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Buckle Up Building Trades –

President Obama was elected because he created a wave of optimism and hope for America in 2008. His top priority was getting America back to work ASAP after the crash of the stock market in the 4th quarter of 2008. He spoke of this more often than even getting the ACA/Obama Care legislation passed. He had a majority in both the House & Senate for the next 2 years and what happened…

NOTHING – no infrastructure talk, and even more importantly any form of legislation, which never was formally introduced during those next 2 years. The single most important legislation which everyone wanted never made its way to the President’s desk.

WHY – because there is an old adage on Capitol Hill that “Democrats fall apart & Republican’s fall in line” especially in crunch time. Karl Rove’s masterful use of dividing the Democrats (which isn’t so hard to do) along the lines of self-interest was genius. When America needed jobs and lots of them, we were talking about everything except jobs and in particular a massive rebuilding of the infrastructure. He also put in play hard party partisanship. By keeping all Republicans acting on partisan votes, he crafted a perception that Democrats are also a partisan party – and can cast no stones.

All this was to diffuse any attempt to focus on infrastructure legislation. Rove knew that if the house democrats could get their act together long enough to get the ball rolling on infrastructure – the Republicans would be out of power for a very long time. President Obama would go down in history as the modern era New Deal president. The Democrats fell apart with their agenda and what should have been a no-brainer piece of legislation never came forth because of the DEMOCRATS not having the necessary leadership in the house, senate & presidency. Karl Rove’s strategy could not have worked without a dysfunctional democratic leadership – but the man knows his Democrats!

Rove also knows that a pay check solves almost all the issues facing American workers and even businesses. Rove also knows fear undermines hope if there are no jobs. Construction historically is the 2nd or 3rd highest component of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Had any type of big time legislation on infrastructure gotten passed by 2010 – America would not have the same issues facing her today & fear would never have taken root! And it would be the driver of the economy today, even eclipsing health care, finance and technology. It is the tide that lifts all boats, but the Democrats played politics with their own internal self-interests and distractions and let the “junk yard dogs” define the agenda. We labeled them the party of “NO” – which we thought would get the ire of Americans, which they skillfully flipped and put the President’s agenda on display.

The Republicans also really understand the strategy of KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid, and they did! One liners and NO to every complex situation. Bill Clinton was the last Democrat to fully understand KISS with his focus on pocket book issues and all things economic!

So now we are here, and all the whining and Facebook posts about how we got here will waste a lot of time, which by the way we don’t have. All of our self-serving efforts and the comments that “it’s unfair” is arrogance and need to stop if we hope to re-gain the initiative. The arrogance that continues to manifest itself in the face of every single number and fact that the Trades are dying is the single most debilitating of all traits. Hope is not a strategy – so where does that leave us in the Building Trades?

Screwed – if we continue to let politicians and the status quo lead us. Incremental changes to existing strategies are well known and well planned for by the anti-union and will not work.

With so many Governorship’s and the US House and Senate in solid Republican control, if labor continues to collaborate with the Business Roundtable – we are toast. Yep we are going to be threatened with retaliation if we act up and renew our Organizing heritage and we are going to have to stiffen our spines – however if we just pay attention to the republican advancement of both state and national RTW legislation, elimination of prevailing wage, little and national Davis-Bacon legislation roll backs and attacks on PLA of all types clearly focused in eliminating unions – we WILL know once and for all that collaboration by CURT (Construction Users Round Table) is a ruse and that’s the mildest word I can use here.

Continued comments that they need our skills are a death knell to the Building Trades. CURT knows they need our skills and have picked a point in construction delivery time which I personally feel is identifiable, where they will have the circumstances overwhelmingly in their favor to severely limit and/or get rid of the Building Trades. Also consider this advancing matrix:

  • All baby boomers retired along with their pension liabilities
  • Sufficient level of well-trained tradespersons in the market to supervise
  • Unions doing a lot of all training and curriculum design and recruiting for on their dime
  • Concessionary bargaining which closes the gap between the benefits of unions to the non-union
  • Solid and real temporary and recruitment agencies actively securing some of our best workers
  • Modularization & technology advances in construction delivery reducing hours
  • National Right to Work legislation
  • Prevailing Wage attacks
  • PLA repeals

This can be an opportunity if we again re-focus our core values on a living wage, good benefits & fair working conditions imposed on business regardless if they like it or not.

And a trend starting to emerge…

Virtual Unions, yes virtual unions are potentially taking form banding non-union workers together – what is very noticeable is they do NOT reach out to traditional Building Trades unions. So workers are banding together to advance themselves as a union, and we are not part of the equation. It is still too early to gauge this but heaven help us if they emerge as a union and do not align with existing Building Trades unions. Not good!

Perhaps this butt kicking during this election cycle CAN be the long overdue wakeup call that labor needs to again be a movement and defend all workers union or not.

Vernon Johns said it best and we need to heed his words – “if you see a good fight – get in it”

So will we?

Danny L Caliendo
Labor Rising Group


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