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Criticism vs. Debate

A senior staff member from the office of the Building Trades took me to task on Thursday the 3rd. In part he stated “all you ever do is criticize what we are doing”.

That is not my intention. When the numbers and the strategy of Value on Display don’t match reality, I feel an obligation as a member of a union to participate in a debate about our future direction. I do not view this as criticism. The numbers say Value on Display doesn’t work, not me.

I’m confident that our current strategy was brought forward in good faith, trying to solve the very difficult problem of increasing union jobs. However the numbers are the numbers, and after 20 years and hundreds of millions of dollars spent, we have a rock bottom low market share and density. Fact!

The numbers I cite come directly from our own Construction Chart Book,  paid for in part by the building trades. It is hard to argue with your own numbers, especially these because they are all properly sourced and cited. Our numbers also come from all of the Internationals LMs. To see the real membership numbers, just do some basic math and you will also see all of the mergers of many locals as a matter of survival. Our numbers also come from 5 years of researching what will work as we have developed the Labor Rising integrated market development training. Further evidence of our demise is the fact that in virtually all cases now union members are increasingly working alongside of non-union workers on jobs. And, don’t kid yourself, thousands of members have stuck their card in their boot and are working non-union because the market share is collapsing. We can no longer afford the self-serving BS and claims of increased market share and density when work in the area is booming! The historical facts are that we ultimately lose market share when that work plays out!

Understand that the non-union is in fact negotiating the Building Trades’ contracts because they have 90% of the market. The continuing lowering of wages, benefits and working conditions is the direct result of low market share.

Value on Display ultimately places the final decision to hire union in the owner’s hands, a fatal flaw! The philosophy of Value on Display does not recognize that we, as workers, own the jobs – not management. WORKERS own the jobs! An entire generation has grown up thinking that management exclusively decides this, including senior union leaders. If that where the case – then unions NEVER would have been able to form in the first place. This philosophical debate is at the core of why the Building Trades is losing this fight. The overwhelming value of belonging to a union is protecting our wages, benefits and working conditions. Value on Display has obscured that focus for over 20 years leading to concessions on our CBAs and ultimately resulting in lost wages, benefits and working conditions for our unions. The Value on Display strategy of collaboration and also presenting ourselves as a “product”, is directly responsible for this. Products come and go – we are The American Labor Movement, and need to act like it!

I respect and am loyal to my leadership; however, I’m loyal (some say to a fault) to the Rank & File and will always work on their behalf, even if that puts me at odds with leadership.

Finally the senior staffer asked for “concrete examples of how your program has actually resulted in any success”. The successes borne out in many locals are not Labor Rising successes, they are the respective locals’ successes. I have invited you to call any or all of them, so why do you hesitate? What we are actually tracking are CBA’s stuck at full union rates and increases of new contractors being signed, with many locals having the first CBA signed in many years.  We have helped unions develop opposition websites and structured “click” campaigns, taking on unscrupulous anti-union contractors and end-users. We have developed, and it is available now, 21st Century communications platforms for unions -connecting leadership and membership. This platform also leverages the entire membership to bring real pressure to bear on politics. We own the message. We instruct unions on how to control the hiring in their area. Since we haven’t been good at getting our members the work, we damn well better be good at making sure the bad contractors can’t get workers. Our entire purpose as unions is to monopolize the skills, and only make them available to contractors under a CBA! We have developed entirely new ways to promote union contractors at the point of sale, where our dollars are most effectively spent. We instruct local unions on how to build their own market in its entirety, in real time. Then we instruct locals in developing the “Compression Zone(s)” of their market and to identify exactly what anti-non/union to take on, why to take them on and how to beat them or sign them!

Labor Rising has invited you to come and go through the Labor Rising programs and see for yourself how the program works. All numbers say that Value on Display has a place, but within a broader strategy.

We own the jobs, and it is long past the time to go out and get them back – begging in whatever form you call it, can no longer be our strategy! Our future depends on the decisions we make now and going forward!

Danny L Caliendo
Labor Rising

6 part Blog on the Construction Users Round Table (CURT):

Continuing to ignore these facts will be fatal.

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