Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

There’s No Place Like CounterPunch

There's no place like CounterPunch, it's just that simple. And as the radical space within the "alternative media"(whatever that means) landscape continues to shrink, sanctuaries such as CounterPunch become all the more crucial for our political, intellectual, and moral survival. Add to that the fact that CounterPunch won't inundate you with ads and corporate propaganda. So it should be clear why CounterPunch needs your support: so it can keep doing what it's been doing for nearly 25 years. As CP Editor, Jeffrey St. Clair, succinctly explained, "We lure you in, and then punch you in the kidneys." Pleasant and true though that may be, the hard-working CP staff is more than just a few grunts greasing the gears of the status quo.

So come on, be a pal, make a tax deductible donation to CounterPunch today to support our annual fund drive, if you have already donated we thank you! If you haven't, do it because you want to. Do it because you know what CounterPunch is worth. Do it because CounterPunch needs you. Every dollar is tax-deductible. (PayPal accepted)

Thank you,
Eric Draitser

Fighting for the Soul of the Carpenters’ Union


All working people should pay attention to the egregious assault on union democracy happening in the Carpenters Union’s Pacific North West Regional Council, which covers all the Carpenter’s Locals in Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Wyoming, and Montana. The United Brotherhood of Carpenters has a proud history and should take immediate action to overturn a recent Regional Council decision that disciplined innocent, union-dedicated Carpenters with fines and a loss of membership privileges.  Those punished included twelve Carpenters who had recently won elections to lead their local union – mega-Local 156 of Oregon and South West Washington – as well as many regional delegate seats. The newly elected President and Vice President of Local 156 – as well as the other newly elected officers on the slate – are now facing fines up to $1,500 and six years of stripped membership privileges (the Carpenters interviewed for this article chose to remain anonymous, for fear of further retaliation). What were the crimes of these long standing union Carpenters? They held a “get out the vote” phone bank. For this they were charged with:

1) causing dissent in the ranks

2) failure to uphold the union oath

3) defrauding the union.

The real crime of the convicted Carpenters was that they ran a well-organized election campaign promising to reform their union on a pro-democracy basis, and they won.

Their campaign succeeded because they reached out to the union rank and file at the work sites while campaigning to fight for more democracy and transparency in the union and, more importantly, for better contracts by fighting harder against the employers attempts to reduce the standard of living of the membership. The reform group raised all of the money at their disposal at work sites from rank and file Carpenters.

Turmoil had been simmering in the Regional Council for quite some time, since century-old Carpenters locals throughout the state of Oregon and South West Washington were shut down and merged into a “mega-local,” which was done in a way that restricted the democracy previously enjoyed by the smaller locals.

For example, rural carpenters were made to drive hours to attend a union meeting if they wanted a voice in their union, since their local office was closed. Statewide decisions were centralized without the ability of carpenters to participate in the decision making process on a local level. The connectedness that Carpenters felt to their union was removed by hundreds of miles; their personal investment in their union was forcibly made impersonal.

The “mega-local” phenomenon has been a virus running throughout organized labor for years, creating the above, predictable effects. The reform-minded Carpenters saw this happening in their union and fought back against it.

This restriction of democracy was also occurring at the Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, which had centralized power over the encompassing states by the Council’s ability to appoint business agents, staff organizers, and bargain contracts. Instead of the union fighting the employer for better wages, the Regional Council talked endlessly about “partnerships” with the boss, which came at the direct expense of the wages of Carpenters.

There is no evidence that the convicted carpenters did anything wrong. In fact, they have federal labor law on their side. The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA) was created to give basic democratic rights within all labor unions and covers basic standards for union elections and free speech rights. (An excellent book on the interesting history of the LMRDA is Rebels, Reformers and Racketeers by Herman Benson.)

The accused Carpenters used these rights by campaigning and winning elections in their union. Unfortunately for their accusers, a “get out the vote” phone bank is not against any Carpenter rule, nor against federal labor law.

Staff from the Regional Council falsely accused the convicted carpenters of “stealing” the Carpenter’s membership list – with no evidence – and proceeded to slander them to the membership through a website and numerous mailings, calling the accused “thieves” and “liars,” unacceptable behavior in any union.

After losing the election the displaced leadership complained to the Carpenters International and a second set of elections was then organized. The reform Carpenters won that election by a larger margin. So now the candidates they defeated are trying to get them out of office using internal charges, based on the phone banking “scandal.” The LMRDA does not allow unions to target activists using vague accusations like “causing dissension.”

Dissent simply means disagreement, which is perfectly normal and natural in every union, which is why there are federally regulated union elections to express this dissent. Also, “dissent” is an overly broad concept that, in this case, infringed upon the Carpenter’s federally protected free speech rights, making the convictions illegal.  Perhaps the best evidence that these convicted carpenter’s were wrongly convicted was the composition of the jury that decided their fate. The Carpenter’s “trial committee” is supposed to be a standing (ongoing) committee comprised of regional delegates, picked by lottery. However, for this trial the standing committee was abolished, and a new committee put into place.

The lottery system could not have been used to select the new trial committee. One third of the lottery pool consisted of delegates from Oregon, and the trial committee had zero Oregon delegates: there is a 1.2 percent likelihood that this could happen in a lottery. The hand picked jury contained no Oregon delegates because the convicted Carpenters were Oregonians.

The injustices committed against these carpenters negatively affects all unions, since such undemocratic practices look horrible to the general public, and provides anti-union groups with easy ammunition.

The convictions also weaken the carpenters union directly, since many of their hardest fighting pro-union members are members without membership rights. A weakened Carpenters union consequently weakens labor as a whole.

The convicted Carpenters are now appealing their conviction to the Carpenter’s International, who has a chance to right a wrong and a legal duty to strike down the above violations, by reinstating the convicted Carpenter’s membership rights, as well as reinstating them into their elected leadership positions.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker and trade unionist. He can reached at

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action ( He can be reached at

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians