A REAL PROFILE OF
( 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
intensityhe is a man who inspires superlatives,.."
She continues by stating that ; " He rarely grants interviews but approaches
this one with apparent ease,". 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
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
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
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
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 intolerableyou 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 dohe ( McCarron ) takes virtually all of the
democratic rights away from the memberswe 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 ???