The AFL-CIO’s Building & Construction Trades Department (BCTD) and its leadership have violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and Washington state law by engaging in an “unlawful extortionate campaign” to force the Carpenters union to make monthly payments to BCTD and to be governed by its rules, according to a lawsuit filed Feb. 21, 2012, in a federal district court in Washington state (Carpenters and Joiners of Am. v. Building and Constr. Trades Dep’t, E.D. Wash., No. 12-109, 2/21/12).
This article provides details on the RICO lawsuit:
The defendants [BCTD] have been conspiring to carry out a “campaign of intimidation, threats, violence and other unlawful extortionate conduct” to compel the Carpenters’ entry into multiple “involuntary agreements,” according to the complaint.
Specifically, it alleges, the defendants have been trying to extort the Carpenters to make monthly payments to BCTD in perpetuity, to let BCTD exercise the Carpenters’ rights to recruit, accept, and train dues-paying members, to enter into BCTD-negotiated project and other agreements, to be bound to BCTD’s Plan for the Settlement of Jurisdictional Disputes, and to allow BCTD to control the Carpenters’ political activity, among other things.
“The Carpenters are not part of the BCTD, they do not want to pay and continue paying the BCTD and Councils their bloated monthly payments in perpetuity for anti-competitive services, rules, regulations and membership restrictions unrequested, unwanted, and unnecessary, and they do not want to give over to the BCTD Defendants their dues-paying members as chattels or to surrender an interest in or control over the Carpenters,” the complaint states.
While the article and complaint is worth a read as it provides insight into the long-standing feud between the Carpenters union and the BCTD-affiliated unions, the lawsuit’s comments about government-mandated project labor agreements (PLAs) are of particular interest to TheTruthAboutPLAs.com readers.
The complaint explains the true intent behind the BCTD’s campaign promoting government-mandated PLAs:
256. The BCTD Defendants have little or no ability to gain support or organize non-union workers like the Carpenters did in St. Louis with respect to the non-union electrical workers it recruited, accepted, and trained. In fact, the BCTD Defendants preferred a predator method of organizing to force public entities and others to enter Project Labor Agreements in order to force non-union companies to be union for one project, force non-union workers to join and pay dues for that project, force contractors to pay into their underfunded pension plans and health plan with little or no chance for these workers to ever actually collect any benefits, and to use the BCTD’s Plan for the Settlement of Jurisdictional Disputes to “steal” workers from the Carpenters when, in fact, the Carpenters, like a traditional union, have gone out to jobsites to organize these non-union workers like it did in St. Louis and elsewhere.
It also illustrates why some union contractors and union members oppose government-mandated PLAs:
334. As indicated above, the BCTD Defendants do not like the Carpenters not being under their control. They do not like the Carpenters’ public opposition to Project Labor Agreements with government agencies and contractors, and refusals to sign such agreements, including but not limited to in Washington state and California.
335. The Carpenters object to the BCTD’s negotiating agreements on their behalf and without their input, including their mandatory inclusion in all their negotiated Project Labor Agreements the BCTD’s Plan for the Settlement of Jurisdictional Disputes in the Construction Industry. The Carpenters know that the Plan is biased and outdated. It is biased because it is administered by the IBEW and BCTD’s attorney, Resnik. It is also biased because it uses criteria that give unions work when such unions do not represent the majority of workers. For instance, even though in Southern California the Carpenters have been representing plasterers for over a decade, represent the majority of contractors performing work in the Southern California area, pay above scale over what the Plasterers pay, and have a certified training program, the Plan is nonetheless used to obtain work for the Plasterers.
The complaint also exposes the BCTD’s schemes to monopolize training tomorrow’s construction workforce by using their political influence to block the approval of competing apprenticeship progams and forcing apprentices into BCTD-affiliated apprenticeship programs on government-mandated PLA projects:
199. Apprenticeship training approval is important because, on both state and federal prevailing wage jobs in Washington, employers have economic incentives to use apprentices, and when projects are covered by project labor agreements, these apprentices are required to be members of unions who must pay dues in order to remain working. If a union can control the training of apprentices, that union can control a steady supply of dues-paying members. Accordingly, the BCTD Defendants and co-conspirators’ unions routinely attempt to block approval of new training programs. They fear competition and prefer the training monopolies they possess.
Finally, the complaint highlights the true intent of prevalent Greenmail tactics plaguing in California’s energy construction market (something TheTruthAboutPLAs.com repeatedly exposed here):
For instance, the BCTD Defendants, through their CURE (California Unions for Reliable Energy) coalition routinely and repeatedly engage in a practice known as “Greenmail”, a spin-off of the traditional Blackmail. “Greenmail” is the abusive and extortionate tactic of filing environmental challenges as a way to (1) force financial settlements to fund further “environmental challenges” and (2) force end-users and/or construction owners to sign Project Labor Agreements that mainly benefit the BCTD’s unions. Once the extortion is complete, the BCTD Defendants’ environmental challenges are dropped. Thus, the BCTD Defendants falsely fly the green flag of the environmental movement to extort money, dues, and agreements. The Carpenters have criticized these methods of not going about the hard work of traditional unions, and they are viciously attacked by the BCTD Defendants for telling the truth: unlawful extortionate tactics are wrong – no matter who or what uses them: the mob, a business, or a union. The law seeks, or ought to seek, one level playing field on which to compete.
Thanks Carpenters for telling The Truth About Project Labor Agreements. These comments support what the TruthAboutPLAs.com has been saying about anti-competitive and costly government-mandated PLA schemes all along.
We will be following this lawsuit closely.