The New Jersey political world today spun on its axis over the dissolution of the powerful Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters by the larger brotherhood, a move widely interpreted as the bouncing of John Ballantyne, the union’s executive secretary-treasurer, amid Democratic Party infighting and what one source cryptically described as “philosophical differences.”
What it boiled down was Ballantyne was too close to Governor Phil Murphy, who has an acrimonious political relationship with South Jersey, the regional fulcrum of New Jersey’s Building Trades community.
“He didn’t do everything they wanted,” a source told InsiderNJ, referring to Ballantyne. “They couldn’t keep him in their back pocket.”
This is a developing story, but the perception of the executive treasurer’s amicable ties to the Governor even as larger portions of the Building Trades oppose Murphy, caused some friction in an increasingly politically fractured state.
“He told the Governor’s Office he wasn’t going to sacrifice the good of the Carpenters to help George Norcross,” said a source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Murphy’s support for Ballantyne to chair the powerful Sports and Exposition Authority didn’t help his cause upstairs internally.
The Carpenters’ decision to back New Directions, a group formed by the allies of Governor Phil Murphy, which Murphy foil Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) is convinced will try to humiliate those lawmakers who don’t back the Governor’s agenda, only fanned the flames. And Ballantyne’s support for the Governor’s choice of Tim Sullivan to head the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) further rankled Building Trades leadership who opposed Murphy on the pick.
Building Trades Prez Bill Mullen had hoped fellow high profile labor leaders would stand with him.
A Paterson product with his own North Jersey connections, Ballantyne didn’t.
The flip on the labor leader’s power switch happened suddenly today.
In a letter released on the union’s website, Michael Capelli, vice-president, UBCJA Eastern District, noted the following:
“Effective May 30, 2018, the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters (“Northeast Council”) has been dissolved and merged into the Keystone + Mountain + Lakes Regional Council (“Keystone Regional”), the New England Regional Council of Carpenters (“New England Council”), and the Eastern Millwright Regional Council (“Eastern Millwright Council”).
“Local unions formerly affiliated with the Northeast Council have been affiliated with one of the other councils,” added Capelli, who held the position occupied by Ballantyne prior to his own promotion within the labor union. “However, in very few cases, Keystone Council Locals and Northeast Council locals have been disbanded and merged into existing locals.”
To read the entirety of Capelli’s letter, please go here.
The impact of the political move had huge implications for a union organization whose leadership core includes Lizette Delgado Polanco (vice chair of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee), state Senator Troy Singleton (D-7), and Middlesex County Democratic Committee Chairman Kevin McCabe.
But sources singled out Ballantyne (now) and Delgado Polanco (later) as the two most obvious political casualties.
“They’re gone,” a source told InsiderNJ.
Delgado Polanco was not technically out as of Wednesday night, a source clarified.
The move occurred without a heads-up to members, according to carpenters on Facebook who claimed to have been blindsided.
“There were some philosophical issues,” a source told InsiderNJ.
The speed factor inevitably sparked questions about what ailed the organization internally.
But one source hinted that those so-called philosophical issues related to the fracture in the state Democratic Party, with the bigger Building Trades network defined statewide in no small part by strong political connectivity to South Jersey, a region of the state mostly split from the Democratic State Committee led by Chairman John Currie and his vice chair, Delgado Polanco.
A staunch ally of Governor Murphy, Currie and Senate President Sweeney have quarreled politically.
Delgado Polanco has had to walk a careful tightrope between both worlds, as vice chair of the party and that faction aligned more closely to the Governor, and as the political director of the Carpenters, a union that falls under the auspices of the Building Trades led by stout Sweeney ally Mullen.
A labor source played down that specific dimension of the story.
The powerful outfit with a coveted endorsement brand sustained a few high profile political losses lately, including the strikeout of member Tony Verrelli for an LD15 Assembly vacancy and a whiff by Walker Worthy in this month’s Trenton mayoral election.
But those on-the-ground parochial political fights had nothing to do ultimately with the direction the labor outfit took – and why.
“This has to do with consolidation of power against the Governor,” one source said unequivocally.