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?


union proud said...

The answer to your question is that they are not in the same classification. An inside-wireman (construction electrician) is different than a shop employee who has no experience in the construction industry and who has not completed an apprenticeship. The fire department Brian is in a classification that does not and is not permitted by the department of labor to utilize hiring halls, which are specific to construction unions. Just because you are represented by the IBEW doesn't mean you are qualified or classified to work on all IBEW jobs. The IBEW also represents telephone operators and taxicab drivers, who are not permitted to sign the book as book 1 applicants for a referral. This would be like suggesting that a nurse’s aid be allowed to work as a RN simply because they belong to the same union.

Another Idealistic Knucklehead said...

I think the bigger issue here is that the man from the NYFD was forced out under false accusations yet was not backed up by his union representation. Where was his representation when fired under false circumstances?
Isn't this kind of situation a primary reason to belong to a union?

Herman Benson said...

“Union Proud” dislikes our posting on “A tale of two Brians.” It reported that Brian McLaughlin who had been indicted on charges of stealing money from the union was able to exercise his union rights and get a job thorough the union hiring hall; but Brian Colella, a Local 3 electrician who was framed by the Fire Department and discharged because he was standing up for union conditions, was denied the right even to register at the hall when he needed a job.

“Union Proud” would brush aside that kind of discrimination by arguing that Colella was a shop electrician and not a construction electrician who had completed an apprenticeship program. Does he claim that everyone referred out of the hall has completed an apprenticeship?

In any event Colella informs us of the following: When he was denied the right to sign up at the hall, no such explanation was given to him. He actually did complete four years of a five-year apprenticeship. Only after Attorney Arthur Fox filed a complaint with the NLRB did Local 3 finally find him a job at a hospital. “Union Proud’s” assertion that the Labor Department would not permit Colella to hire out of the hall is something spun out of his imagination.

“Another Idealistic Knucklehead” writes that the bigger issue here is that the union never filed a grievance with the Fire Department on Colella’s behalf. Colella says that is quite true. Union Democracy Review reported that fact in April under the headline “Electricians unjustly fired. Where was IBEW Local 3?”

BrobenR said...

Herman Benson and the knucklehead are both right. Brother Collela was overlooked twice.A grevience was not persued, and a brother in need was not given a job.

Electricians said...

Thanks for this post

NYC Electrician New York NY said...

Great story