ST. LOUIS — The United Brotherhood of Carpenters has disbanded its politically powerful St. Louis branch, reassigning oversight of its local chapters to its Chicago office.
According to a letter dated Friday from Carpenters General Chairman Douglas J. McCarron, the disbandment of the St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council went into effect Monday.
Local unions from the St. Louis-based regional council have been reassigned to the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters, McCarron said.
The end of the St. Louis-based regional council, led since 2015 by Executive Secretary-Treasurer Al Bond, is expected to affect local politics. The regional council has been a major donor to local candidates and controversial causes.
McCarron said he made his decision to disband the regional council, which is headquartered on Hampton Avenue, after reviewing an internal report prepared by national union representatives.
“After careful consideration and consideration of the substantial benefits to members – including, but not limited to, better oversight of Council operations, reduction of costs and maximization of available resources, and increased market competitiveness – I have determined that it would be in the best interest of the members to take the following actions,” McCarron wrote.
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He did not describe the content and scope of the internal report.
Several people with ties to the union and the labor movement told the Post-Dispatch on Tuesday that they had heard that Bond had been removed as leader of the local carpenters’ union, but did not know why.
Union officials remain silent. A spokeswoman for the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, reached by telephone on Tuesday morning, said she would get back to the paper on Bond’s status, but did not.
Spokespersons for the regional council did not respond to requests for comment, nor did Bond.
McCarron’s letter directed that “property, books, charter, and funds” held by or on behalf of the St. Louis Area Council be “immediately transferred” to the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. He will soon appoint interim delegates to the Chicago area council, he wrote.
Six digit checks
It remains to be seen whether the carpenters’ union will always retain the same weight. Locally, the council has been a major political force, often signing six-figure checks to influence the political process. The construction union, which has more than 20,000 members, has been embroiled in typical labor issues, including major successes for the group, such as the campaign to repeal the so-called ‘right to work’ law of the Missouri that allowed employees to work in unionized workplaces without paying dues.
Carpenters under Bond’s leadership also joined some of the region’s most polarizing issues, supporting efforts that ultimately suffered high-profile meltdowns, such as airport privatization and the proposed merger of St. Louis and of St. Louis County.
Bond was at the center of efforts to reinvigorate an effort to lease St. Louis Lambert International Airport to a private operator following former Mayor Lyda Krewson’s December 2019 decision that halted the process. The Carpenters and the St. Louis Chapter of the NAACP, another major supporter, started a petition to take the issue to voters, but then abandoned the effort amid the pandemic.
Lambert’s privatization was just one of the big issues where Bond and the local union backed causes close to top political donor Rex Sinquefield and his libertarian-leaning political operation, led until last year by Travis Brown.
Bond and the Carpenters were also among the earliest and strongest supporters of the city-county merger project known as Better Together, originally funded by Sinquefield but aborted in 2019 amid fallout from the indictment of former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger on federal corruption charges. .
The carpenters were great financial supporters of Stenger. The former county executive appointed Bond to the St. Louis County-centered Economic Development Partnership Board of Directors in 2016, where he served until his resignation earlier this year. This organization was embroiled in the legal problems of the former county manager. One of Stenger’s top aides, Shannon Weber, was also a Partnership board member and worked for the Carpenters after leaving the county executive’s office.
It would later be revealed that the union helped turn a $150,000 donation from one of Brown and Sinquefield’s organizations into support for Stenger.
The union also put a lot of money behind some losing candidates in recent elections, including $350,000 it poured into Mark Mantovani’s campaign against St. Louis County Executive Sam Page the year last. In the city, the Carpenters’ $100,000 donation to Council of Aldermen President Lewis Reed’s unsuccessful mayoral bid this year was at one point the biggest political contribution in this race.
The Carpenters represent many of St. Louis’ correctional workers, putting them at the center of a fierce debate over the closure of the medium-security facility, the city jail known as the workhouse – among the most galvanizing issues for progressive supporters of Mayor Tishaura O. Jones. in the municipal elections in April.
Labor union representation was part of the reason they contributed to candidates in the April election in St. Louis who supported keeping the prison open in the face of accusations from activists that its conditions were inhumane. Some of those candidates, like former councilman Tammika Hubbard, ultimately lost.
Bond and the Carpenters are also close to controversial developer Paul McKee’s NorthSide Regeneration, helping fund a new medical facility the developer is building at the corner of Jefferson and Cass Avenues.
Nationally, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters is facing a federal investigation following the 2019 indictment of George Laufenberg, who ran the New Jersey Carpenter’s Pension, Annuity, Health and Training/Apprenticeship Funds. and was a former Port Authority Commissioner. of New York and New Jersey. Following Laufenberg’s indictment for embezzling pension funds and assisting another to steal through ‘weak’ labor, a federal grand jury issued subpoenas in late 2019 to other entities linked to the union national.
The reshuffle here is the second major change at a local union office in recent years. In December 2019, United Auto Workers eliminated its western regional office, headquartered in Hazelwood, and merged it with regional offices based in Lebanon, Tennessee and Lincolnshire, Illinois. The move followed a sweeping federal investigation into the union that ensnared its leader, Gary Jones, a resident of O’Fallon, Missouri, who ran the local office before rising to the top job at Detroit. The embezzlement investigation also led to charges against Vance Pearson of St. Charles, the former local bureau chief.