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A REAL PROFILE OF
DOUG MCCARRON

( A CRITIQUE OF THE L.A. TIMES ARTICLE )


In a March 10th 2002 article by Nancy Cleeland, printed in the L.A. Times newspaper, Cleeland writes an extremely biased " profile" of Carpenters Union international president Doug McCarron, that ignores many facts, downplays critical facts against McCarron, and in general creates a corporate style " fluff" piece, that resembles an advertisement written by a public relations firm as opposed to a truly objective piece of journalism.

Cleeland begins the article by describing McCarron ( as he walks into the room where she is interviewing him ) in " bigger than life" terminology. Stating how ; " his striking white hair and beard, his penetrating intensityŠhe is a man who inspires superlatives,.." She continues by stating that ; " He rarely grants interviews but approaches this one with apparent ease,Š". Obviously McCarron knew that Ms. Cleeland was there to promote him and his agenda.

She correctly states that ; many of " his " 550,000 member union are in open revolt, a lawsuit filed by a retired Carpenter that stated that McCarron misused a $ 2-billion pension fund ( recently dropped not by lack of evidence as Cleeland implies, but because of a lack of money for legal fees and the deteriorating health that led to the death of the retiree, Horacio Gana ), and a respected pro-labor foundation ( Association for Union Democracy - AUD ) that is lobbying federal lawmakers to curb McCarronıs power ( She fails to mention that the AUD is also assisting Carpenters in filing lawsuits nation-wide).

And, that many suspect McCarronıs real motive in pulling out of the AFL-CIO and the Building Trades was to get free of federation rules that blocked him from going after the work of other unions and to establish a personal private empire in the building trades.

Cleeland continues by stating that many view McCarron as arrogant and controlling. That his $ 260,000 salary has distanced him from the rank and file working Carpenter, that he has grown too cozy with wealthy large corporate contractors and money managers, and that many Carpenters question his GENEROUS campaign contributions to mayors, governors, senators ( especially U.S. senators Dianne Feinstein and Ted Kennedy ) and other politicians that the membership of the Carpenterıs union did not authorize.

Cleeland, after giving a token facade of objectivity by stating the above mentioned facts, launches into a defense of McCarron for the remainder of the article, with an occasional quote of a critic that is immediately followed by a pro McCarron counter argument having the last word on the subject. But throughout the article bits and pieces of real information and insight appear.

McCarron is quoted as describing the rank and file Carpenters who oppose his regional councilıs policies as ; " selfish bureaucrats, fearful, deranged loners and communists."( It appears as if McCarron was looking in the mirror when he made that description ). Cleeland states that McCarron boasts of his blue-collar roots, but that he then launches into the sort of " corporate speak " ( her description, not mine ) that idolizes retired anti- union General Electric chairman, Jack Welch and describes union members as a " strong product", that she states makes even some of McCarronıs supporters cringe.

Cleeland describes McCarronıs rise to power starting in 1986 with a lawsuit against the Southern California Pension Fund, that alleged the then pension fund trustees made sweetheart loans to developers. Several of the defendants today recall ( according to Cleeland ) that corporate contractor Ron Tutor and McCarron were the leading forces behind the legal action and that the pension fund trustee defendants denied doing anything wrong and stated that they made low-interest loans for large commercial projects to generate union jobs at a time when few were to be had ( It would be interesting to see if Tutor was unable to obtain any of the contracts on the loans made to the developers ). No admission of guilt or criminal charges were filed, but to satisfy insurance company demands, all of the defendants agreed to resign. The article continues by stating that McCarron " inherited" the southern California regional council that was previously run by an elected secretary-treasurer and that the council was composed of 32 autonomous locals that employed a full-time set of local officers, and that contractors hated the structure and wanted it " streamlined " and that they found a kindred spirit in McCarron, who as soon as he took office in 1988 as the head of the regional council, used his new powers (granted by the Carpenters international that had already began imposing autocratic / anti-democratic district council structures throughout the country, due to fear of being voted out of office at the up-coming national convention in 1991, due to $ 100 million " missing " from the internationalıs general fund ) to ; merge 18 locals into four, APPOINT new leaders of the newly created locals, and transferred most of the locals assets to the regional council that he controlled.

At the national level in 1991, embattled international president Sigurd Lucassen picked McCarron as his second vice-president and after being elected in an intense battle with Whitey Rogers ( a former international vice-president who was an outspoken critic of the " lost " $ 100 million ) at the national convention in Atlantic City New Jersey, was charged by the Department of Labor as being rigged and ordered another election in 1995 ( held in Las Vegas ). This time Lucassen did not run ( rumor has it that McCarron had some incriminating evidence against Lucassen ) and McCarron ran unopposed.

To signal a new era, McCarron ordered the demolition of the Carpenterıs union historic marble-halled headquarters in Washington D.C.. In its place, a ten-story office building was built. The union rents out 9 _ floors , generating an estimated $ 18 million in annual revenue. For the future of the Carpenters, McCarron has built a $ 22 million complex in Las Vegas ( the new international headquarters ).

Cleeland then goes into a long winded promotion of the new Carpenters international facility in Las Vegas ( sounding as if it was dictated to her by McCarronıs spokesman Monte Byers ) and how it is the cutting edge of skill upgrade and organizing training.( She continues to praise McCarron by stating his slogan ; " Organize or Lie " , opps , I mean, " Organize or Die " , which was stolen from a Carpenter B.A. from local 550 in Oakland California named Clyde Johnson, who coined the phrase during the late 1960ıs and wrote a book by the same title in which he criticized the international for ; not organizing, for being to cozy with contractors and Washington polititians, and for ( at that time ) trying to curtail the power of the rank and file that Clyde Johnson saw as essential for organizing. Both " ORGANIZE OR DIE " and " MILLMEN 550 " also written and self-published by Clyde Johnson are available from Bellarium ( sp. ) Books in San Francisco ( Highly recommended reading ).

Cleeland does mention the imposition of a trusteeship upon local 250 in Atlanta, shortly after the national convention, where local Executive Board member Phil Lavelle ran against the McCarron team, and she mentions the expulsion of John Reimann for the 1999 rank and file Carpenter wildcat strike, and quotes McCarronıs spokesman Monte Byers as saying ; " Reimannıs protest, which caused union contractors ( including Ron Tutor ) to lose money for four days, was intolerableŠyou just donıt do that on a project labor agreement." Cleeland mentioned that the working Carpenters were not able to vote on the contract that sparked the wildcat, but makes no mention of the particulars like ; a wage increase much lower that the other trades, the loss of the specified morning coffee break, etc.

Cleeland does go into some detail about the British Columbia Carpenters, quoting Dave Flynn, elected president of the British Columbia Carpenters, who states that ; " Carpenters in British Columbia are free spirits who donıt like being told what to doŠhe ( McCarron ) takes virtually all of the democratic rights away from the membersŠwe view the union as an organization that is run by the membership. His view is itıs run like a business, very top down." Cleeland also mentions the members turning out the lights on McCarron when he refused to allow them to vote.

She mentions McCarronıs reaction to the British Columbia Carpenters as ; " dismissing the British Columbia rebels as misguided idealists" ( and in the same breath McCarron states ) " There is a high influence of the communist party." ( Which reminds me of quotes over the years I have seen from dictators of third world countries who characterize all of their opposition who want democracy and accountability as communists ).

Cleeland also quotes critics of McCarron that McCarronıs claim to organizing successes are overblown at best and quoting Robert Gasperow, the executive director of the construction Labor research council in Washington D.C., who states that ; " For all of McCarronıs bluster, the Carpenters are no better or worse off than most unions," and that, " The union missed its best chance to expand during the last spurt of construction."

Cleeland ends her piece and shows her obvious bias by stating ; " Grana, a cranky Argentine immigrant who came out of the same local as Mccarron, alleged a murky web of political and financial intrigue involving McCarron, Tutor, and Richard Blum ( financial advisor for the Carpenters union and husband of U.S. senator Dianne Feinstein ), but was never able to prove it." " In the end, his complaints often came down to personal vitriol fed by envy." " Like many critics, he couldnıt accept that a one-time equal had risen so far beyond him so fast."

She continues by stating ; " The lawsuit has been the latest longshot hope for McCarron opponents ; Granaıs retreat dealt a stomach punch to their campaign to undermine the union leaders integrity." Cleeland of course omits the on going Lebo lawsuit in New York City and the recent lawsuit victory in Boston.

The last sentence of her article, refering to the on going campaign to get McCarron to return to the AFL-CIO and the Building Trades, states; " In response, the chief of the Carpenters has been publicly mute, taunting his critics with his silence as his friends wait, confident that McCarron will emerge with what he wants."

I wonder which " friends " of McCarron Cleeland is referring to ???

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