With Apparently No Union to Save Them, Chicago's Carpenters' Union Lays Off Dozens of Organizers

Never, ever let someone tell you unions aren’t a business–they are.  In fact, even though unions rake in more than $10 billion per year from workers’ dues, when times are tough, like many other businesses out there, unions lay off their employees too.

A case in point:

Though unions are usually fighting against job cuts, one Chicago union recently issued layoff notices to its own employees.

Effective Jan. 1, the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters laid off 58 organizers -– the majority of its full-time organizing staff.

The positions were eliminated as a cost-saving move for the union at a time when there’s not much work to organize, according to Frank Libby, president of the council, a union consortium based at 12 E. Erie St. in Chicago.

“We still have the organizing department running, but there’s not a whole lot going on out there. The residential field has hit rock bottom,” Libby said. “With the lack of income coming in and the lack of jobs out there, it’s a double-edged sword.”

The layoffs could save the union well over $1 million, based on 2008 salary figures filed with the U.S. Department of Labor. However, Libby said he could not immediately provide financial details.

The role of an organizer is to find nonunion work sites and persuade the contractors and carpenters to join the union. Some workers fear that nonunion construction could increase because of the layoffs.

According to its reports to the Department of Labor, the Chicago District Council of Carpenters lists a lot of union salesmen organizers who made six-figure salaries in 2009.  The top union bosses, on the other hand, drew in as much as one quarter of a million in 2009.
One interesting note to the union lay offs is the fact that the District Council, according to its government reports, paid  $732,076 to buy cars in 2009.

It just goes to show you, union are no different than so many of the businesses they criticize.
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