By Erica C. Barnett
[Content note: Misogynistic slurs]
As members of the Northwest Carpenters Union began an indefinite strike at work sites across the Puget Sound region 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 charged, encouraged people to vote against the union’s proposed contract with the Associated General Contractors and have subsequently encouraged wildcat strikes—pickets and walkouts that occur without union authorization, often on sites where project labor agreements prohibit workers from walking off the job.
“We’ve had at least one elected official who’s been a proponent of [wildcat strikes] and encouraging that, and we don’t appreciate that kind of input from politicians,” the union’s executive secretary-treasurer, Evelyn Shapiro, said Thursday.
“We don’t need outsiders coming in and agitating our members in a direction that’s going to get them in trouble or put them in a bad situation.” Unions have strict rules dictating how they can strike and where, Shapiro said; picketing at a site where the union has agreed not to strike because the union and contractor have signed a project labor agreement, for example, can lead to lawsuits and internal charges against union members.
Council 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 influence how they vote or to try to whip votes in a certain direction. … We’re there to show solidarity when they vote and to make it possible for the wages and benefits that people are negotiating to go even further.”
“We’ve had at least one elected official who’s been a proponent of [wildcat strikes] and encouraging that, and we don’t appreciate that kind of input from politicians. We don’t need outsiders coming in and agitating our members in a direction that’s going to get them in trouble or put them in a bad situation.”—Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters leader Evelyn Shapiro
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 doesn’t go nearly far enough to protect workers’ wages, health care, and pensions. Nicole Grant, executive secretary-treasurer of the King County Labor Council, said she’s “never seen anything quite this serious in the course of my career, where a small faction of Marxist extremists, with the backing of an elected official, have been able to not just wreak this much havoc inside of a union but been this undermining.”
The contract, which union members rejected last week, included a 20 percent raise over four years and an increase in parking reimbursement to $1.50 an hour, among other conditions. Key points of contention included the size of the wage increase, the length of the contract, and the parking reimbursement, particularly for carpenters who work in Bellevue and downtown Seattle, where people are being “taxed to go to work,” Shapiro said.
Arthur Esparza, a union member (and a Marxist who is unaffiliated with Socialist Alternative) who runs a public Facebook group opposing the contract, confirmed that Sawant’s office did send “liaisons” to support his group but added, “They have no control over our rallies and we’re very independent from Socialist Alternative.” Sawant’s longtime staffer, Jonathan Rosenblum, said her only involvement in the negotiations was a Labor Day “solidarity letter” decrying the carpenters’ working conditions and the “millionaires and billionaires” who profit from union members’ labor. “I am committed to fight alongside you for a good union contract for all carpenters,” the letter said.
However, Sawant also promoted a rally held by contract opponents the week before the final vote, calling the proposed contract terms “substandard” and “insulting.” Rosenblum also opposed the contract publicly on Twitter, calling the terms “lousy” and praising the carpenters’ union for rejecting it after four successive votes.
Rosenblum told PubliCola that Sawant, her staff, and Rosenblum personally played no part in organizing or rallying against the contract. “Now that the union members have democratically voted to strike, we will of course be supporting them,” he added.
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Commenters on Esparza’s Peter J. McGuire Facebook page—named after the founder of the carpenters’ union— have spent days debating whether to engage in wildcat strikes (for which Esparza received a cease and desist demand from an attorney for the union yesterday). At times, the discussion has devolved into misogynistic personal attacks against Shapiro—the first woman to lead a United Brotherhood of Carpenters regional council in US history.
Men posting on Esparza’s page have called Shapiro, a carpenter who came up through the union apprenticeship program, a “dumb bitch out there trying to take credit for our work,” a “fucking cunt,” and other slurs. One man posted that Shapiro had “agreed to blow the first 100 carpenters to picket Microsoft Monday morning,” following up with, “If I regretted the b.j. post I would delete it. But I want Evelyn to see it. … I hope it tortures and haunts her.”
Another man, posting on the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters’ page, wrote, “FUCK YOU SHAPIRO YOU IGNORANT CUNT!!! HOW ABOUT YOU DO THE FUCK WHAT WE WANT OR GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE WAY?”
Monty Anderson, executive secretary for the Seattle Construction and Building Trades Council, told PubliCola that “in 30 years I have never seen this kind of division and sexism until Facebook gave a place for a few on the fringe to be seen and heard. They do not represent labor,” he added; “some just want to watch the world burn.”
One man posted that Shapiro had “agreed to blow the first 100 carpenters to picket Microsoft Monday morning,” following up with, “If I regretted the b.j. post I would delete it. But I want Evelyn to see it. … I hope it tortures and haunts her.”
But Grant, from the King County Labor Council, said she has experienced similar treatment as a female union leader. “I feel it strongly when I see a union member calling somebody from their union, one of their union sisters, a cunt, especially when it’s a member of standing who’s serving the union in elected leadership,” Grant said. “It’s heartbreaking and scary—the hate crimes on job sites are absolutely real and more frequent than probably anybody would believe. So when I see somebody just being like, ‘she’s a cocksucker, she’s a cunt’, I feel it myself because I’ve had 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 about labor rights. (The written rules for the Peter J. McGuire Facebook group condemn harassment and assault.) “Women only make up 1 to 3 percent of construction workers, so I think that the lack of integration of the industry has helped to fuel a lot of sexism and misogyny,” Esparza said.
But Esparza said Shapiro herself bears at least some of the blame when people attack at her personally, because she’s a leader in a union that hasn’t historically condemned misogyny and racism enough. “These issues have to be addressed, but the reason we still deal with them in my opinion is because of poor leadership” by people like Shapiro and United Brotherhood of Carpenters General President, Doug McCarron, who met with then-President Donald Trump in 2017, he said. “When Donald Trump, who’s a well-known sexist and misogynist, was elected, Douglas McCarron couldn’t wait [to meet with him] and Evelyn has never been critical of that.”
Esparza also accuses those who’ve focused on the misogynistic online attacks of attempting a “to deflect attention away from the real grievances that working carpenters have with both the leadership and the contractors.”
Grant, from the Labor Council, said the misogyny and hate speech she’s seen during this contract negotiation have been “totally unique” in her experience as a labor leader, and deserve to be called out. “The foundation of our culture is kinship, support mutual aid, acceptance, kindness—you know, that’s, like, normal labor culture. We’re always trying to get better about gender and sexism and racism, but to have a group that’s active, that’s affecting people’s contract and their paycheck, and their bottom line is ‘fuck you, cunt, viva la resistance’— that’s not normal, and it’s bad, and it needs to stop.”
20 thoughts on “Misogynistic Attacks, Accusations of “Interference” By Sawant, as Carpenters’ Union Strikes”
To tell the truth, these offenses and humiliations are absolutely unacceptable to me and I think that there will be a huge punishment for such kinds of statements. I absolutely agree with Grant that it is heartbreaking and scary but our world is full of it and it is so important to pay attention to this situation. I can’t understand how it is possible to openly bully women because of the fact that men are full of stereotypes and I’m certain that It all comes from self-hatred, from dissatisfaction with yourself. I absolutely support the position of Grant that we all need to support each other and express our loyalty, but when our reality is full of such an injustice, it is necessary to stop it because it may never end what is more scary.
Dear Nicole Grant, Evelyn Shapiro and Teresa Mosqueda,
What red-baiting nonsense your comments are!
Evelyn–Kshama’s Labor Day solidarity message was really good. It expresses her opinion and solidarity with carpenters. It connects the issues the carpenters are facing with the problems all workers are facing. It seems the thing that you don’t like is that she’s a socialist. You have nothing concrete to say about her ideas, so you resort to name calling (“outside agitators” etc.). Character assassination, a time-honored tactic of bosses and bureaucrats, is also union-busting and bad union leadership.
Nicole & Evelyn, calling out “outside agitators” and “a small faction of Marxist extremists” as the cause of the successful strike vote is an insult to every carpenter. What? They can’t think for themselves? I respect the carpenters for their understanding of the proposed contract and the analysis—no matter where it came from—that it isn’t good enough.
As a retired union member (IBEW Local 77), I condemn your statements. What you should be doing is organizing a community solidarity rally, not chasing away support because it’s from the left.
And as a socialist and a feminist, I condemn the sexist comments some men are making. But to use that as fodder to disrespect the strike vote, to distract from those that disagree with you and lump all those on the left who are supporting the strike as being behind this misogyny is crap. It’s the same divide-can-conquer tactics that the bosses love to use, and not the kind of solidarity carpenters need.
Finally, Teresa: Why didn’t you follow Kshama’s lead and support carpenter’s demands while they were in the middle of the fight? You had to wait for the strike vote? I wish all public officials would have expressed their opinion early on, picked which side they support.
Because in the end, it’s that simple. Which side are you on? The workers or the bosses?
#UnionStrong #Solidarity #Strike2021
The Carpenters need a contract that keeps up with inflation, with health costs, covers parking, and an end date that lines up with the other locals, so when the option to strike is there, they have solidarity and unity–very serious issues. I am an AFSCME retiree who has a pension only because I had a union. I am also a woman who is a socialist and a feminist, so I think that using bodily names against a woman who is a sellout to the workers is completely, and misogynistically, missing the point. Do you hate women or sellouts? Also redbaiting is so old hat. I am a commie for the good of the workers and of humanity. Join me.
Adrienne: Yes, lets turn America into Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina, Haiti, North Korea, etc. Pick one and lets see how that turned out for those workers. Some of these places were excellent at one time…. all destroyed by communism. The net worth of the average South Korean is more than 30 times that of the average North Korean. The exact same people, same resources, same time frame, etc. The only difference is the “commies”. You have no alternative explanation of course, so I had to be the one to educate you. Steve Willie.
It is rather amusing that Shaprio now wants to play the poor me I am a woman and that is why they are against me BS. I have to ask. Shaprio spent 4 years telling any lie the UBC directed her to tell as a flunky with Doug McCarrons “Assistant” Matt Capece who is the brain fart behind the UBC wage theft extortion campaign.Where was Shapiro when Mccarron was once again in court accused of sexually harassing yet another woman.Case 2:20-cv-03146 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA.. Did Shaprio speak out or call for McCarrons resignation.Was she offended or mortified by her bosses actions??Not a word from Shaprio. I guess we only play the woman’s rights card when it suits Shapiros agenda. If her UBC boss tells a woman “his balls ache”and “I need some pussy” (direct from the Federal court record)Shapiro is not offended at all.
I also wonder where Shapiro got the “its the commies” causing trouble rhetoric.UBC propaganda?? When Shapiros boss and head of the UBC criminal syndicate Doug McCarron is opposed he declares: “In the next breath, he dismisses critics within the carpenters as fearful, deranged loners or communists. “God bless them,” he says at one point. “They are very hateful people.” When UBC members in British Columbia tossed him out of Canada he declared:”dismissing the British Columbia rebels as misguided and incompetent idealists. “They only have seven to 10% of the market,” he says of the locals. “They’re about out of business. And there’s a high influence of the Communist Party.” When a UBC member previously stood up to the Pacific Northwest Council and previous EST Tweedy McCarrons lawyers once again pulled out the Red Commie Card and accused the members lawyer of : “We know you are representing the Building Trades and representing the anarchist group, the Red and Black Door Cafe” Oh wait mouth piece Nicole Grant isnt that the UBC lawyers calling the building trades commies??.Shapiro is using the commie instigator and sexism propaganda as tools to serve her agenda .She spent 4 years as a liar and propagandist as a flunky for Capece..I see she is still a lair and propagandist..I wonder, If Shapiro is so offended by nasty language why was she on a picket yesterday repeatedly saying fuck fuck fuck..
Someone calling someone else names on FB is not exactly news now, is it?
Erica: Those who understand economics know that the recent inflation caused by Progressive policies has now almost completely wiped out the recent wage increases for the working class. Score one for Marxism, eh? These construction workers in Seattle already make far more money per hour than the average person in Seattle. It is probably somewhere in the mid $60’s per hour including benefits. Look it up at the L&I website for prevailing wage rates. I know this will be difficult for the fact-challenged but do some research before responding please. I have a hard time feeling sorry for them at $50-$80 per hour (including benefits).
I hope nobody is surprised when uneducated male Marxist buffoons turn out to be misogynistic. But nobody in the workplace stabs women in the back more than other women. Anyone working a real job has seen that plenty of times.
You really enjoy quoting someone when they claim Trump is Misogynistic. Particularly when its relevance to the story is almost non-existent. However, you will always give Joe Biden a total pass on the same issue, and you can be counted on to ignore his groping of women. Biden groped those women. Has has far too many accusers telling the exact same story to even think he is innocent. Besides that, you Progressives taught us during the Kavanaugh hearings that the woman is always right. Now live with it. Oh that’s right, its just another double-standard of yours.
Excuse me while I run away to my safe zone after I saw the “misogynistic slur” …so upsetting to my delicate snowflake sensibilities. Steve Willie.
hello, just a woman here who works a real job, who has never been stabbed in the back by another woman on the job! groped by a man, though, yes. so please don’t go around saying women experience more problems from other women than men in the workplace.
hb: catfights are so common in the workplace that they even have a name for it. That would be….let’s see….”catfights”. The stabbing part was only an analogy (for the english-impaired). Steve Willie. I use my real name because the truth is your problem, not mine.
This article completely misrepresents what’s happening there. Sure, there are a few carpenters who have said things that are completely out of line, but the overwhelming majority of what’s written has been a serious discussion of what’s happening in the union. Shapiro and her paid mouthpieces – the business agents – have directly said that they don’t want the members to make any more money. Meanwhile, she makes over $300,000 per year. You think that might cause some issues? You think that the fact that under the policies of the union leadership the union has been going downhill for decades and the members cannot afford to live anywhere near where they work – you think that might be an issue? you think the fact that the leadership sees the union as labor brokers – with all that implies – you think that might be an issue?
This article was clearly written by one who has no idea what’s really going on inside the carpenters union nor, truth be told, any union. At least not from the point of view of the rank and file. Or else they know but don’t care.
Wow what an embarrassment of an article. That person that made all those negative comments was removed from the group and they never endorsed any of that behavior. Also the paid parking is a joke. We pay over $30 a day to park and they counter with a measly $12? That still leaves us with a 360 monthly bill and that’s on the low spectrum. Inflation is a real thing an 20% over 4 years sounds great until you realize that it doesn’t keep up with inflation and not all of it goes into our paycheck. Only ablout 60% of that 20% actually goes into the check. Also take home 115k? What are you smoking. We get taxed and pay union dues which is about 35% of our paycheck. We are lucky to take home 70-80k a year after taxes and dues. The only marxist is the person writing this article trying to make carpenters seem like something we are not.
Troy Wilson: The cost of parking in Seattle is the direct result of the City Council’s War on Personal Transportation. Watch the same thing happen even with carbon neutral options as they become more common. They hate the fact that you can get somewhere faster than riding the bus. You are supposed to be riding the damn bus !! The bus is not a realistic option for most construction workers, but that serves you right for having a real job instead of being dependent on their free stuff. Maybe you can move to a Seattle public park. I hear the rent is real cheap.
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