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80 – 20 Rule on CBA

Consistent with the 80 -20 Rule, being a member of a Building Trades union drives as much as 80% of your total package (wages, benefits & conditions) by being a union member. It is the collective and not the individual power that we wield as a connected union that demands a given package anywhere in North America.

The balance, and as much as 20% of our total package, is derived from value added items such as skills, training, safety etc. While there is no argument that the union Building Trades are highly skilled and trained, the fact is that being a union member is the primary driver of how much money you make and how you’re treated.

Want to test this? Simply take your skills and other Value on Display talk to any non/anti-union contractor and see what you get. Having worked in the field and office for 35 years, as well as organizing, I have yet to see anyone who has left the union get a better overall deal over a career. In those unions where members don’t participate, it’s likely because those individual members think they can earn their total package without their union. Their loyalties are vested in themselves and not their union.

Leaders educate their members about the importance of being best in class workers. However, great leaders and officers do an even better job of making sure the membership understands that it is their unity as one entity that protects the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) for all. They know that without a CBA, we would be mere individuals in a market driven by a race to the bottom!

Understand this Brothers & Sisters, 100% of the time in North America: low market share = low wages.

The failed Value on Display strategy, now nearly 3 decades old, emphasizes that we are a “product” – a  product that is typically 40% – 230% more costly than what the non/anti-union contractors currently pay. The numbers are the numbers, approximately 88% of all construction is done non/anti-union. If the Building Trades continue to put the decision to use unions solely and exclusively in the hands of the end-users, we can expect little in return. At some point we have to honor what the numbers say overwhelmingly and what our history teaches us.

The Building Trades have cannibalized our CBA in an effort to be competitive with the non-union costs and have inadvertently contributed to the race to the bottom. These actions have not arrested our market share loses. Also, as the use of technology and modularization ramps up in construction, we stand to lose more total hours even in good periods of construction.

Letting the end-users continue to dictate when, where and how they will use union Building Trades will ultimately lead to either the demise of the Building Trades as we now know them, or we will be captive unions with our own union task masters serving a corporate interest wholly on their terms.

Our union forefathers and mothers are absolutely rolling over in their graves with the prospect of either scenario.

Brands come and go – the labor movement is all that guards North American workers from becoming working poor! The movement must be one of activism by the leadership and the rank & file, demanding and enforcing our rights to a living wage, good benefits and fair working conditions.

It is long past the time that we should be asking end-users and contractors if they want to sign a CBA. Instead, we’ve got to provide the necessary activism to get ‘er done!

Danny L Caliendo
Labor Rising Group

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