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Brother McGarvey’s Mea Culpa on Behalf of Trades IPs –


WTF – this is a long Blog!?! Yes, it is, because approximately half is quoting the Building Trades’ post-election email and half is Labor Rising’s responses!

In the field, we consider a Mea culpa as copping a plea when you get caught not doing your job for over 20 years!

History teaches us that WORKERS OWN THE JOB(S)! A MOVEMENT understands this and seeks not only to bring in the workers, but also to secure the companies that provide the work performed by the workers. Our FOUNDERS not only worked successfully to bring in workers – they controlled production and services and had significant influence on the companies’ and contractors’ business model and market. Significant and tactical use of labor unrest and civil disobedience, along with differentiating friend from foe, led to their success. They cooperated only at the negotiation table when a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was being discussed – seldom at a labor/management meeting before a CBA was in place!

The legal and lawful pressure of the 21st century version of real organizing and worker outreach is formidable as compared to our Founders’ leverage. Our Internationals have worked themselves into a position dictated to them by construction management using the failed Value on Display strategy.

When the trades were a MOVEMENT, all could express themselves in whatever political voice they chose without all the BS of today. The Founders knew that binding the Sisterhood & Brotherhood to one goal was all that was needed. The CBA bound all! All workers had a common purpose, and as importantly, a true voice. Our Founders DID NOT rely on politicians and contractors to give them anything. We earned our respect! As our influence grew, politicians would COME to us. Back when the politicians from either party came to us because of the common unity we shared, we could hold them accountable. It’s called Raw Power. That was then. This is now. And, now we have virtually lost all our power!

For the last 20 years, the trades have adopted a “Brand” way of doing business and call it Value on Display. Not only has it lost jobs, hours, contractors and membership “net” for 20 years, it has stripped away the dignity of a proud, independent and free Trade Labor Movement. It also places our entire future in the hands of contractors and politicians for survival. And survival is not growing a market! Social media is littered with “what has this or that politician done for us”? As a business brand, we in the trades discuss and argue about every issue of relevance to us because we DO NOT have direct control of OUR future. Our Internationals have ceded terms to managements resulting in less and less work. We have turned to politicians for legislative help, which we know is going to be minimal or ineffective at best. We have seen independent autonomy of Locals/DCs usurped by the very entities (good ole boys) we entrust our careers to! Without organized labor balancing organized capital, we are nothing more than a temporary agency providing technical skills. It is time for the training and marketing wing of the trades to move over in favor of ORGANIZING! And, by the way, those 2 above entities are funded directly from PLAs and membership hours at every turn – we are a temp agency – case closed!

Back to the Mea Culpa –

Brother Sean McGarvey, President of the Building Trades, sent an email to just the Building Trades leaders and not the Rank & File.  Below is his entire email verbatim in quotation marks, followed by Labor Rising’s REALITY CHECK responses, using facts and up-to-date information.

“November 9, 2016”

“Dear Building Trades Leader:”

“I wanted to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for the tremendous hard work and dedication that you exhibited during this election season.”

LR response: Interpretation: Shoving a candidate down our throats when that candidate did not fit the mood of the electorate in this election cycle. This sentiment was clearly expressed in the primaries of both parties, and in the union halls by the R&F.  

“Obviously, we are disappointed that our endorsed candidate, Hillary Clinton, did not win last night. But, as we all know, in politics nothing is ever certain.”

LR response: “WE” are disappointed!?! CHANGE was the mandate in this election cycle!

“We did our best. And we drove home our message to our members about Hillary’s support for infrastructure, a sound and reasonable energy policy, and her strong support for wage and benefit standards for our industry through vehicles such as prevailing wage laws and project labor agreements.”

LR response: There was little education of R&F. In hall after hall, the R&F were told to vote for a candidate and bumpers stickers were distributed. One bad move after another because our senior leadership didn’t have a clue what was going on in the field! NEVER tell a voter who they must vote for in an anti-establishment election! Hello, your establishment to the R&F – no longer leaders!

“But our collective membership and their families have been besieged by a set of challenges that extend over a period of decades, notwithstanding the devastating depression they endured from 2007-2012, and from which many are still not fully recovered.”

“In many cases, their wages – adjusted for inflation – have remained stagnant for years. At the same time, their health care contributions have been steadily rising, as well as additional contributions to shore up their pension plans.”

LR response: These challenges are all on senior leadership’s decision to keep using the losing strategy of Value on Display, which directly suppressed/conceded wages, benefits (especially the defined benefit) and conditions.

“And as they look around at the industry in which they have chosen their careers, they oftentimes see unchecked abuses, such as misclassification of workers, weakened federal and state labor laws, and abuses of our visa system that undermines our collective ability to compete on a level playing field.”

LR response: Now we start with the “THEY” word. In the view of the Internationals, the R&F is responsible? When the Locals/DCs must fight on 2 fronts – their own International and the above issues – history clearly indicates that workers are the losers. And the word COMPETE is at the heart of the entire issue. Our FOUNDERS, never tried to compete. They set the bar for what it takes to raise a family in today’s world. WE WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO COMPETE ON PRICE!!!

“Perhaps most importantly, they maintain a feeling of political alienation. They have worked for and supported members of both political parties who time and again made commitments to promulgate policies that would help level that playing field. And in far too many cases, those commitments were never fulfilled.”

LR response: We have no concentrated power with politicians. They don’t come to us – we must go to them. Perfect example, all the feuding on social media about _____ (fill in the blank yourselves). The same money we spent on marketing and commercials could be used decidedly better in worker outreach and education with cyber organizing. We have a couple million social signals available to tell our story and we use NONE of them!

“You can think of your own examples. The Employee Free Choice, or a prolonged debate to pass a long-overdue and flawed highway bill, are two that come to mind.”

“Simply put, they have become fed up with endless election year promises by politicians of both parties that never come to fruition.”

LR response: Guess what Brother Sean and “OUR” IPs, this anger is on your doorstep and is not going away. Rather, it is presently finding a path to either remove the “good ole boys” or more likely go around or over you! Labor Rising stands with reformers and R&F! We’ll find new leaders and keep you busy trying to crush them. The gig is up. We know you need to maintain a “pool” of trained employees (not necessarily members) for management in order to keep the good ole boys in a lifestyle they feel they are entitled too!

“All Americans in our democracy have their opportunity to let their voices be heard on these and other issues, and that was November 8th.”

“And the results are in.”

“So, now it is time to move on.”

LR response: Really!?! Move on how and to where!?! More of the same losing Value on Display!

“Of course, I realize that politics is important to the economic trajectory of our members and their families. But I also understand that most of the issues we face we can solve ourselves”.

LR response: “We can solve ourselves?” – all BS until you put form and action to it.

“So, I ask that each of you continue to engage in your communities in order to create the ladders of opportunity for women, communities of color and military veterans through our training infrastructure.”

LR response: In the last 60 years, except for veterans, the rest listed above couldn’t get past the “good ole boys” and the number of consent orders around the country attest to that. Now the continuing lineage of “good ole boys” needs them to fill out the pool of employees, usually in lower wage categories. This puts the trust of the local union recruiter on the line to discuss why they should join. The back drop is the question: are they members or employees to the Internationals? All evidence in the last 10 years’ points to employees. A dilemma for the local recruiter if they are genuine R&F.

“I ask you to continue to engage with industry partners and the buyers of construction services in order to promote our value proposition that creates job opportunities for our members and our future members.”

LR response: Right this very second, IPs are trying to figure out who can help them to keep the VALUE business model and their big 6 figure paychecks in play. Promises will be made by management and politicians. Here is a link to what is going to rain down on them and us should they continue with a VALUE approach:!AmKOi71GyLcgr3k2DDi–j6XBXd4

“And I ask you to continue to be civic leaders in your communities and, yes, to continue to stay engaged in the political and legislative process for the issues that are germane to the economic well-being of our members and their families.”

LR response: The Locals always have. Even “good ole boys” at the local level do so to some extent. However, what they do at the Local/DC level as a MOVEMENT is inconsistent with advancing a business brand. And then the fabric of the trade MOVEMENT continues to tear because the Internationals generally overrule those activities in favor of big management.

“In Washington, DC, we will do the same.”

LR response: Washington is the problem. DUH! Isn’t that exactly what this election cycle just proved?

“We will attempt to work with new Administration and new Congress to push for:”

  • “A robust and comprehensive infrastructure investment program;”

LR response: This is long overdue; however, we have been moving into an era of anti-union legislation that, more than likely, will continue to reduce work for the trades. The last bastion of union influence is Heavy & Highway, Trump can undo a lot that the trades depend on – with the stoke of a pen. Also, 35 states, the U.S. President, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives are now R’s. Be careful what we wish for!

  • “A sound and reasonable national energy policy;”

LR response: As a weak player, we will have little influence on this important topic.

  • “Legislation that provides the needed tools to shore up our multi-employer pension plans;”

LR response: Not likely – buckle up because the good ole boys are almost entirely responsible for this pending catastrophe. The biggest BS out there is the government made us do things as trustees that led to this debacle. Not true – it was greed at its core!  

  • “A curb on visa abuse; and”

LR response: Illegal immigration, if controlled, will be replaced with huge numbers of H-2B visas, which were temporarily suspended. However, under Trump – warp speed ahead.

  • Modifications to the Affordable Health Care Act, and health and safety protections.”

LR response: No power = no seat at the big table on these critical issues!

“Again, I am thankful for the work that you put in during this election cycle. But more than that, I am proud of each and every one of you for the work that you do every day to make North America’s Building Trades Unions the success that it is today.”

“And please convey my thanks to the rank and file membership in your council.”

LR response: Put this letter on the Building Trades website for the R&F.

“Thank you and God Bless you.”

“With kind, personal regards, I am,”

“Sean McGarvey, President””

Danny L Caliendo
Labor Rising/Labor Combat

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