Carpenters In Action meetings kick off at Local 35
Member action makes the difference
Nearly 40 members gathered in San Rafael last month to hear Executive Officer Bob Alvarado talk about Carpenters in Action (CIA) and the importance of member participation in our union. Organizing Director Jay Bradshaw opened the meeting with a description of some of the activities of members through the CIA, and some of the previous trainings.
Brother Alvarado then talked about the history of rank-and-file involvement in organizing, through Volunteer Organizing Committees and Stewards' Training. For a while, the union was hiring outside people, including the homeless, to picket but that proved to be counter-productive.
Local 35 members turned out to hear NCCRC Executive Officer Bob Alvarado talk about the importance of rank-and-file participation in the Carpenters In Action.
One of Alvarado and Bradshaw's goals became more rank-and-file participation integrated into organizing. It turned out to be very effective to bring members to testify at public hearings. Elected officials are used to the "usual union official rap," but it is harder for them to ignore local residents speaking out.
One example of this type of impact is the way rank-and-file members in Redding helped stop the charter city movement there. Many people played a role, including staff and members from other trades, but the public testimony by those members, who live and work in the community really helped convince a majority of their City Council that the charter was a bad idea. "When you speak from the heart and talk the way you talk every day, you're the best organizers we have," Alvarado said.
Now, the Organizing Department has developed a series of trainings for rank-and-file organizers—essentially the same training the union gives to staff.Elected officials are used to the "usual union official rap," but it is harder for them to ignore local residents speaking out.
Membership action through the CIA has been very successful. Efforts include playing defense, similar to the action in Redding, as well as playing offense as members did through 18 months of meetings supporting the Oakland Airport Connector, a $500 million project now putting UBC members to work under a project labor agreement.
MORE ACTIONS IN MORE PLACES = MORE WORK
"We don't want to hire outsiders," Executive Officer Alvarado said. "We want members for all these actions. The goal is to double the size of the CIA, and have more actions in more places. When we get involved, we get the work."
Alvarado said he ran for office because of his belief that the union belongs to the members. He pointed out that everyone currently in a senior leadership role started out as an organizer, and they all share the view that "the whole thing belongs to you." Building the CIA is the next step: the goal is to grow member involvement and understanding of how and why the union works.
"This union started because people came together to protect their work," Brother Alvarado said. "We want to get back to that concept."
After the presentation, several members asked questions, including the number of Council Delegates representing locals, and the plans and process for hiring organizers. One member had a question about dues rates, and there was a discussion about the need for and challenges of residential organizing, especially in the custom home market.
We need to realize the union isn't some big machine, it is all of us doing our part, pulling in the same direction."
Executive Officer Bob Alvarado's comments had an impact on at least one member. At Local 35's union meeting the next night, Brother Tom Bolig said, "I've been thinking about Bob's remarks all day. We need to realize the union isn't some big machine, it is all of us doing our part, pulling in the same direction."
If you want to hear more about how to be part of the CIA, come to one of the upcoming meetings—at a Local near you!
CIA Local Schedule
NCCRC Executive Officer Bob Alvarado will attend meetings for current and prospective CIA members at the following Locals:
Local 152, Martinez April 12
Local 701 April 16
Local 46 April 23
Local 22 April 30
Local 713 May 2
Local 217 May 3
Local 605 May 15
Local 180 May 16
Local 751 May 30
Local 405 May 31
Note: All meetings start at 5:30 pm.