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A “Book Yet Written” Labor College

On the Labor Day weekend of 2007, I put down the foundation for a book. As a student of labor history and the past Treasurer of the Illinois Labor History Society, I felt it was important to chronicle the decline of market share in the building trades since 1973 for future tradespersons to reference.  I did not want to leave it to academia and/or management to portray their version of what happened to the building trades in this time frame. I was determined that what I wrote would not be a fluff piece with large font and double spaced just to fill pages. Unfortunately, based on the environment in 2007 and 2008, I felt I was writing our obituary. As I developed the research, a compelling story unfolded. What has been said to be happening, throughout the years, to maintain and grow our market share did not square with actual research material I was able to locate.

In my blog posted “Vegas Baby,” my research concluded that, on an analytical basis, the sheer number of organizers and agents deployed during these past 40 years should be able to maintain, and in fact grow, building trades’ market share. However, the research also concluded that the various strategies used during that time period have clearly been incapable of building market share.                                             Labor College

All of the strategies used to date have not only failed, but they have not been properly measured to determine whether they were working at all at any point in time!                               

The strategy of bottom up organizing in the building trades has never been measured as far as I can tell. There is a complete void of any written materials demonstrating that bottom up organizing, as a strategy, is an effective way to raise market share. When you look at the NLRB over the past 40 years, we have numbers which clearly state that we absolutely can not raise market share using bottom up. The Building Trades have a combined win rate of approximately 8% analyzing win to lose ratio, first contract & decertification. It is a tool at best, but only in the hands of an experienced organizer.

Top down started in approximately 1996. The theory then was that we were the “best kept secret” and if only the world of construction knew about us, market share was sure to increase dramatically. From 1996 to 2002, market share continued to fall even with near record amounts of books being sold. From 2002 to the present, the building trades have adopted the value added strategy of selling us like a service to a customer. The theory was that we were a “brand” and needed to sell ourselves. The numbers are rigid and compelling: during this time period, our combined market share has continued to fall. Our market density number through this period has dropped to an all time low.

Among many vulnerabilities of top down is that someone has to be buying what we are “selling”. The anti-union, for over a decade now, has said very specifically, they are not going to sign! Prior to the Pension Protection Act of 2006, no one was buying and our market share continued to drop. Since the PPA and Pension Relief Act and our combined unfunded liabilities – buyers of aCBAhave been hard to come by.

Organizing dependence on activities such as “Market recapture,” political connections (of any and all types), legislation and a host of other pseudo organizing strategies have all helped to hasten our drop in market share. They are nothing more than tools, and unless they are interwoven in a stated and written strategy they fail. The numbers measured in any objective way clearly scream out this fact!                               Labor College

As previously stated in the “Vegas Baby” blog, any organizing strategy brought forth in good faith cannot be criticized. However, not properly measuring the effectiveness of the strategy to win, and taking steps necessary to hone or change the program, is at the core of our inability to increase our combined market share.                     Labor College

The last chapters of the book are still incomplete and waiting for an ending. @LaborCombat & #TechCombat was borne out of hard core research. Our ability to win lies in our ability to organize along the lines of clients, credit and social image and footprint of the non/anti-union contractors and end users. We need to organize asymmetrically and force on force!  It is at the core of what successful organizers do.  Also, if we do not get up to speed – NOW – with regard to the use of internet marketing of our contractors, the final chapter may have already be a forgone conclusion, brothers & sisters.

”if you see a good fight – get in it”


Danny L Caliendo

Labor Combat Organizing College – Like us on Facebook – Follow us on Twitter




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