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2011-03-11

Empire in Wood


Empire in Wood: A History of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America by Robert A. Christie, 1956.

As of Wednesday, March 2, 2011, Empire in Wood has been re-released by and is available from Cornell University Press!
To order the book at a 20% discount go to the Cornell University Press Book Store at http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/cup_detail.taf?ti_id=14232 and use Discount Code: CCMP. You will not be able to order this book elsewhere at a discount, such as Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.

I encourage ALL union carpenters to purchase this book. It is very telling of the UBCJA's early and middle history. A history from which we can learn much. A history from which we all would truly benefit knowing. A history which we are doomed to repeat if we are not knowledgeable.

NOTE: I receive no compensation whatsoever for the purchase of this book. I will only receive satisfaction knowing that you wish to learn of and from our past.
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NOTE: When entering the promo code for an order, the discounted amount will not appear on the order form but will be applied when your order is processed by Cornell University Press. This discounted amount will appear on the receipt enclosed with your shipment. If you have any questions about this, you can call their customer service department at 1-800-666-2211.

NOTE: Cornell University Press applies a shipping charge of $6.00 for the first book and $1 for each additional book ordered. For those of you that I meet regularly face-to-face that do not wish to pay the $6.00 shipping charge for the first book I am willing to order the book for you as a group order, preferably of at least five (5) copies per order. The cost of shipping per book would then be $2.00 ($6.00 for the first book plus $1 for the next four equals $10. $10 divided by five books equals $2) or less. The total cost would be figured as (the cost of the book at $29.95 minus 20% plus $2) plus tax at 8%. Therefore, the total cost of the book would be around $28.04 ($29.95 - 20% = $23.96. $23.96 + $2.00 shipping = $25.96. $25.96 + 8% tax = $28.04.) If you are interested in participating in a group order let me know.
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CHAPTER I


The Union, the Industry, and the Carpenter: Present Day

IN THE year 1947 the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America boasted a membership of 722,000 and a treasury of $9,000,000 in cash and bonds. Few industrial and no craft unions outranked it in size, wealth, influence, or power. That its leaders stood foursquare behind the conservative policies of the American Federation of labor is understandable. Their predecessors had invented them.

The Apparent Structure of the Union

The 1947 constitution (The 1947 Constitution has been chosen because past-President William Hutcheson gave his only extensive recorded public interview in 1946 to Fortune magazine. When the constitution in effect at the time of the interview --the 1947 constitution, passed at the 1946 convention and published in 1947-- is read in conjunction with the interview, the two are more revealing than a reading of the constitution alone would be.) makes provision for a president, a secretary, a treasurer, two vice-presidents and seven executive board members. The powers of the general president are as extensive as the minds of carpenters assembled in convention could make them. After listing each of his specific powers, the constitution states that "he shall supervise the entire interests of the entire Brotherhood." Then, as an afterthought, it provided that "whenever in the judgment of the General President subordinate bodies ...are working against the best interests of the United Brotherhood ...(he) shall have the power to order said body to disband under penalty of suspension."

The first vice-president has charge of the label and of the woodworking mills which do or do not use it. He also approves the laws of all bodies subordinate to the national office. The second vice-president is given no specific duties but is essentially a troubleshooter for the general president. Directly under and appointed by the general president are the organizers or general representatives who, in spite of their importance, enjoy neither clearly defined constitutional status nor specific job tenure. The general secretary and general treasurer are clerks rather removed from the main flow of power.

The executive board is composed of seven district members who are elected by both the convention at large and four out of five of the general officers. (The second vice-president is not on the executive board.) The general president is chairman of the board and the general secretary, secretary. The executive board has charge of all trade movements and hears appeals on grievances and points of law decided by the general president. ("Trade movement" is the name given by the United Brotherhood to any demand for changed wages or working conditions.) Although inferior in power only to the convention, executive board members are subject to the beck and call of the general president who uses them to guide the activities of the various organizers, to direct organizing drives, and to assist the local organizations in the important strikes.

The most important local unit of the United Brotherhood is the district council, which is formed by all of the local unions in a clearly defined economic area, such as a small river valley or city. When ever two or more local unions exist, a district council must be formed. The district councils are given jurisdiction over collective bargaining, the framing of work rules, and the administration of national discipline. The local unions are simply dues collecting agencies.

The whole organization meets quadrennially in a convention. Representation at the convention is based on units of five hundred members, two delegates are permitted, for the second, three. Locals with more than one thousand members are limited to four delegates, and those with less that one hundred members are given one. The district councils are permitted no voting representation at the convention.

The rest of the constitution regulates strikes, benefits, finances, clearance cards, the use of the label, and disciplinary procedure. While it gives extensive powers to the national office, the constitution provides for democratic control in the event that the members should feel democratically inclined. Constitutions, however, do not create democracy; they reflect it. It is necessary to view the United Brotherhood in relation to the building industry to obtain a true picture of the union.


For more of Empire in Wood, Chapter 1, go to http://www.carpentersunionbc.com/Pages/EmpireInWood.html. For the whole story, please order the book at a 20% discount go to the Cornell University Press Book Store at http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/cup_detail.taf?ti_id=14232 and use Discount Code: CCMP.

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