Archive for June, 2015

Lesson Learned




Lesson Learned does not concern SMART or Local 28.  This blog is about unions generally, and the troubling implications of a very worthwhile NY Times Magazine article by Dan Kaufman about Randy Bryce, an idealistic Local 8, Wisconsin, ironworker and Terry McGowan a not so idealistic Operating Engineers union leader.  (Link below.)  The article points up the sometimes inexplicable and self-defeating political behavior of ordinary working men and women.  The article follows the principled politics of ironworker Randy Bryce who knows in his bones that working people need unions.  The article also traces the politics of advantage where steady paychecks are enough to transform entire unions into Republican bulwarks ethically unashamed to abandon or sabotage sister unions and their membership.

In 1980 the Air Traffic Controllers Union (PATCO) endorsed Republican, Ronald Reagan for President.  Their union’s leadership had a thin grasp on political truths.  The union’s members became proud Reagan Democrats.  The leadership and its working members believed they had more in common with Republicans than they did with Jimmy Carter and Democrats.  On August 5, 1981, after a two day strike Reagan fired 11,345 union air traffic controllers.  Reagan broke their union.

Lesson learned?????

Fast forward to 2010 when the head of Local 139, a state wide union of heavy equipment operators endorsed GOP conservative, Scott Walker as their candidate for governor of Wisconsin.  Union president, Terry McGowan and his operating engineers, believed like PATCO, they had more in common with Republicans than Democrats.  Walker, once elected governor, went on to break the Wisconsin civil service and teacher unions.

Lesson learned?????

McGowan endorsed Scott Walker a second time in 2014.

In recent legislative hearings on Walker’s pending Right to Work law in the Wisconsin legislature, union leader, McGowan proudly described himself and his members as “beer-­drinking, gun-­toting, pickup-­driving rednecks” and reminded legislators that many of his workers are politically conservative and usually vote Republican.  Local 139’s special relationship to Republican politicians was made clear when Scott Fitzgerald, the State Senate (Republican) majority leader and the sponsor of the right-to-work bill, floated the idea of exempting McGowan’s union, along with a few others.”  (Needless to say, the exemption never happened.)

Lesson learned????

“I sort of trusted the guy,” he (McGown) said, recalling his 2010 endorsement of Walker. “I took some bullets at the time from the other unions.” When Walker’s “divide and conquer” video was released in 2012, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel asked McGowan about the governor’s remarks.  McGowan told the paper that the phrase “divide and conquer” troubled him. “It means turning worker against worker,” he said.

Lesson learned?????

From the Times article: “Last fall, McGowan met with Governor Walker, who was seeking a contribution and another endorsement for governor, at a small campaign office in Wauwatosa, outside Milwaukee. “I looked across the table at him, and I said, ‘We are both God-­fearing men,’ ” McGowan told me. “ ‘If you can tell me that right-to-work will not come on your desk, then I will take you for your word.’ He looked me in the eyes, and he said, ‘It will not make it to my desk.’ He was looking for a contribution, and I was looking for a commitment. We both got what we came for. He kept his, and I lost mine.”

Lesson learned?????

McGowan and his ilk were and are foolish and selfish union leaders.  Consequently, the future of his membership and many other Wisconsin workers is now greatly diminished.  Thanks to Scott Walker, Right to Work will likely be law of the land in Wisconsin.  Following that, will come Scott Walker’s repeal of the state’s Little Davis-Bacon Act.

Unfortunately, Terry McGowan is not an outlier union leader.  There are plenty more McGowans in this world and plenty of union dues payers who think just like the boastful conservative “red necks” of Local 139.

Lesson Learned:  A working man’s decent steady paycheck is a benefit of unionism not selfish politics.  Allow conservative Republicans to divide working class Americans and just as Scott Walker promised, each and every one of us will be conquered one state at a time, one union at a time and one individual at a time.  Protect yourself. Keep faith with the unionism practiced by ironworker Randy Bryce.  It’s called Solidarity.


Embarrassed Ventlines

The previous  Ventlines blog was critical of SMART for hosting an outdated internet version of our Constitution and Ritual.  Ventlines was wrong.  SMART had the document up on the NEW ​ internet address.  If members use the OLD internet address they are apparently sent to an outdated and unsupported site.  Old habits die hard.  Apologies to SMART.  The new site is great and using the C&R at the new site is a vast improvement.  Mea culpa.


It is embarrassing.


Maybe it is just Ventlines’ sour grapes.  Maybe it too complex for the average sheet metal worker to understand.  Then again, maybe it’s just  I.A. business as usual.  But to this not too casual eye it seems near inexcusable that at this late date, the I.A. website displays an officially useless and officially outdated version of the SMART Constitution and Ritual.  As of June 5, 2015 the website still presents the 2009 version of the Constitution as the official document that governs the affairs of the new SMART union.  As of the same date the same document presents Michael J. Sullivan as the General President of SMART.

MEMO to D.C.  Sullivan is gone.  Nigro is gone.  Joseph Sellers is the new G.P.  There is a new Constitution in town and the membership deserves and expects to have timely access to the true document.

It is embarrassing.  Let’s get it done.

Here is the proper link as per Joe Barbara: