October 31, 2007

Tramp Union Reformer Challenges Expulsion from Electrical Workers

On April 27, 1979, Billy Chadwick was expelled from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers(IBEW) for "publishing among the membership or L.U.'s, false reports or misrepresentations," as Article 27, Section1 of the IBEW Constitution reads.

What this meant, of course, was that Chadwick had been a critic of the union's leadership and an active reformer for some years. The specific incident that led to the expulsion was a leaflet Chadwick distributed at a Tennessee Valley Authority worksite where he was being harassed by management.Billy Chadwick is a traveling wireman, known in the union as a "tramp." His home local is 760 in Knoxville, Tennessee. He was working at the Watts Bar TVA nuclear plant, which is under the jurisdiction of Local 175. According to Chadwick, however, the TVA is exempt from many labor laws and regulations and does not have to deal with union grievances.

Chadwick's grievances went nowhere,so on January 24, 1979, he distributed a leaflet suggesting that since Local 175 did not actually represent anyone, there was no justification for its collecting a 2% tax on wages.

Chadwick was fired, allegedly for "loafing," by TVA management on January 26. After that he was brought up on charges and eventually expelled by Local 175, in spite of the fact that he was not a member of it.

Chadwick was then told he had no standing to appeal to a higher body. For over a year he attempted to appeal to the International Executive Council with no satisfaction. A few weeks ago Chadwick's lawyer, Paul Levy, filed in Washington, D.C. 's Federal District Court for a summary finding. Levy is arguing that Chadwick's expulsion is in violation of Title I of the Landrum-Griffin Act.

There is little doubt that both the firing and the expulsion were the result of Chadwick's long-standing activity on behalf of the rights of IBEW members. He had long been active in the Federation of Linemen and Electricians (FLE) (pronounced flea), an informal fraternal organization of traveling contruction electricians said to be as old as the union itself.

While FLE does not engage in collective bargaining, nor act as a reform group within the IBEW, it does aid its members, encourage them to file grievances and sometimes, as Chadwick himself put it, engage in the tactics of the old IWW. The IBEW hierarchy has actually branded the FLE as a "subversive" organization. Its membership numbers in the tens of thousands........

Chadwick also helped found the Brotherhood of Electrical Employees (BEE), whose name was chosen to rhyme with (FLE) in 1970, as a legal rights center for FLE members. BEE published a newsletter and put out a legal rights handbook called "One More Tramp Guide," written by Chadwick himself. These activities brought him, as he put it, "a certain amount of not altogether welcome notoriety at hiring halls."

Chadwick made his intentions clear to all when he wrote in 1978 in "One More Tramp Guide," It is the opinion of this writer that a great need exists for an effective and well-led reform organizaton within the IBEW, and that "The BEE" might well be developed to fill this need.

Evidently, the leadership of the IBEW took him at his word and decided to rid themselves of the threat of reform.

Chadwick's lawyer is confident of a favorable decision, because of the obvious denial of freedom of speech.

Chadwick is also confident and plans to run for Business Manager, the most important local officer, of Local 760 when he is reinstated.

It is no surprise that there is pressure for reform from inside the IBEW. The building trades unions have been under brutal attack, backed by the employers' powerful Business Roundtable.

Unemployment is chronic. As one member put it: "IBEW stands for I'm Broke Every Winter."

On the other side of the equation is a conservative, business unionist leadership. Charles Pillard, IBEW President, is even said to be a "card carrying Republican." It is not unheard of for high supervisory personnel to hold local union office or even to sit on the negotiating committee for the union.

Billy Chadwick is not alone in the fight to change the IBEW. Reformers like him have sprung up around the country in the last few years. A New Jersey IBEW member, Daniel Boswell, has gone to court to challenge Article 27, the same section used to expel Chadwick. Glynn Ross, another expelled member from Arizona, is fighting a battle similar to Chadwick's. And members in Canada and on the west coast of the U.S. have been active in trying to change their union as well.

This document was furnished compliments of: LABOR NOTES
Labor Notes is a non-profit organization that has been the voice of union activists who want to "put the movement back in the labor movement" since 1979.


Anonymous said...

Last summer, back when the construction unions were holding information pickets regarding their Constitutional right to collectively bargain granted under a recent Supreme Court decision, there was a man waving a Canadian flag. It was on Petroleum Way in Edmonton, the capital of Canada's most labor-unfriendly province. It was the year of the so-called "wildcat strikes", and the man's name was Eric Klyne.

Some kind of "radical union leader", you suppose? A threat to society? Not really. The only people Klyne was a threat to were the corrupt leadership at his own union. Eric Klyne had been an outspoken member of IBEW Local 424, and had recently ran for the union position of Vice-President. Other than that, Eric was a typical electrician, working in the Alberta tarsands megaprojects.

So you can imagine everyone's surprise when Eric got kicked out of the union, and was prevented from working as a union electrician. Blackballed! The oil corporations had decided that Eric was no longer someone they wanted to employ. Why? Because of the picture of him waving a Canadian flag. And he had given speeches about how it was time for Alberta to grant construction unions their rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, notably the right to strike.

But that's not the whole story. Because if Eric had only been a speaker and a flag-waver, he probably would not have been kicked out of the IBEW. No, Eric was a political opponent of the current 424 administration. He had, after all, just run for Vice President, and had been an outspoken critic of the incumbent Business Manager and President. So when Eric's name came up in discussion with the oil megacorporations that run this province, he was a convenient scapegoat. "We can make the corporations happy and rid ourselves of this 'thorn in our side' at the same time", the union officials said. They kicked him out on false charges in a kangaroo court.

However, with the manpower shortage in this province, Eric managed to get a job as a "permit" at Suncor with a union company. This was to be short-lived. The Business Manager at Local 424, Tim Brower, told Eric that he would not allow him to work, not even as a permit. This with thousands of temporary foreign workers flooding the province, because supposedly the refineries cannot be built by Albertans and Canadians alone. In a classic case of discrimination, Eric Klyne was prevented from pursuing employment. Not just by the oil companies, but by his own union.

Given that this all started with union workers asking for their Constitutional rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it's pretty ironic.

In a sad sort of way.

Anonymous said...

you should read www.ourlocal353.ca forum regarding local 353 of ibew. They have not expelled anyone as of yet. But they have their share of problems from within. What is a union if they do not back their members and fight for their members rights. You be the judge as you read it.

Anonymous said...

I met Billy Chadwick and he was a very bright individual who union thugs tried to intimidate him for following what a union employee employer contract was supposed to to. And the I.O. made an example out of him. They kicked him out for standing up to what was right! Union leadership wants useful idiots "HALL SUCK UPS!" not critical thinkers. we want morons to hold signs and not ask questions! And all Billy wanted was that contract to be fulfilled. he also had written a book titled the journeyman survival guide, and it shows how a non voting member "book II" or traveler had very little say so in a another mans local, he opened my eyes! and one of his quotes I liked best was the "tough talking union brother on the job, was the same guy down the union hall licking a BA's nuts for a job talking bad about fellow brothers was no better than the company shop rocket who ratted on their co workers! I hope he is well. Billy exposed hypocrisy in the IBEW and FLE! I think that was his legacy.

Anonymous said...

i just finished working in the shell upgrader expansion in alberta.this job is very unfriendly to unions.there is no posting of union info allowed in the break trailers,no mention of unions allowed during the 5 minute long "safety meetings" which are run by supervision.
i was fired at noon the day i asked for a layoff and my travel monies home. according to shells rules if you are "fired" they wont pay you to return home(for me that is a 15 hr. drive to winnipeg.)
so instead of giving me a layoff i was fired for "insubordination"
i never refused working, or cursed my foreman . i just went to the steward's office to see about my travel pay. i was fired for leaving my work area to go to the steward office about 100 yards away.
witnesses were brought in after i was accused of cursing the foreman etc...they backed me . one even called him a liar,to no avail i was still terminated for my "bad attitude". upon hiring , my dispatch papers said 30 day call..."may be more". i had worked 45 days to that point, and just wanted to take another call 6 hours closer to home.
i will never work in alberta again unless i really have to.

B.A.T.S. said...

Hey Brother!

Sounds like an all too familiar circumstance where the IBEW has again has failed to properly represent a member in the face of corporate oppression. Another case of obvious collusion with NeKa or a Mega Kontractor . I'm not very familiar with Canada's system of Labor dispute resolution process ....but if it's like the NLRB here in the states your at a disadvantage from the outset.....

United We Stand...... Divided We Beg!

Anonymous said...

i'm sick of being the only person who stands up on the job for what's right while every one else cowars... I've looked from the outside of the fence waiting for some one to say something after i get the boot for standing up for some one or union rights. but never once... My family has suffered when i just cant sit by and watch what these people are doing to my union, or a brother or sister. I've had it! is every thing i was taught a lie??? i cant watch these ball lickers anymore. 12 years of fighting, for what? any one??????????????

JACK BRILL said...


Anonymous said...

Just wondering...i thought FLE'S were on the job to ensure things were ran the right way, not take over and screw all the local brothers over. What the hell is their real purpose??

Anonymous said...

The only brothers screwing us over , are the GF's and formans that are job scared little whimps who are scarded of the road.Especially in florida. signed the road warrior

Anonymous said...

Today, as in all of human history, we see masses cowering behind the few noble, strong, courageous, honorable, & proud enough to stand fast maintaining that progress our founders suffered to attain. And as the dust settles, those same cowardess worms will be the first to charge forward to take advantage of conditions. Such is the effect of a door opened too widely without discretion. So, as for me & mine, I walk with the advise of a great Brother that left us much too early. Forgoe the T-shirts, hats, stickers and outward signs proclaiming affiliation. Rather, continue travelling, roll through the changes, and "Celebrate Brotherhood where you find it!" Thanks Gene, been 3 years, seems like yesterday, then also like an eternity. Brother Bru

Anonymous said...

All the FLES do in 995 is fuck everything up. They want to run work, but either screw up everything or sabotage things. They lay off all who do not bow down go them, or give $$$ to their Sick and Needy Funds (Drunk and Drugged up layed off Brothers), or even worse, if your a hard-worker who is skilled and knowledgeable they will have you run off so they don't have to worry about you taking a position they want.

FLEs, good for making a 10 hour job last all week.....
Worthless in my opinion.

B.A.T.S. said...

You obviously have a narrow minded view .... Remember ... Minds are like Parachutes ... They only function when opened.

Ed Walter

Anonymous said...

FLE'S are a black eye to the union! They ARE a huge contributor to our loss of market share. Time for FLE bath !!

Anonymous said...

I think what Mr Klyne went through waa unjust and unfair.
this,is the kind of corruption and injustices,that go on even in non unions,its sad.

Anonymous said...

I worked with billy chadwick he is a nice guy that exposed some courption in the IBEW..Met in 2001 in california..

Anonymous said...

No,he's right. The FLEs are running 995 into the ground. They look out for themselves, first and foremost.

Anonymous said...

A true F.L.E. stands up for brothers & sisters who don't know how to do it them self. They stand brotherhood & demand craftsmanship. If you are in need, ask and you will be helped or led to help.

Anonymous said...

We need to establis IBEW Union Guerrilla Rangers to defend unionism once again. The brotherhood had been infiltrated by PINKERTON worms of the worst kind from top to bottom. The sad thing about it is that those worms attended IBEW's Apprentice Programs. It only mean that we need to do some reforms with the program ASAP.

Anonymous said...

Brothers and sisters i think we have all lost sight of what is the real problem here. I look at this thread and all I see is us fighting one another on what group is right and wrong. Who among us is like Billy??? Who will stand the test of time the brothers or the I.O. We all who have ran the roads long enough have been screwed over by a hall by a contractor by the I.O. We as a brotherhood need solidarity among the rank and file members to strenghten what we believe in and stand for. United we stand divided we beg is not a slogan its a way of life. Think about that before u bash your fellow brotherbeforeu bash them on this thread again. MEMBERS

Keith Jordan, Card #D955201, Local 673 said...

I've seen good and bad from Brothers that are FLE's. Hell, I've been accused as one myself from York PA . I'm not. They took care of me in Boston back in 2001 on the Mystic powerhouse project and I took care of a few of them at D.C. Cook Nuke plant later on. Most brothers that I have worked with, Fle's or not, have been good Union Brothers and sisters. The comments here are troublesome...

Unknown said...

Manitoba 2085 is the wormiest, back stabbing-est, dick sucking-est hall in all of Canada. I implore you if you're a solid brother to move your ticket up here and help us change this hall. And I'm saying that from the outside looking in. They booted me and won't let me back in.

Anonymous said...

fle's are a cancer to the ibew

Anonymous said...

(I)mbecile (B)ackstabbing (E)lectrician (W)annabes
(F)aggoty (L)ying (E)lectricians

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what the OWL's are?? I was on a job in Seattle and again in San Francisco and here people talking about it. They said they are IBEW Wireman and not FLE's... anyone else heard of these people.


"Censorship is the first phase of a dictatorship!"

"IBEW Burying Ground"


"Union Burying Ground"

Woody Guthrie (1946)

I see they're lowering right new coffin,
I see they're letting down right new coffin,
Way over in that Union Burying Ground.
And the new dirt's falling on a right new coffin,
The new dirt's falling on a right new coffin,
Way over in that Union Burying Ground.
O, tell me who's that they're letting down, down,
Tell me who's that they're letting down, down,
Way over in that Union Burying Ground.
Another union organizer,
Another union organizer,
Way over in that Union Burying Ground.
A union brother and a union sister,
A union brother and a union sister,
Way over in that Union Burying Ground.
A union father and a union mother,
And union father and a union mother,
Way over in that Union Burying Ground.
Well, I'm going to sleep in a union coffin,
I'm going to sleep in a union coffin,
Way over in that Union Burying Ground.
Every new grave brings a thousand new ones,
Every new grave brings a thousand members,
Way over in that Union Burying Ground.
Every new grave brings a thousand brothers,
And every new grave brings a thousand sisters,
To the union in that Union Burying Ground.