Labor Rising Logo
Call (630) 373-0774

The Constitution for Bad Ass Union Members –


Membership engagement is essential for both good governance and organizing. To reinvigorate a MOVEMENT and not continue the losing strategy of being a business brand & temp agency.

Educate, agitate and organize again has to be the mantra of the rank & file. This along with minimal politics in governance, will empower the Rank & File to have authority over leadership again. This isn’t a pipe dream. However, until we as rank & file en masse, and on the local union floor get back in the game – we will have no more than jobs working for a temp agency, increasingly under agreements we have zero control of.

If you Google your respective trades official name and add constitution – you should get the constitution typically in a PDF, in the search results of your trade. Look and review it – your career & pension depends on it. Your family depends on it. The middle class depends on it – you hold sway over all of this! No hyperbole what-so-ever here!

Your constitution is as typical as it is unique for the Foundation of your trade and governing documents.

The Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 – (LMRDA) is the law that has jurisdiction, and is enforced by the DOL (Department of Labor). Our Canadian members have similar documents and different enforcements mechanisms than the US.

The Building Trades Constitution are a “stacked deck” of the highest order. The high and mighty sound of the title is just that – high and mighty. Make no mistake about it – it serves those that take power.

The DOL presumes that what the International does, is given the benefit of the doubt. So putting subordinate bodies under trusteeship, removing officers, discipline and merging locals, to name just a few activities are presumed to be sanctioned by the DOL. Translation – we are fighting an uphill battle.

Given the level of control of the “good ole boys” over this document – direct action to challenge/change it, much less get any type of enforcement via the DOL is a waste of time and money 98% of the time. The constitution gets changed all the time, just look at the revision page in your constitution. The overwhelming majority of resolutions that get concurred with and passed, are shepherded by the “good ole boys” to advance their vision of the trade with next to zero binding abilities of the membership.

Few to zero resolutions from the rank & file locals seldom get concurred with by the Resolutions Committee. They seldom are shared prior to convention so the R&F can discuss them.

For the senior most “good ole boys” to control the majority of outcomes requires structure. So the senior most convention committees take guidance from the General Officer or they will not be on that committee. Which would be a loss to them of power and money. Most Internationals put genuine union leaders on these committees for credibility, but never enough to lose control of the outcome of the committee’s decisions. After the convention there is usually a Convention issue of the magazine, you can see who is on them and determine the pecking order. Not a waste of time if you want to change the status quo. For those that think that having an officer high in the pecking order is good – reverse engineer that statement. Typically, your locals/DC are the first to impose specialty agreements of all types down the throats of membership, and then filters down to other locals. We consider PLA’s as part of those agreement and we’ll discuss why in upcoming blogs.

Think of the constitution not only as a servant of the “good ole boys”, but also as a get out of jail card free for politicians! Now think of all the conversations member’s and even great local officers have had – only to be confronted with… hey dude it’s the rules, the constitution is used as the bad guy here. “LET ME SEE WHAT I CAN DO FOR YOU”! Translation – nothing will change and the status quo maintained.

If you want to know the pecking order of a trade union, you have to look no further than what Business Managers and International officers make up which committees. The more powerful the committee the higher the pecking order. Those officers in turn then have to control and enforce the decisions of the senior most General Officers downstream – US!

Items like Standards of Excellence – a business document which will be used to supersede local rules, especially with regard to hiring; have found their way into most constitutions. Income flow which was once optional, such as Labor-Management contributions, is now mandatory under most constitutions. Another way to create slush funds, and the Rank & File pays all the bills, even for management.

We will discuss this more in the upcoming Blogs.

What this Blog is all about, is coming to understand our documents and reporting. As one sided as the constitution is now – there are some very powerful aspects of membership rights. Also how rules for subordinate bodies work. To change the constitution requires the Rank & file to have a working knowledge of the game. Not that hard for journeypersons if they want good governance and a true voice.

So what’s in it for the R&F to think this way – how about a career and pension at a minimum. H&W and conditions. Fair grievance procedures and responsive International officers. But we have to show up and earn this – be union activist and masters of our own fate and not Victims.

All of us are under a CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) in one form or another. It’s how we get what we get. To change the current dynamics of concessionary bargaining and loss of market share requires that members again show up in numbers that bind local officers to us and not the Internationals pecking order and perks!

You can hate a fellow member – but guess what, when it comes to voting on issues advanced on the floor; we have to question and vote the facts. So many locals in the trades have mostly small factions that look big. They endorse the moves of officers for some form of consideration. Should they be confronted with reasoned decisions based in facts entered into the minutes and the members support that – then that BM/DC is then putting his/her job on the line in opposing the democratic process!

We know of approx. 150 activist local/dc labor leaders in the trades – they would have no problems with an extremely active membership. They encourage it and foster it. That’s the minority of BM/DC officers.

Majority of BM/DC leaders go along to get along and love the perks. They will sell any and all BS the internationals feed them to the membership. For them, the rank & file should be happy to have the jobs they have. A management view – BTW! They do not organize – only talk about it, as it interferes with their meetings at 5 star venues. Just follow them on FB. The biggest cancer of all in the trades are endless meetings which go nowhere!

They would tell you they are procuring jobs – so why are we continuing to lose market share?

Did you know that a couple of dozen major jobs in North America account for nearly 4% of the 11% of the market share we have? The dealt kneel for the trades is the very high concentrations of big jobs. What happens as those jobs continue to bargain those wages down and eventually eliminate unions? Western Canada knows exactly what this looks like. So does New York. The Internationals have to roll over because of a complete lack of future planning and real organizing. So the owners got em! If they don’t concede, and the internationals lost most or all of those millions of hours – that alone will reduce market share.

So let’s close here and then take apart the constitutions in the next Blogs. We will then move on to all aspects of putting membership back in control of their locals.

Share this with all local memberships – it isn’t radical to have good governance; and our FOUNDERS are watching!

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo
Labor Rising/Labor Combat

This entry was posted in Labor Rising and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.