 1999. People with links to the union says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Bond had been dismissed from his post but didn’t know why.

Its unceremonious departure has some experts wondering what’s going on – and if another shoe might be ready to drop.

“It sounds like that,” said the University of Missouri-St. Louis political scientist Anita Manion. “And it feels like that. I think there are a lot of questions about some of these things. She added: “I don’t know if we’ll ever find out. So this shoe can fall quietly. It may not be public, but I think there are things going on. “

“Usually when something like this happens, the other shoe can fall off – or it can be the way to keep the other shoe from falling,” said the president of the Greater St. Louis Central Labor Council, Pat White.

White’s union, which is part of the AFL-CIO, is separate from the carpenters union.

Analysis: The reshuffle of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters raises many questions

Former Carpenters Union Compliance Officer Jonathan Gould assigned the regional council of carpenters in 2016, alleging that union dues had been “appropriated, stolen, embezzled and converted from union coffers to inflate the pensions of Carpenters officials without the consent of union members”. The lawsuit made its way through both state and federal courts, at one point landing in the Missouri Supreme Court. Ultimately, Gould was thwarted in his attempts to claim whistleblower protection against his old union.

Generally speaking, White said he sympathizes with union members in situations involving corruption. “I feel bad for the base because… they donate part of their paycheck every month, [and] a lot, to be a part of this organization, and when something like that comes out, whatever the scope … it takes away a bit of that trust.

As Manion noted, this move will not only affect local union branches, but it could change the political landscape in the region as well. The St. Louis office of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters was a major donor in municipal and regional elections.

The union has been one of the main funders of the successful 2018 effort to block “right to work” legislation in Missouri. But in the last election, the union backed the losing candidates on the more moderate side of the Democratic Party. The organization contributed $ 350,000 to a political action committee supporting Mark Mantovani in his unsuccessful attempt to oust St. Louis County Director Sam Page and $ 120,200 to various committees supporting the unsuccessful candidacy of the board chair. director Lewis Reed for mayor, according to data from Manion and his colleagues. .

The area council was also a big supporter of former St. Louis County executive Steve Stenger, who was later jailed, and failed efforts to privatize the airport. (White’s organization was publicly opposed.)

“The concern should be for local members and dues-paying members [regarding] not just the confidence they are losing, but some influence in the region, ”said Manion, citing the example of the United Auto Workers. deletion of its Hazelwood office in 2019 after his boss was charged with embezzlement.

“This can engender a certain mistrust around the management of these situations. And at the same time [when] unions are really trying to keep their footing and their weight – having been raised in a union home myself – I understand what these jobs mean to all Saint Louisians who work in these fields.

For contributing members, White hopes that “something good [can come] get out of a bad situation. Specifically, he would like to see the local carpenters unions come back under the aegis of the AFL-CIO.

“Our men and women are working side by side there,” he said. “There’s no reason we can’t all come together – whether it’s a job well, paycheck fraud, or running salary – fighting for a common goal. Work can be stronger just by being together.

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Elna M. Lemons