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When is Collaboration – Capitulation?

The term collaboration was used often in the key note presentation at the 2014 National Building Trades. Laced throughout the speech was also the word value. What word was missing from the entire speech was organizing. This marks the second year that the Leader of the North American Building Trades did not mention Organizing.

The Building Trades President continues to ignore the facts borne out in hard numbers and our labor/management history that collaboration with Big Business is a one-way street. It’s there way or the highway!

Trying to sell ourselves is always a good idea, we have much to offer, however when the entire Value proposition is entirely left to the end-users discretion, then we shouldn’t be surprised if we find ourselves capitulating on our wages, benefits and conditions. Our primary Value as unions is the value of concerted actions taken to monopolize the workers and to maintain the middle class. As we capitulate and the numbers clearly show it, the middle class is turning into the working poor.

With 88% of all work being done non/anti-union the sheer market force of that number; in fact negates any possibility that there can be any ability to carve of some imaginary segment of the market and think we can save a portion of jobs because we pump ourselves up with the rhetoric that only we can perform them. This is selling our skills and not imposing our rights – and we call it collaboration – sounds nice doesn’t it, in this kinder – PC soceity. We are dealing with junk yard dog contractors and don’t be surprised when they bite you!

We continue to think that our skills and training are our saving features – all any union tradesperson has to do to test this, is quit there union contractor and see what the anti-union contractor will pay you.

We are told that the Building Trades raised our numbers – up 95,000, this number while true does not tell the whole story. With dollars being spent on total construction at early 08 levels again and rising, our participation is actually less in the total hours – which means we truly continue to loss overall market share. Work the entire number equation thru and you will readily see this.

Also with modularization and technology improvements cannibalizing work hours even with increasing spending the highs in construction will not historically parallel prior manpower hours needed going forward. In this next decade and beyond only the union building trades can increase their overall market, because with less workers needed to do more work this scenario will also affect the need for “all” contractors period. As expected by the forecasting experts there may be as much as a 25% contraction of the contracting base given sector and craft. The meaning is the non/anti-union are net loser’s big time going forward with a market share of 88%. The strategy of collaboration puts our ability to grow in this environment entirely in the hands of big business, not a good strategy!

The NCCMP reported that the pension liability issue is having a huge impact on our existing contractor base and legislation will be introduced to get rid of withdrawal liability on our Pensions. There is no longer any easy path to this solution, should this legislation pass, many contractors will have the ability to opt out and abrogate their CBA.

The “only” strategy that makes sense going forward is to raise total hours with an integrated market development plan where labor imposes their rights to a fair collective bargaining agreement and does not beg for an audience with our corporate task masters.

Danny L Caliendo
Labor Rising Group

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