BY KEVIN GALVIN, Associated Press
Friday, March 28, 1997
The Laborers' International Union of North
America is engaged in a labor battle with some of the best in
the business: its own organizers.
The union's organizing staff members went
on strike last week, charging that the union illegally attempted
to thwart their efforts to form a collective bargaining unit.
The standoff created an embarrassing situation
for the 350,000-member union, whose president, Arthur Coia, heads
the AFL-CIO's organizing committee.
The strikers have returned to work, but the
union's organizing chief has resigned, its much-praised recruitment
program is jeopardized and a complaint was forwarded to the National
Labor Relations Board.
"We have faith in our organizing department,"
said union spokesman David Roscow. "We have been a model
for others in the past, and we look to continue this and continue
organizing as we have."
The labor movement, guided by the new leadership
of the AFL CIO, is renewing its commitment to recruiting members.
The union's organizing efforts were seen as a model for unions
in the building and construction trades.
Wanting clarification of their benefits and
responsibilities, two dozen of the union's organizers demanded
to be recognized as a collective bargaining unit on Feb. 27.
The union's general counsel said it was prepared
to grant voluntary recognition to full-time organizers, but not
to those contracted for specific projects, whom the union considers
In addition, the union said it would promote
eight workers from temporary to full-time status so they could
join the unit.
But that left out three project staffers,
so the organizers rejected the offer, taking the unusual step
of striking after an employer's offer of voluntary recognition.
Announcing their strike in a March 13 statement,
the organizers called the exclusion of the three project staffers
from the bargaining unit "a clear attempt to weaken and punish
our efforts at collective action."
Regarding the resignation of Duane Stillwell,
the union's chief organizer, Roscow would say only that he had
quit for personal reasons.
But in a letter to his superiors, Stillwell
said he hoped his March 18 resignation "would force an unbelieving,
naive group of organizers to come to their senses. I was bitterly
"I only wanted to bring victory and
recognition to LIUNA; the episodes of the last few weeks, I know,
have simply brought despair," Stillwell wrote.
Roscow said the union's headquarters believed
the disgruntled organizers had "given up their efforts to
organize" and withdrawn their NLRB complaint, while others
familiar with the dispute said the organizers were awaiting an
These are tough times at the union. It just
followed a buyout offer by laying off a handful of employees.
Much of its revenue is used to finance a sweeping internal investigation
That investigation stems from a consent decree
the union signed with the Justice Department, which had drafted
a criminal complaint alleging that union officials were controlled
by organized crime.
All content © 1997 AKRON BEACON JOURNAL