published by the Association for Union
In November, Bridgeport Local 665 won a suit
in federal court against the Connecticut Laborers District Council
which takes back some of the power which members had lost under
the council structure. The settlement is a triumph over the kind
of abuse which is widespread in the construction trades.
Connecticut laborers have won back control
over the imposition of dues increases.
The court-ordered settlement establishes
the principle that no work dues can be increased without a referendum
vote of the entire membership. It also compels the council to
refund the dues it collects back to the locals in strict proportion
to the hours worked by their memberships.
As in other trades, Connecticut Laborers
locals were forced into a council which assumed control over bargaining
and arrogated the power to raise dues without vote of the membership.
The council's previous president went to jail on federal corruption
charges. His former colleagues hold power in the council and in
some of the locals.
[As in most district councils, officers are
elected by delegates. In this case, local officers are council
They not only raised dues on their own authority
but rewarded themselves and their friends by distributing the
money disproportionately to favored locals, especially where they,
themselves, held office.
By decision of the court, Connecticut laborers
have broken through the system and regained control over dues.
Ron Nobili, business manager of Local 665, was represented by
attorney Leon Rosenblatt, an AUD Advisor.
After a hard-fought court suit, the judge ordered that the local's legal fees be reimbursed by the council. In an amicus brief in support of Local 665, AUD President Judith Schneider explained to the court the wider implications of the suit. She wrote:
"Mergers, consolidations, and other
structural arrangements give officials an opportunity to avoid
possible consequences of outright defiance of the LMRDA by making
an end run around it....The district council structure as alleged
by the plaintiffs is egregious....[It] has abrogated to itself
total control over every aspect of the dues process...in violation
of unambiguous LMRDA requirements for membership involvement and
approval....It provides tremendous opportunities for rewarding
political allies at the expense of political opponents. Thus,
it has tremendous appeal in many sectors of the labor movement
and particularly in the building trades."
Pending in the House is the Fawell bill which
would create new rights for members in district councils. Meanwhile,
in winning new rights for themselves, Connecticut laborers may
encourage other construction workers to do the same.
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.