Saturday, June 16, 2007

A tale of two Brians -- How do they operate in IBEW Local 3?

When Brian McLaughlin was indicted on charges of stealing millions of dollars from assorted sources, including from the union, he was forced out as president of the NYC Central Labor Council and needed a job while his trial was pending. And so he decided to return to work as an electrician. No problem. He signed the book at the Local 3 hiring hall, waited his proper turn, he said, and was promptly put to work. Everything was in order. He had the right to work. Apart from the presumption of innocence, even if he should be found guilty, he would be entitled to earn a living at his trade after serving his time.

But his experience is quite different from the ordeal of another member of Local 3, Brian Colella. After 14 years as an electrician at the New York Fire Department he was discharged in 2003 (Fired by the Fire Department.) His “offense” had nothing to do with stealing money from anyone anywhere. He was on the department’s hit list, because he was an outspoken leader and advocate of the rights of himself and his fellows, especially their right to payment for hours worked overtime. It took him four years and heavy legal fees to win reinstatement before an arbitrator ruled that he had been framed on spurious charges and ordered him back to work.

Like the other Brian, he had been out of work and needed a job but when he tried to hire out of the union hall, he was not even allowed to register. Union Democracy Review reported the facts at the time, but no one seemed interested except the Chief, that good old civil service tabloid.

The question is, then, how do they operate that Local 3 hiring hall? An explanation is missing. Why does the Brian big shot, even after charges of stealing union money, get fair and first class treatment, while the Brian rank and filer, after being victimized for standing up for workers’ rights, is told to get lost?