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51 City Building Trades Organizing Strategy (Labor College)

Building Trades Organizing Strategy

White Paper

Summary of a 51 City Market Share Strategy


By: Danny L. Caliendo

February 2011

Copyright 2011. By Danny L. Caliendo. All right reserved and for internal Building Trades use only.

51 City Market Share Strategy White Paper:

Summary of an Organizing Strategy for the Building Trades

Danny L. Caliendo

Lead Instructor, LCOC (Labor Combat Organizing College)

The Current Environment

The trend for the last two decades has been, and continues to be, that the overall market share and membership numbers for Building Trade (BT) unions have trended downwards in all market conditions. The “activities” of marketing has not lead to the “results” of increased market share!  This organizing summary intends to address how the BT can increase market share.

This 51 City Market Share Strategy recognizes that various environments call for different tactics – labor combat and organizing in some, cooperation and marketing in others.

51 City Market Share Strategy: Goals

This 51 City Market Share Strategy is designed to accomplish the following specific goals:

Goal #1 – Stop erosion, and re-establish large or top-tier market share locals, which are Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey,  New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Top-tier markets have a solid contractor base, which is under assault from non/anti-union contractors, notwithstanding the recent collapse of our economy and construction market. The fact that there is significant and increasing unchallenged incursions into their areas isn’t at all surprising.  That’s where the money is! To reassert their existing market share, and not allow any further erosion of market share, it is recommended that the trades re-establish a true and highly definable perimeter, preferably at the District Council level, within the first 18 months to two years of executing their strategy.

I recommend bypassing existing mid-market contractors. They have to be fed by skilled workers, most of whom come from entry-level non/anti-union contractors that stay in business for a time and which develop future employees who feed up to more stable non/anti-union firms when and if the contractor in the smaller market fails.

It is generally accepted in the non/anti-union faction that three out of five firms in construction fail in their first three years of operation. I recommend beginning unbridled attacks of these entry-level companies to deter them from training and further eroding union market share, so they cannot grow into future threats. I further suggest that we allow them to provide us with key workers and leaders (stripping), and in some instances signatory contractors, to renew our collective presence at the entry level. These contractors do not have the will, fight, or the money to fend off labor combat. Within two to three years of continuous attacks (labor combat) by the combined Building Trades in a given area, and some degree of marketing to end users, the mid-market will again strengthen through union contractors flowing down to provide, depending on the size of the market, a solid 25% to 35% improvement in market share. Once the mid-market solidifies, new and existing union contractors will flow down to the entry level of the market, increasing the market share another 10% to 15% in the following four to eight years.

Maintaining consistent discipline ensure maximum effectiveness of this strategy. LCOC provides the specifics of the disciplines needed by the affiliates in these states in order to maximize this strategy. (Labor College)

Goal #2 – Create a base of contractors in the primary areas of jurisdiction with bottom-tier market share locals, which are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas within two to six years.

This area of organizing is essential. It takes the battle to the non/anti-union side of the battlefield. It is a true hybrid of organizing, which primarily utilizes Labor Combat and some level of organizing, to establish a core group of contractors at the upper end of the market or top-tier large companies. It is possible to reach literally hundreds of workers and their contractors at one time with this strategy.

LCOC provides details of the style of campaigns needed to develop this strategy, which is dependent on research and observation for several months. It includes a feet-on-the-ground analysis of a given set of contractors, at a specific level of revenue and market share within a non/anti-union geographical area of the country, that is not currently unionized or is unionized to a very small level (i.e., under 20% of the existing market).  Whether the state is a right to work state or not does not impact this strategy. Additionally, this strategy will increase market share in an area void of union workers by up to 30%, and will then provide the needed muscle to improve it further. (Labor College)

Goal #3 – Gain significant increases in market share in Arizona, Colorado, D.C., Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming.

These are the battleground states, which have 51 bell weather markets. These markets have dwindling numbers of union contractors. The wages and benefits of union workers continue to go down due to the overall decline of market share over the past 20 years. What is significant is that these 51 markets – wages, fringes and conditions have gone done faster than both the top tier and the bottom tier states as a percentage of total package, with a +/- factor regarding conditions; and was the primary mythology used to establish this list. Eleven of the 22 right-to-work (RTW) states fall within this group that is specifically targeted by anti-union forces. If their market share continues to erode, the door will swing wide open to anti-union gains in the top-tier states. We are witnessing this happening right now with the attacks against organized labor in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio.

LCOC takes the position that this current environment is a 2-edged sword and can be the “meat and potatoes” of significant increases in market share for organized labor in a two to ten year time period. With aggressive tactics, decline of these markets can be stopped. Following a comprehensive 51 City Market Strategy and employing a high level of commitment and patience, this disciplined platform can increase market share by 55% to 70%. The statistics show that current organizing and marketing techniques just can’t get the job done in sufficient numbers to reverse these current and growing anti-union initiatives.   

Throughout this summary, LCOC has often referenced non-union and anti-union. These two entities are differentiated because they have multiple differences in their beliefs, structures and reactions to events around them, especially when it comes to organizing. (Labor College)

NOTE: The original White Paper was written March 2009, and had 62 Cities. We have “loss 11 cities since then”, how many more will we loss?

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