The objects of the International Association shall be to encourage and develop a higher standard of skill, to cultivate feelings of friendship among the craft, to equitably distribute opportunities of employment, to secure by legal and proper means, pay commensurate with the hazard, physical and mental taxation and exhaustion and average life endured by its members in performing service of the trade, to discourage piece work, and promote safe and reasonable methods of work, to cultivate the moral, intellectual and social conditions for the well-being of all its members, their families and dependents and in the interest of a higher standard of citizenship.

--from a booklet prepared by the Iron Workers District Council of the State of California and Vicinity:

Who runs the unions?

Union leaders are elected by, and are accountable to you the member. Important local union policies and actions are decided by majority vote of the local members.

1. Union=united: as members we must act. Each contract has offered hope that we of San Francisco Local 377 would catch up with other trades within our local area.* With each contract we were dismayed by tales of poor work, lack of market share, and the eagerness of other locals of our district council to accept whatever sop we are given. Many of us have been convinced that our members are blind and deaf to our plight. Instead of giving up, we must convince everyone that our demands are just. With boom times in the state and country, why are we being offered less than a third of what we thought was a start to achieving just compensation? We were told at the start of negotiations that the district council, including our sister local in Oakland, would support us in a separate wage rate. This promise of support seems to have been withdrawn. Why are other locals within other district councils able to negotiate separate wage rates* and we are threatened with a takeover from the international?

We call the bay area home, a place that we are proud to build. But few of us can manage to live here, with an rent of $1,200/mo. for a studio apartment. It has been estimated that to live in the bay area, one must be able to manage a yearly income of $65,000, and still not succeed in living comfortably. Many of us have moved away from the city, enduring commutes of more than three hours. With the price of gas, and the toll on our vehicles, much of the savings in housing is lost in the commute. Add to that the current energy crisis. Sure we're being offered a "Congestion Zone Fee" at a rate of $8.00/day--a dollar an hour, increased to $12.00/day in three years. That averages out to $1.50 an hour for the time between road rages, not including the aggravation of the over time induced encounter with rush hour traffic.

Also: we voted in a raise for the officers of our union. This was in keeping with inflation, and the particular obligations and their duties. Also mentioned was possible prestige in impressing others in financial dealings. I personally am not impressed. Although the positions may be taxing and tolling, the officers are still accountable to and part of the membership. The positions they hold are to advise and aid us, not restrict. There should be nothing that is impossible for them to accomplish with the support of their brothers and sisters.

{*May 2000 wages in San Francisco: painters $26.40/hr, tapers $27.93, glaziers $28.17, operating engineers $30.20, field surveyors $31.22, sheet metal workers $34.93 (*see May 2000 Ironworker: within the Greater New York and Vicinity, the various locals of metropolitan New York make on the average $8.00 more than the mixed local in Newburgh New York. In the Chicago area locals on the average make $4.20 over those in Peoria.}

2. Why don't we as members know how our local meetings run? Members are encouraged to participate in meetings, but many ideas go astray due to issues of "out-of-order" or improper presentation. Perhaps as important as knowing how important the union is, an ironworker should learn how to participate in our meetings. Why aren't Robert's Rules more accessible to those attending the meetings? Do members know that ARTICLE XXVI of our constitution exactly states how our meetings are to be run? Do we each have a copy of the current constitution?

Also: why is it that stewards, the liaison between the union hall and the job site have no given time to report in our meetings? Section 17 of Article XXVI lists it as item 8. Shouldn't stewards have a moment to relate how jobs are or are not faring and the concerns of the members in the field?

3. Why doesn't our local have a web site. Banks have secured access sites, why not us? Our local extends from the Oregon boarder down to highway 20 (past Big Sur). Is it too much to ask for equal access to information for all members? Those not within practical traveling distance to the hall are essentially blocked from participation within their own union. Those who boom out away from the area are left without the knowledge of what is going on in the local that they pay dues to. Many of our members own and run web sites on their own time. Just as we have ironworkers who are paid for their time to teach as well as work in the field, can we not have members set up or guide the creation of a web site? As for input and maintenance, most of the reports and data essential to a well informed member are inputted into computers at the local--maintenance of a web site can be whittled down to a matter of copy and paste. Only a small amount of time and money invested will result in the fair participation of the maximum of our members. And for those worried about physical participation at meetings, you cannot send a handshake or a beer through the internet yet.

4. The International. Do they truly reflect on the concerns of its members, or have they become the corporation and management that we bow to. We lack the ability to compete with other trades in our area in money, safety, and quality of life afforded to our families. True, many locals within our district council are doing fine. But the trials of urban work and the safety and care of our families are much more difficult and the cost much higher Should instead we discourage our membership from purchasing houses in our area and raising children? Should we somehow neglect the work locally and boom out or leave to areas where we can afford to live? Should non-union workers who fight individually for their rights be given the work that is ours as a group? What shall we offer them as a union, when we cannot achieve what we deserve for ourselves? We are losing good hands to other trades with more respect and better money. We have had a reputation for being reckless loner cowboy types, our independence and free spiritedness is what attracts people to our trade. Now we are being led around by the nose by our elected "leaders."

5. Unions were created to give the individual working person the power to negotiate and demand fair and safe working conditions. We should have the ability to demand the respect that our trade is due from other crafts and our contractors. We must be able to claim that the union is ours, not management's, not some amorphous "theirs", but ours.

The main tool that we have is withholding our work, and the general stoppage of work with the cooperation of other unions. Due to the complications of the legal process, we must vote and the membership agree on our action, and do it through the correct "legal" channels. For example, under project labor agreements (PLAs), in exchange for an wholly union project, we gave up the right to picket the job. But the Bush Administration as of February 17th has just made PLAs with any federal funding illegal. Which makes picketing a job with any federal funding legal again. We have the power as ironworkers to shut down jobs at almost every phase of construction: from rods in foundation concrete, the actual structure, to finish work near the end of a project. Although a strike would be hard on many people in the short run, since many of us are living from check to check, we would be costing the companies millions of dollars on a daily basis. Can we give up our money and work in the short run to exert our strength for the long run?

6. What we must do is vote the current negotiated contract down. Sure it is suggested to accept--for the most part, the leadership of the district council is satisfied. Our San Francisco representatives have done the best they thought they could do for us in the minority. What we must do is convince all members of our local to vote and to vote "no." We must also convince those that we work side by side with in the district council that they must support us. Our contract does not run out until July. Our negotiators have until that deadline to pursue our interests. We could even make a motion in a meeting to delay signing the contract, and work without one until August, when we get our vacation checks, and have a better ability to decide what to do. In the long run, we can create committees to investigate our interests, such as how to successfully negotiate a separate wage rate from the rest of the district council. It is much easier for several very concerned people to pursue the many threads of one issue, than one harassed person who has many issues to deal with. Perhaps we should look into creating a strike fund, which could be added to our retirement should we never need it. It seems that we as members, must reconstruct the confidence in our abilities that the contractors as well as leadership has lost. We have the capacity to understand and fight for our needs. We can make the time to do so. We must gain back the respect for a strong union.


if you like, print it out, pass it around, etc. tell me what you think, and i'll post it here.