Misogynist attacks, accusations of “interference” by Sawant, as carpenters’ union goes on strike

Evelyn Shapiro, Head of the Pacific Northwest Regional Carpenters Council

By Erica C. Barnett

[Content note: Misogynistic slurs]

As Northwest Carpenters Union members began an indefinite strike on construction sites in the Puget Sound area on Thursday, union leaders raised questions about potential interference in contract negotiations – and the strike itself – by city ​​council member Kshama Sawant and her political organization, Socialist Alternative.

Sawant and SA, they accused, encouraged people to vote against the union’s proposed contract with Associated General Contractors and subsequently encouraged wildcat strikes – pickets and walkouts that occur without permission. union, often at sites where project collective agreements prohibit workers from leaving work.

“We had at least one elected official who was a supporter of [wildcat strikes] and encouraging that, and we don’t appreciate that kind of input from politicians, ”union executive secretary-treasurer Evelyn Shapiro said on Thursday.

“We don’t need strangers to come and wave our members in a direction that is going to get them in trouble or put them in a bad position.” Unions have strict rules dictating how and where they can strike, Shapiro said; picketing at a site where the union has agreed not to strike because the union and the contractor have signed a project collective agreement, for example, can lead to internal lawsuits and accusations against union members.

Board member Teresa Mosqueda, who previously worked as a lobbyist for the Washington State Labor Council, told PubliCola: “Our job as elected officials is to support union members, period, not to not influence the way they vote or try to whip the votes in a certain direction. … We are here to show solidarity when they vote and to allow the wages and benefits that people negotiate to go even further.

“We had at least one elected official who was a supporter of [wildcat strikes] and encouraging that, and we don’t appreciate that kind of input from politicians. We don’t need strangers to come and wave our members in a direction that is going to get them in trouble or put them in a bad position.

Much of the agitation against the contract, and in favor of wildcat strikes, has come from a group of union members who are active on Facebook, including some self-identified Marxists who believe the contract is not doing enough. away to protect workers. wages, health care and pensions. Nicole Grant, executive secretary-treasurer of the King County Labor Council, said she “had never seen anything so serious in my career, where a small faction of Marxist extremists, with the support of an elected official, could not only wreak so much havoc within a union, but also undermine.

The contract, which union members rejected last week, called for a 20% increase over four years and an increase in parking reimbursement to $ 1.50 an hour, among other conditions. The main points of contention included the amount of the raise, the length of the contract, and reimbursement for parking, especially for carpenters who work in Bellevue and downtown Seattle, where people are “taxed to go.” work, ”Shapiro said.

Arthur Esparza, a union member (and Marxist) who runs a public Facebook group opposed to the contract, confirmed that Sawant’s office had sent “liaison officers” to support his group, but added: “They didn’t. no control over our gatherings and we are very independent. Socialist Alternative. Longtime Sawant employee Jonathan Rosenblum said his only involvement in the negotiations was a Labor Day “solidarity letter” denouncing the working conditions of carpenters and the “millionaires and billionaires” who profit from the work of union members. “I pledge to fight alongside you for a good union contract for all carpenters,” the letter said.

However, Sawant also promoted a rally organized by opponents of the contract the week before the final vote, calling the proposed terms of the contract “unsatisfactory” and “insulting.” And Rosenblum, an organizer of Socialist Alternative, also publicly opposed the contract on Twitter, calling the terms “ugly” and praising the carpenters union for rejecting it after four successive votes.

Rosenblum told PubliCola that Sawant, his staff, and Rosenblum personally had no role in organizing or rallying against the contract. “Now that the union members have voted democratically in favor of the strike, we will support them of course,” he added.

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Commentators on Esparza’s Facebook page Peter J. McGuire – named after the founder of the carpenters union – spent days debating whether to engage in wildcat strikes (for which Esparza received a request yesterday cessation and abstention of a union lawyer). At times the discussion escalated into misogynistic personal attacks on Shapiro – the head of a United Brotherhood of Carpenters regional council to head a United Brotherhood of Carpenters regional council in US history.

Men posted on Esparza’s page called Shapiro, a carpenter who went through the union’s apprenticeship program, a “dumb bitch trying to take credit for our work,” a “fucking asshole” and ‘other insults. One man posted that Shapiro had “agreed to blow up the first 100 carpenters to pick up Microsoft on Monday morning,” followed by, “If I regretted bj’s post, I would delete it. But I want Evelyn to see it. … J hope it tortures and haunts her.

Another, posted on the Pacific Northwest Regional Carpenters Council page, wrote: “FUCK YOU SHAPIRO YOU IGNORANT CUNT !!! WHAT IF YOU DO WHAT WE WANT OR GET AWAY FROM THE FUCK? “

Monty Anderson, executive secretary of the Seattle Construction and Building Trades Council, told PubliCola that “In 30 years, I never saw this kind of division and sexism until Facebook made room for a few on the fringes to be seen and heard. They don’t represent work, ”he added; “some just want to watch the world burn.”

One man posted that Shapiro had “agreed to blow up the first 100 carpenters to pick up Microsoft on Monday morning,” followed by, “If I regretted bj’s post, I would delete it. But I want Evelyn to see it. … J hope it tortures and haunts her.

But Grant, of the King County Labor Council, said she suffered similar treatment as a union leader. “I feel it strongly when I see a union member calling someone from his union, one of his union sisters, a jerk, especially when he’s a permanent member who serves the union in an elected leadership,” he said. Grant said. “It’s heartbreaking and scary – hate crime on construction sites is absolutely real and more common than you probably think. So when I see someone say to themselves “she’s a motherfucker, she’s a jerk”, I feel it myself because I’ve had some really similar experiences.

Esparza, who says he removes hate speech from the site as soon as he sees it, condemned the comments, saying there was no room for misogyny, racism, homophobia or transphobia in discussions on labor rights. (The written rules of the Peter J. McGuire Facebook group condemn harassment and assault.) And misogyny, ”Esparza said.

But Esparza said Shapiro herself bears at least some of the blame when people attack her personally, as she is the leader of a union that has not historically condemned misogyny and racism sufficiently. “These issues need to be addressed, but the reason we still deal with them, in my opinion, is because of poor leadership” from people like Shapiro and United Brotherhood of Carpenters General President Doug McCarron, who met then-President Donald Trump in 2017, he said. “When Donald Trump, who is a well-known sexist and misogynist, was elected, Douglas McCarron was impatient [to meet with him] and Evelyn never criticized that.

Esparza also accuses those who have focused on misogynistic online attacks of trying to “distract from the real grievances carpenters have with both management and contractors.”

Grant, of the Labor Council, said the misogyny and hate speech she saw during this contract negotiation was “totally unique” in her experience as a union leader and deserves to be exposed. “The foundation of our culture is kinship, mutual support, acceptance, kindness – you know, it’s like normal work culture. We’re always trying to improve on gender, sexism and racism, but having an active group, it affects people’s contracts and their paychecks, and their result is “fuck you, conn, long live the resistance” – this is not normal, and it is bad, and it must stop.

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