April 17, 2014

Let them explain themselves

By UTU International President Mike Futhey

In spite of a federal court ruling Dec. 27 that UTU members were provided insufficient — and even misleading — information regarding the proposed merger with the Sheet Metal Workers’ union, seven current members of the UTU Board of Directors demanded in a letter to me Jan. 3 that I nonetheless support the merger and instruct the UTU Law Department to seek to overturn the court’s ruling.

In fact, the court’s ruling was supported by declarations from a majority of the previous board of directors who had voted to put the merger to a membership vote.

Now, seven current board members support the shotgun wedding of the UTU with the SMWIA that was boxed in secrecy and wrapped in a deception that would disenfranchise the craft and general-committee autonomy so cherished by our members.

The members of the Board of Directors who signed this demand are: John Babler, Vic Baffoni, Roy Boling, James Brunkenhoefer, J.R. Cumby, John Fitzgerald and Tony Iannone.

I was elected to protect our union’s cherished craft autonomy and this administration will not retreat from its obligations to the membership.

Assistant President Arty Martin, General Secretary and Treasurer Kim Thompson and I support providing the membership with full disclosure before asking them to vote on something so crucial to the future of this union, their careers and their families.

We ask Brothers Babler, Baffoni, Boling, Brunkenhoefer, Cumby, Fitzgerald and Iannone to explain why they don’t want to provide the membership with full and honest disclosure before seeking a vote on a merger with another organization.

Each of them committed in recent weeks that they were putting politics behind them and would work with this administration for the benefit of the entire union.

What, other than politics, would cause them to take the position they have taken? Indeed, in the face of indisputable evidence — validated by a federal court — that the membership did not have sufficient and factual information on which to vote, these seven brothers want that vote to stand.

Rumors are being circulated that unless we merge now — and under the recently disclosed and previously hidden terms that would disenfranchise our craft autonomy — the union is in danger of financial collapse. That is not true.

Former International President Paul Thompson said emphatically at our regional meetings in Kansas City and Pittsburgh, and our convention in Hollywood, Fla., that the union is “debt free.”

In fact, convention cost controls left us with a $1-million surplus from the convention. Moreover, the reduction of International vice president positions will save an additional $1 million annually, the $2 dues increase initiated by Paul Thompson will add another $1.5 million annually, and other cost controls being instituted will further improve our financial strength. Contrary to misinformation, this union is solvent and does not require a shotgun wedding to survive.

Meanwhile, the federal district court in Akron, Ohio, has extended until Feb. 8 the temporary restraining order halting implementation of the merger with the SMWIA creating SMART.

The 30-day extension was agreed to by parties so that we might explore all possibilities of resolution consistent with the interests of our members. I intend to use this period to clear up the lack of information and misinformation that previously was provided our membership.

Following is the form letter that was submitted to me separately by each of the seven brothers: John Babler, Vic Baffoni, Roy Boling, James Brunkenhoefer, J.R. Cumby, John Fitzgerald and Tony Iannone:

January 3, 2008

Mr. M. B. Futhey, United Transportation Union

14600 Detroit Avenue

Cleveland, OH 44107

Reference: UTU/SMWIA Merger

Dear Sir and Brother,

I understand that the UTU Board of Directors unanimously endorsed the merger of United Transportation Union (UTU) and the Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA). I also understand that on January 4, 2008, UTU will be represented in court in Akron, OH regarding a restraining order to permanently prevent the merger of the aforementioned Unions as outlined in the Merger Agreement between the parties.

As a member of the current UTU Board of Directors, I request that UTU’s legal position at the hearing support the merger of UTU and SMWIA as mandated by the Board of Directors and membership via their recent ratification vote. Furthermore, I request that any change(s), internal, legal or otherwise, regarding the merger of the UTU with SMWIA must have the concurrence of the UTU Board of Directors as set forth in the UTU Constitution. As a member of the UTU Board of Directors I so hold.