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By David Johnson
Saturday February 15, 2003

LITTLE DID DOUG MCCARRON know back in March of 2001 when he withdrew the national Carpenters Union from the AFL-CIO ( without the knowledge or voting of approval from the rank and file members) that he had caused a spark that ignited an explosion by working Carpenters in the city of Chicago. The city of Chicago has long been known as a union city and a city  with a history of union activism. From the 1880¹s when the Haymarket martyrs were murdered by the state of Illinois because of the fight for the eight hour day, and the formation of the Carpenter¹s union with its first convention, to the Pullman railroad strike of 1894, and the battle for the unionization of the steel industry in the 1930¹s.

When the " leadership " of Chicago Carpenter¹s local one announced to the membership in April of 2001 about McCarron¹s pull-out from the AFL-CIO, they didn¹t expect anyone to question the decision of the supreme commander ( McCarron ). They realized they had definitely misjudged the membership when member after member stood-up to voice concern and opposition to the departure from the AFL-CIO. Many of these members who spoke out either didn¹t know each other or were not aware that they had a common concern.This was the case for local one members Cliff Willmeng, Joe Quattrochi, Steve Wilson, Mike Sabo, and Pete Garcia. This issue was a catalyst for the formation of Carpenters for a Rank and File Union, which began to informally meet on a regular basis to discuss the other problems within the Carpenters Union, both locally and nationally. The caucus meetings of Carpenters from local one decided to run a slate of candidates three months before the election for local executive board and delegates to the council against the existing " leadership " that had no serious challenge to their positions in nearly 20 years. After an extensive grassroots campaign by the rank and file candidates and a similar intensive patronage campaign by the " leadership ", the rank and file slate took 38 % of the vote . Despite the efforts of the " leadership " to turn-out as many members as possible there were only about 250 members ( out of a local of 1600 ) who showed-up to vote. This vote indicated that the current " leadership" has only 150 or so members that they can count on out of 1600.

After the elections the leadership went on the offensive ; members were accused of being " communists " for advocating democracy, other members found it difficult to get work, and a few members were verbally intimidated and/or physically assaulted by other members in front of union representatives.   The business agents normally used these individuals as regular stewards.

The local one rank and file Carpenters began to reach out to Carpenters in other locals.

One of the contacts the local one members made was with Tom Verdone, a Millwright and seasoned rank and file veteran who over the years had acquired a reputation as a tough rank and file advocate who not only battles with the " leadership" of his local and the district council on many accountability issues, but also lent his support to various Labor struggles around the country over the years,  including fund raising and solidarity support for the locked out workers in Decatur, IL during the labor wars there in the mid 1990¹s.

Verdone was also know for many job-site direct action campaigns against companies who attempted to bring in non-union Labor onto union job-sites. Soon Local One Carpenters and Verdone expanded their caucus meetings to other locals in the Chicago area, which now includes rank and file representatives from  twenty of the twenty eight or so locals in the Chicago District Council. Both working together on coordinated campaigns and individually on other activities, the rank and file Carpenters of Chicago are barraging the council from all sides. Currently the combined caucus is working on a 55 years old or 30 years of service retirement campaign ( current retirement age for Chicago Carpenters is 62 ), the local one Carpenters had an excellent story written about their efforts in the CHICAGO READER ( SUITS VS. BOOTS ) which has received national acclaim, including from prominent labor writer Studs Terkel.   In addition, Tom Verdone has been waging a battle of charges and counter charges against the executive board of his local.   All in all the somewhat inbred and nepotistic bureaucratic nobility of the Chicago district council of Carpenters has been experiencing an in-your-face detailed account of the blatant corruption occurring in Brother Verdone¹s local.   The District Council in their attempt to downplay and whitewash the problem has come up with the solution to dismiss all charges against their employees and local officials and convict Verdone at every instance despite the preponderance of evidence showing the contrary.  Not only was brother Verdone convicted without any evidence but he was subsequently fined five times in excess of the UBC maximum fine guidelines.  It is under appeal with the International currently.  In a second instance, Tom Verdone was brought up on charges recently of harassment and dissension  and received a conviction letter of reprimand stating that because of his admission of the charges against him at the trial board that the delegate body found him guilty and as a penalty is receiving this letter of reprimand (let it be known that Tom Verdone never made it past the sub-committee hearing where he proved that the charges were not warranted, never went to trial and the supposed trial date noted in the letter is October 3, 2003 (8 _ months from now).  All was Quiet on the Chicago Front back during the national Carpenters convention in August 2000,but things are different now ,the Carpenters in Chicago are making-up for lost time and then some, with Chicago being the current hot spot of the country in the battle of the rank and file to liberate themselves from the corrupt dictatorship of the council structure and its master in Washington D.C. (or is it Las Vegas  ?) Doug  "cash" McCarron. Keep fighting the good fight brothers and sisters, YOU ARE NOT ALONE !

David Johnson
Carpenters Union 44
Champaign, IL

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