Union dues blues

Andrew Robinson
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Gus Doyle is the president of the Carpenters' Union Local 579. - Telegram file photo.

Though it may be a common rule for unions across North America, a member of the Carpenters' Union Local 579 believes it is unfair to be taken off a call list for work for being involved with multiple unions.

Keith Carew of Witless Bay completed a scaffolding course at the Carpenters Millwrights College in Paradise in 2009 and joined the union shortly thereafter. The college was established in part by the union in 1996.

Carew, now 24, waited for the union to help him find work, but nothing came immediately, and with a mortgage to pay on his home and a family to help look after, he felt pressure to find employment.

"When you just finish a trade, you always hear about how these guys did it last year, and they're out working now. I expected to get work, but I got nothing from the union. I didn't even get a call. The only time I heard from the union was when they wanted money."

He found a job in Alberta in March 2010 on a site handled by the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC). Taking the job resulted in Carew paying dues to that union while also continuing to cover dues owed to Local 579.

"To me, it's food on the table and heat in my home and money for my son to go to school," he said. "For me it's not about supporting the union. It's about getting my bills paid."

In June of this year, a representative from Local 579 contacted Carew to offer him a job in Newfoundland and Labrador. However, he was now on his first day back in Alberta, and could not afford to head straight back home after investing in his trip out west, so he chose to decline the job offer.

"They do have the right to bump me down the list, but I don't think they have the right to take my name off that list," he said. "I paid my union dues for those three years, even though I had no work."

Carew was unexpectedly laid off from work in July, and since then he has remained in Witless Bay looking for opportunities. He would periodically call the office of Local 579 to inquire about the availability of jobs.

In November, Carew learned he was number 28 on the list for work, and he later heard more hirings had been made to build the commercial nickel processing plant in Long Harbour. This gave Carew hope he would soon have a job.

But a phone conversation with a representative from the union two weeks ago informed Carew if he had turned down work in the past, he would get bumped down the list.

Carew thought that would be his slap on the wrist, but 10 minutes later, he received another call from that person, who then told Carew he was off the list altogether and would remain so until he had severed all ties with CLAC.

Carew said he has more than $3,000 in RRSPs through CLAC.

"I was paying two sets of union dues, and all for now - for the boom in Newfoundland (with) the Long Harbour project and all the work that's coming. And now they're denying me, even though I paid all that money."

Local 579 president Gus Doyle said as established by the union constitution, which dates back to 1883, a union member cannot pay dues to more than one union.

"He's in violation of the constitution," said Doyle. "It's the standard practice in all unions right across North America."

Carew contends such an arrangement is not fair. For now, he intends to enjoy the holidays with his family and hope a work opportunity presents itself in 2012.

arobinson@thetelegram.com Twitter: TeleAndrew


Organizations: Carpenters Millwrights College in Paradise, Christian Labour Association of Canada, Union Local

Geographic location: North America, Witless Bay, Alberta Newfoundland and Labrador Long Harbour

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Recent comments

  • Jeff
    December 31, 2011 - 07:18

    The time and place for unions is long gone. They should be banned. All they do is take take take. The union dues people pay is terrible and for nothing. Why does the leader of NAPE need to make upwards of $250,000 a year plus a huge expense account?? This all while doing nothing and charging the members a fortune. People who are struggling to get by and working long hours. It's terible. I have always hated unions and the more time that goes by the more they show me that it is all about massive greed and padding the pockets of the few in charge of the union. I remember a stike a while ago, the leader of NAPE was making double time 24 hours a day for the whole duration of the strike, meanwhile the people on strike were making $150 a week strike pay and still had to pay union dues. The greed is terrible. Unions should be beanned or at the very least be accountable to a governing body and ethical principals.

  • J Beales
    December 30, 2011 - 10:22

    Its like this you are either union or non union, thats all. Everyone has a choice in the work they do however I am a firm believer in no double dipping, if you choose to work non union and are part of a real building trades union then rules apply to that, if you do not like those rules then maybe the union is not for you. As well for CLAC, everybody needs to get there facts straight on them, they are a association who are not part of the Alberta Building Trades Association, there are plenty of newfoundlanders who come to Fort Mcmurray to find work with there building trades union and are able too, why not in this case.

  • daren griffin
    December 27, 2011 - 11:25

    NLBTC.... Nothing. Left. But. The. Corrup[tion .

  • sealcove
    December 27, 2011 - 10:39

    Unions are great ,newfoundland is full of whiners

  • Terry
    December 27, 2011 - 05:11

    I agree with W Bagg. A constitution that dates back to 1883 must be antiquated to say the least. Hasn't this union management managed to make any changes since then, or will they continue with the status quo? They indeed have to recognize that times have changed.

  • David
    December 26, 2011 - 14:00

    I'm the last guy to defend a union.....today's unions are abominations of greed, and their leaderships take advantage of their "bretheren" to line their own pockets. But when anyone joins a union, they lose personal control (and accountability) for their working fate to enjoy the gains being part of a group with leverage enhanced by the power of coercion. So if (no, make that when) you feel you get "screwed" by your own mobsters, don't even dream of looking for sympathy or help outside of your "gang". After all, you getting 'screwed' is for the benefit of someone else.......and that's the very essence of your 'solidarity', no?

  • Political Watcher
    December 25, 2011 - 16:51

    Where is Lana Payne and the Federation on this one? Oh right, they are enjoying their two weeks off at Christmas. The staff at the Federation all make over $75,000.00 per year, enjoy six weeks vacation a year and only work four days a week. And they represent the common worker? Give me a break; all the dues workers pay covers off big salaries and large expense accounts. If an employer expenses half of what they do at Union offices they would cry fould till the cows come home. Unions have served their purpose and should be de-certified. Just look at the recent issues at the MMSB: Wayne Lucas was on the airwaves saying the employees can't work for slave wages any longer. Well Wayne, it was YOU who negiotiated those wages for those workers. From what I know, the biggest winners in that whole unionization was the union in the collection of dues.

  • William Daniels
    December 25, 2011 - 16:45

    Friends don't let friends do CLAC. The article is wrong. CLAC is not a union.

  • Ed
    December 25, 2011 - 10:19

    CLAC is not a big union, but it is one of the fastest growing. This growth may be directly related to CLAC’s workplace organizing tactics – tactics designed from allowing worker the choice between CLAC and real unions. The record shows some of the games CLAC’s played: CLAC accepts invitations by employers to enter into voluntary recognition agreements. This stops organizing efforts of traditional unions. CLAC enters into voluntary agreements with an employer before any employees have been hired, or before the bulk of employees have been hired. CLAC enters into voluntary agreements with an employer without obtaining legitimate support from the workers it represents. CLAC enters into inferior collective agreements compared to those of other unions that represent workers in the same industry or with the same employer. CLAC proposes wage rates in first collective agreements that are in some cases less than workers in the bargaining unit were previously earning. CLAC conducts collective agreement ratification votes among workers before a wage schedule is negotiated into the collective agreement. CLAC has permitted management representatives to attend union meetings to discuss and vote on agreements. More here: http://www.thetruthaboutclac.ca

  • Brad
    December 25, 2011 - 00:58

    Typical union crap--look after the union reps, not the members. My wife is a nurse and has 2 jobs and pays dues to 2different unions--saho and sgeu--no problem, they both take the dues and give little return.

  • Union Hater
    December 24, 2011 - 17:10

    Typical union BS. When ar you going to learn that the union does not give a hoot about you. All they are interested in is your dues. And when you pay them, waht does it get you? That's right, nothing.

  • Mike
    December 24, 2011 - 15:11

    Clac is no union, it's a organization for non union companies to keep building trade counsels out. Don't get it twisted... As for keiths situation, if your employed outside of your union doing trade related work, you go to the bottom of the list until you quit or get laid off and then you go back on the board, and start where you left. No double dipping. That's fair, you expect to run off to Alberta and work non-union and come back to Newfoundland and be the first to work for the union. Give your head a shake!

  • Warren Neville
    December 24, 2011 - 13:58

    Here's an idea. Stop relying on somebody else to find you work. He "waited for the union to help him find work." These union guys are amazing. I'm all for fair wages, good working conditions, safety, etc...but these unions do nothing to promote economic or social progress. I know guys who would rather sit around, pay dues and wait 6 months for a union job, when there are hundreds of good paying non-union jobs going unfilled. Meanwhile the union boys are home drawing pogie. Can't work for $24/hr, have to wait for $29.50. Current labour laws, OH&S regulations, and our right to refuse make unions obsolete.

  • pissed
    December 24, 2011 - 13:47

    unions are not always into it for the workers, the executive must be looked after first.

  • E.wms
    December 24, 2011 - 13:42

    That is bull,there is lot of members in nl in other locals.If not they would not get in work in nl.

  • B.Ball
    December 24, 2011 - 12:00

    B.Ball This guy want's his cake and be able to eat it too.

  • G F Dunphy
    December 24, 2011 - 11:49

    something is Not right here, my wife works for two nursing homes here in toronto one full time @ one part time and she has to pay Union Dues to the same Union SEIU Local 1 twice, she has been paying dues to that union for 9 years, so why do she need to pay twice, as for what they do even once is one too many, but believe me that Unions Are Killing This Country,

  • roy
    December 24, 2011 - 11:40

    This is a prime example how unions are destroying the country, a person gets training in a trade, can't find work in his own province, has the guts to go elseware to better himself and because he does, he is band from work by a union that should be helping him. Time for Govt to step in and outlaw unions of this type who are destroying the province using constitutions date in the 1800s.

  • sealcove
    December 24, 2011 - 10:47

    If you do not get what you want run to the media

  • John Hoover
    December 24, 2011 - 10:19

    As I see it 90% of Newfoundlanders go to Alberta and find work with the blessing of their union back home. They know up front and have no choice but to join CLAC or care as long as they got work. The unions back home don't care as long as the dues keep rooling in. The more members the more salary they can claim to represent, the bigger their salary gets. If we can send our boys out west to get the hours they need to become Journeymen then maybe we could get the CLAC union find work work for our boys back home in Newfoundland. Let's see if Gus at 579 likes that.

  • W Bagg
    December 24, 2011 - 10:03

    might be time to change that rule..............seeings how it is 130 years old, a few things changed in the last century