The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBC; commonly known as the Carpenters Union) is a national construction labor union founded in 1881. While it was formerly a member of the Change to Win labor federation and the AFL-CIO at various periods, it is currently not affiliated with a national labor union federation.
The union and its local and regional affiliates have a decades-long history of corruption and infiltration by organized crime. From the late 1980s, New York prosecutors charged the leaders of two local unions with extortion, federal officials filed Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) demanding the removal of New York District Council of Carpenters officials, federal officials reached a settlement agreement with Carpenters Union branches in New York to root out corrupt influence, and state prosecutors charged a New York District Council leader with larceny and saw him convicted.  In 2009, the Justice Department charged eight New York District Council of Carpenters officials with corruption; Local 608 president Michael Forde would plead guilty and be sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment. 
In April 1881, Peter J. McGuire and Gustav Luekbkert started The Carpenter newspaper to promote the concept of a national carpenters’ union.  In August 1881, the two convened 36 carpenters from 11 cities met in a Chicago warehouse to form the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. 
Before starting the union, in 1874, McGuire helped establish the Social Democratic Party that was renamed the Socialist Party. McGuire, a New Yorker, set up chapters for the party in New England states, the West, Southwest and Midwest, at each location calling for workers to abolish the wage system, replacing it with a cooperative production and distribution system. 
By the end of 1881 the new union claimed 2,000 members. By 1890, that number had ballooned to 50,000 and was 100,000 by 1900.  The carpenters’ union reached its peak membership 850,000 in 1958 and again in 1973.  As of the end of 2017, the union has approximately 425,000 members. 
After the convention, the new United Brotherhood of Carpenters made McGuire secretary in 1881, then the top administrative position. McGuire also helped establish a national conference of labor unions—initially called Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, FOTLU, and elected chairman of what is today known as the AFL-CIO. He built the UBC into the federation’s largest member union. 
After McGuire faced bouts with poor health and alcoholism, the UBC ousted him amid allegations of embezzlement. McGuire died in 1906 
Frank Duffy took over leadership of the union after McGuire, and was the first to have the title of general president. He ran the organization until 1915, when William Hutcheson took over and served as president until 1951.
During World War I, when President Woodrow Wilson allowed non-union contractors on federal construction sites, Hutcheson griped, “While we have every desire to assist the government in the crisis, we are now passing through, we have no intention of waiving our rights to maintain for ourselves the conditions we have established.”
That was followed up on November 7, 1917, when 1,300 building trades’ workers in eastern Massachusetts went on strike against all military work in the area to protest the federal government’s “open shop” policy, which allowed non-union-members to work on projects. The UBC faced pushback from the U.S. War Department and from much of the public that considered it treasonous. 
Hutcheson was not initially on board with President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, in part because he came to distrust the federal government during World War I. When the local Chicago chapter urged the national UBC to push for unemployment insurance, Hutcheson resisted. Hutcheson opposed a federal minimum wage mandated by government. He asserted in 1940, when the New Deal was still quite popular, “Labor has known that what government can take away.” 
Maurice Hutcheson succeeded his father as union president in 1952 and ran the union until 1972. 
The union did well in the post-World War II economy, but it had difficulty keeping pace with the construction boom. Non-union contractors began competing in suburban and rural areas. Nevertheless, about 80 percent of construction jobs were unionized, relying on fewer members but giant projects. Non-unionized builders established their own umbrella trade organization, the Associated Builders and Contractors, in the 1970s to help break the union monopoly on the construction workforce. 
The union weathered numerous scandals over the decades, and in the 1980s set out to modernize with various apprenticeship, training, learning new materials and methods of construction and organizing campaigns. In the 1990s, leaders asserted the union was still running on a post-World War II model. 
Break with the AFL-CIO and Change To Win
In 2001, the UBC broke away from the AFL-CIO. In 2005, the UBC was one of six unions to join Change to Win — a group of unions that would form a new union federation under the leadership of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). 
In 2009, the Carpenters split with Change to Win, becoming an unaffiliated national union. 
During the late 1950s, an Indiana grand jury indicted UBC president Maurice Hutcheson and other top UBC officials in 1958 over allegations they paid an Indiana state official a $15,800 bribe for inside information on the site of new highways so they could buy land and turn a profit by selling it to the state for a highway right-of-way. 
Hutcheson and two of his top lieutenants were convicted in 1960, but the Indiana Supreme Court threw out the conviction in 1963, asserting the prosecution was ”devoid of facts and circumstances” for proving a conspiracy. 
Concurrently, the U.S. Senate was investigating alleged union racketeering under Hutcheson’s leadership. After he refused to answer questions from the Seante inquiry, he was convicted of contempt of Congress. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld his six-month prison term, but a judge would commute it to two years’ probation in 1964. The AFL-CIO leadership moved to oust Hutcheson from union office; George Meany, the legendary longtime AFL president and an ally of Hutcheson, reportedly blocked the move. 
New York District Council
In 1987, Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau charged five UBC Local 608 and UBC Local 257 leaders with extorting more than $100,000 from contractors to secure sweetheart contracts and guarantee labor peace. 
The indictment alleged that the union officials secured more than 200 separate payoffs over a seven-year period ranging from $50 to $8,000 from 17 different contractors. The indictments included charges of extortion, larceny and bribery by the heads of the two UBC chapters, which were the “principal carpenters’ unions in Manhattan” at the time according to the New York Times. 
The government charged John F. O’Connor, then the vice president and business manager of the Local 608, with 127 counts, including charges of extortion and accepting separate bribes up to $5,000 and Martin Forde, the Local 608 business agent, with extortion and soliciting a bribe. A 79-count indictment was also handed down against Eugene Hanley, the president of the Local 257, and Attilio Bitondo a Local 257 official. The second-ranking official in the New York District Council of Carpenters, Irving Zeidman, was also charged with taking payoffs. 
Recordings by law enforcement in 1987 demonstrated links between the carpenters’ union in New York and the Gambino crime family.  O’Connor pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of racketeering in 1990. Forde was found guilty on two counts of receiving a bribe. 
The state criminal case was followed in 1990 by a U.S. Department of Justice racketeering lawsuit. In this case, the federal government was specifically targeting the New York District Council Carpenters and Joiners, alleging ties with the Genovese crime family. The suit alleged that the union forced construction contractors to pay hundreds of millions in bribes over two decades to “keep labor peace,” or avoid agitation. This in turn drove up construction costs. The federal government alleged in the lawsuit that union leadership “fostered a regime of corruption, extortion and intimidation at all levels of the union” and that “Union members’ rights have been systematically traded for payoffs.” 
The suit attempted to block four union leaders and six alleged Mafia bosses from controlling the union. The suit accused the union bosses of giving exemptions to collective bargaining agreements to construction companies that pay off union bosses. This gave an unfair competitive advantage to companies paying the bribes and harmed dues-paying union members who were not necessarily getting better working conditions promised to them because of exemptions for favored companies. 
In 1994, the federal government reached an agreement with the district council of the UBC in New York. A court-appointed official was appointed to supervise the union for 30 months, having the authority to overrule expenditures or dismiss union officials. The supervisor, former federal judge Kenneth Conboy, also was to oversee reforms to the election system of allowing all members to vote for officials by secret ballot, replacing the system of sending delegates from the 17 locals. The supervisor also oversaw reforms in how work crew were assigned. 
In 2010, Michael Forde, son of Martin Forde, followed in his father’s footsteps by both leading the union and getting convicted for bribery. The younger Forde became head of Local 608 and pleaded guilty to racketeering charges for taking hundreds of thousands in bribes from contractors to use non-union labor. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison Local 608 union. Other union leaders testified against Forde. Construction company owner James Murray admitted to paying a $100,000 to provide an exemption on collective bargaining rules. He was also fined $50,000 and ordered to forfeit $100,000. 
McCarron Ullico Deal
In 2002, national UBC president Doug McCarron agreed to return $200,000 he made from a stock deal that was under federal investigation. He made the money selling shares of Union Labor Life Insurance Company (Ullico), a labor-owned insurance carrier. 
The Labor Department and a federal grand jury in Washington were investigating a deal in which Ullico repurchased shares from McCarron and several other union presidents on the bank’s board; Ullico financial statements indicated that the board members profited by more than $6 million, with McCarron getting about $276,000.  The Nation, a liberal magazine, referred to the union leaders potentially improper profiting from privileged information as an “Enron-like” scandal within organized labor. 
While McCarron was not charged, he would later resign from the Ullico board and agree to repay his share of profits from the scheme. 
McCarron is the general president of the UBC. After building his career as a local labor leader in southern California beginning in 1968, he became the UBC national vice president in 1994. A year later, he was elected to the top job. He was re-elected to five-year terms in 2000, 2005, 2010 and 2015.
Before emerging on the national leadership, he was president of the Southern California Conference of Carpenters in 1982, and the president of the Los Angeles County District Council of Carpenters in 1983. 
McCarron was among other union leaders that met with President Donald Trump just three days after his 2017 inauguration to talk about issues such as trade and establishing an apprenticeship program.  McCarron also served on the Labor Department’s apprenticeship task force, along with other union leaders and corporate executives. 
Doug Banes was elected as first vice president with McCarron in 1995. A millwright, he promoted power-generation companies to create training taught at the union’s International Training Center in Las Vegas. Banes joined the Local Union 2158 in the Moline, Ill.-Bettendorf, Iowa in the 1960s.
He was the local union’s business agent and business manager before moving to positions at the council and then to the local board levels on his way to getting elected to national leadership. 
Frank Spencer was first elected in 2015 as the second vice president of UBC. He had been active in the union for four decades, having held the office of Eastern District Vice President and as Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New Jersey Regional Council of Carpenters. He was previously elected as a freeholder for Camden County, New Jersey. 
Andris J. Silins
Andris J. Silins was first elected as general secretary-treasurer in 2000. He handles the financial and administrative operations for the union, and is the editor of Carpenter Magazine, the union’s publication. He previously served as the second vice president, elected in 1995.
Silinis is also treasurer of the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency Board and is chairman of that agency’s retirement fund. A Marine veteran from Vietnam, he joined the union in 1968 in the Carpenters Local 67 in Boston, where he became president in 1989. He helped found the Massachusetts Carpenters Guaranteed Annuity Fund and the First Trade Union Savings Bank, and served as chairman of the bank’s board. 
In the mid-2000s, some UBC chapters began to recruit illegal immigrant workers to be members. The union membership was dwindling and UBC members were facing massive competition from non-unionized immigrant workers, leading some union leaders to abandon their longstanding opposition to illegal immigration. The Wall Street Journal identified Denver, Houston, Atlanta, Phoenix and Kansas City as most affected by the dynamic. 
In three decades, the carpenters’ union in Colorado went from working on 70 percent of construction projects to just 10 percent when the union decided to admit illegal immigrant members in 2005. Denver organizer Jim Gleason estimated to The Wall Street Journal that two-thirds of construction jobs were going to immigrants rather than union workers, and he estimated at least half of the immigrant labor was illegal. Many union members were resistant, but Gleason said, “If you want to grow, you have to represent the people who are doing the work.” 
The union is a longtime supporter of protectionism, claiming to fight against “unfair trade agreements that rob Americans workers of decent jobs and damage our long-term economic security.”  Early the Trump administration, the union voiced strong support for the new president in 2017 for pulling the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement with Asian countries. 
Prevailing Wage Laws
The union is also a staunch advocate the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage law. The 1931 Davis-Bacon law requires employers to pay a prevailing wage set by the U.S. Department of Labor—in practice, a union-rate wage—for workers contracting with the government.