A hearing is underway by the national office of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to decide if a local chapter can regain control of its operations — after allegations of financial wrongdoing against its executive.
Workers are going inside the Holyrood office of IBEW Local 2330 to share their concerns about how the union has been run, and for some, getting to voice their frustrations has been a long time coming.
"We are here, at this point now, because our union has been run incorrectly, or behind closed doors, for the last 40 years. We go to meetings, we get no information, we don't know what's going on," said Keith Ivey, a longtime IBEW member.
"It has finally come to a head … so now hopefully after this trusteeship, things go smooth and all our members get fair work."
The meeting comes three weeks after CBC reported that the national office had stepped in, and had put Local 2330 under trusteeship and suspended all of its officers. All meetings of the local have been suspended, and officers had to turn over all books, chequebooks, minutes and other Local 2330 property.
The allegations against the officers are listed in a letter, signed by IBEW international vice-president Tom Reid, and include:
- Spending union money without the approval of membership.
- Approving employee pay raises improperly.
- Paying unauthorized severance to ex-employees.
- Paying an "inordinate" amount of money for taxis for the local union president in addition to an automobile allowance.
Last July, Local 2330 members blocked the Holyrood office, accusing union management of not being forthcoming with information about financials or work agreements. Some members brought a list of demands that included that members be presented with copies of quarterly financial reports and annual financial audits.
Previous, not the current, executive is the problem: workers
Terry O'Neill, a member for 11 years, said there has been more transparency in union operations since September than there ever was.
He notes there was sweeping change — for the better — last September. An election resulted in new faces for all of the positions, with the exception of the longtime president.
"The executive that we elected are a very good bunch of people. They have done a wonderful job. We have gotten more information now in the past few months since they took office," O'Neill said.
Ivey agrees, stating it was the leadership prior to the current executive that was problematic. Now he's hoping the international office offers educational support.
"You train and educate all the guys on how the union is supposed to work ... if we're not doing it properly, it's because it was never done in the first place and we didn't know any better," he said.
Questions about work and money
Some of the specific concerns of members include not getting work, and not getting closer to getting work, even as roles and projects came up.
Joann Greeley, an IBEW member since 2007, wants the national office to get to the bottom of money that was earmarked for a women in trades and mentoring program in 2008.
"I never did see any evidence of any program," she said, adding she asked questions about it but didn't get an answer from the local executive.
Greeley calls it a wasted opportunity.
"If we had had that program set up within IBEW 2330 that would have made a big difference in actual employment, for me and other women."