Most building trade unionists get
work out of hiring halls. Union control over the hiring halls is important
in protecting union standards in construction. But how to make sure that
the halls are run fairly without discrimination or favoritism? The question
is important, because many business agents use their control over job
referrals to build and maintain their personal political machines and
to retaliate against rivals and critics.
Because so many AUDers confront the hiring hall problem,
we are calling to your attention a Chicago case in which a federal court
Special Master imposed hiring hall requirements on a Pipefitters local
and employers. The case (Daniels v. Pipefitters Assn. v. Local Union 597)
came after a finding of racial discrimination and the court was attempting
to address that problem. But although this case arose in the context of
extreme, pervasive, long lasting racial discrimination, the court's remedy
also benefits all unionists, especially those routinely excluded from
jobs for merely questioning the system.
Included in the judicial remedy were the following requirements:
All employers must notify
the union of all jobs available and use the hiring hall exclusively
to fill those jobs.
Qualified persons were
mandated to be referred in the order in which they signed the list.
An orderly system of
recording all employment requests and how they were filled was to be
All union members and
job applicants had an absolute right to review any and all referral
records including Manpower requests, Business Agent Dispatch Forms and
Carry Over logs.
All records must be available
for inspection at reasonable times.
Copies of all records
must be promptly provided upon the payment of a reasonable fee which
could be waived upon a showing of financial need.
The court ordered the appointment of a Hiring Hall
Monitor to implement these requirements but there is no reason why a union,
with appropriate safeguards, could not run a similar system itself.
In Daniels, the court had the power to require employers
to post all jobs and to fill them in strict accordance to the hiring list.
But, as attentive UDR readers have learned and as construction workers
know, most union agreements with construction contractors, give employers
the unilateral, unlimited right to reject any applicant, even those sent
out from the union hiring hall, without giving any reason for the rejection.
This "right to reject" enables employers to blacklist good conscientious
union activists who file grievances when they find employer violating
the agreement. (The practice also makes it possible for unscrupulous union
officials, in collusion with cooperating employers, to keep their critics
from getting work.)
In one union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical
Workers, there has been an upsurge of protest by local leaders against
the "right to reject" system. At the union's international convention
in 2001, over the opposition of the international administration, the
delegates directed the top officer to get rid of the current "right
to reject" contract clauses and replace them with a provisions that
require good cause for any rejection. When nothing happened, the delegates
to the 2006 convention reiterated their stand. So far, unfortunately,
there is no public record of any effort by the international office to
carry out the convention mandate.
NOTE: The Daniels
case is a useful reference point for those attempting to establish fair
hiring hall procedures. The judge's ruling in the original 1993 case (not
available online) included a ten page list of mandated hiring hall procedures.
You can get a copy of the procedures from AUD for $5 for shipping and
handling. Send us a check or call 718-564-1114.
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