Carpenter, woodworking, carpentry

While forcing workers to pay union dues is always wrong, the practice becomes even more outrageous when the union hierarchy is corrupt.

Today, many carpenters in New Hampshire, along with the other 22 states without Right to Work protections for rank-and-file employees, are forced to help pay Frank Spencer’s salary in order to keep their jobs.

Spencer is general vice president of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC) union, which gets its revenue overwhelmingly from dues and fees extracted from workers by UBC subsidiaries across the U.S. and Canada.

And according to former UBC official John Ballantyne, Spencer and other UBC bosses of his ilk have time and again used their positions of power to enrich themselves at workers’ expense.

For example, according to an October 2018 civil suit filed by Ballantyne and two co-plaintiffs, Spencer and former UBC Eastern District Vice President Mike Capelli raked in a total of $300,000 in union dues-funded payments to their annuities from the UBC Northeast Regional Council at a time they were no longer employed by that entity.

In their suit, Ballantyne and his co-plaintiffs alleged that their efforts to root out corruption in the UBC union led to their dismissals.

By the time the case was settled out of court, with the terms undisclosed, the allegations in it had clearly captured the attention of federal prosecutors.

George Laufenberg, the former administrative manager of the UBC New York/New Jersey benefits funds, now awaits a federal trial for allegedly defrauding these funds of more than $1.5 million.

Laufenberg’s September 2019 indictment on fraud charges apparently stemmed from Ballantyne’s communications with the Justice Department, the Labor Department, the IRS and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.

A couple of months after Laufenberg was indicted, it was publicly reported that the UBC hierarchy, along with managers of UBC pension and pharmacy benefits and several other outfits with close ties to the union, had been issued federal subpoenas.

The latest shoe to drop in the burgeoning UBC scandal is a lawsuit filed late last year by five former employees of a UBC subsidiary with jurisdiction over six states plus Washington, D.C.

The former employees charge that UBC President Doug McCarron and other top UBC officials, along with the subsidiary’s executive secretary, engineered their “wrongful termination” in retaliation for their alliance with Ballantyne.

The firings last March of two union staffers who openly and publicly supported Ballantyne’s decision in 2017 to advise law enforcement that Laufenberg had embezzled vast sums of money from the union’s forced-dues-funded plan assets, along with the firings of three other staffers who were personally close to Ballantyne, are certainly suspicious.

While a trial date for Laufenberg has not been set yet, and the civil suit charging that McCarron and others authorized a purge of corruption foes within the union is still at an early stage, based on what is already known, carpenters who don’t want to bankroll a crooked union would be amply justified in cutting off their financial support for the union now.

Unfortunately, employees who labor in non-Right to Work states like New Hampshire can be fired and/or denied future job opportunities simply because they refuse to continue putting money in the pockets of union bosses like Doug McCarron and Frank Spencer.

The good news in the Granite State is that legislation that would prohibit forced union financial support as a condition of employment has already been approved by the Senate and the House Labor Committee, and is slated for a House floor vote soon.

S.B. 61, the New Hampshire Right to Work Bill, would free the individual employee to combat union boss mismanagement and corruption by wielding the power of the purse string.

New England Carpenters union bosses who routinely funnel a substantial portion of the forced dues and fees they extract from rank-and-file tradesmen and women into the pockets of Doug McCarron and Frank Spencer are bitterly opposing S.B. 61.

They apparently have no problem with George Laufenberg’s alleged embezzlement of $1.5 million from rank-and-file carpenters or Doug McCarron’s alleged termination of UBC employees for blowing the whistle on Laufenberg and company.

Now the question is: Where do New Hampshire lawmakers stand?

Mark Mix is president of the National Right to Work Committee.