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Good Morning and Welcome to the Legislative Conference –

The North American Building Trades Conference CAN BE a very good event for the trades “IF” it changes with the circumstances and reflects that in action. Something we are not too good at so far!

This year’s conference is unlike previous years’ in that the future for unionized construction is no longer business as usual. Some senior level leaders have been correct in stating that the trades may be facing “extinction level” events in the very near term. If “anyone” can predict what Trump and this Congress will do – you’re guessing, period! And the BS wisdom out there is having a seat at the table. There isn’t a table. Every current scenario has the trades getting kicked in the teeth. Which BTW includes Trump looking for D’s support. Hell, the D’s have the lowest approval rating of all parties in DC.

Looking at the agenda for this year’s Legislative Conference, it appears that it will be a conference with “much of the same”! 11 Workshops on Monday – so more than in years past. Tuesday, as of this post hasn’t any sessions listed on App. That’s not good. So, same vendors and leaders doing exactly what they did last year, which is – REACT! Trump was elected in November and the agenda and the session outline for this conference is geared to outcomes the trades have little control of! We must play DEFENSE and HOPE to get help SOMEWHERE! Hope is not a strategy!

Good chance Trump may even show up to REASSURE us. The Right Wing is setting the agenda – not him!

The Keynote can set the TONE – however, the facts must fit, and spin and self-aggrandizing of those facts serve to undermine the trades and the conference, right out of the box!

Here is a link for the current and past numbers for construction from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for your review. Real facts in context – NET!

Union Membership Summary by Department of Labor


You can see the trades have been trending sideways/down “NET” – give or take a few thousand jobs either way for the last few years. See Union Membership and Representation and the Back-Data Charts on the first link above.

What is lost/not reflected in those above numbers is the significant increase in construction spending since 2013. 2015/2016, and so far in 2017, construction spending is in back-to-back-to-back years of record dollars at approximately $1.6 trillion-ish. Translation, the trades are losing ground “NET” participating in the increase in work, even when we add in advances in construction delivery. Added to that is the fact that 6 states account for the trades ability to even trend sideways/down. If even ONE of those states slips and/or falls – so will the numbers. So, saying we are gaining ground in any way is pure BS and spin. But, you’ll be hearing it during this conference anyway. Not in context – but hearing it none-the-less!

The trades’ Retention Rate is frozen at 1:1, which means the trades ARE training the non-union. The trades are being REVERSE-RECRUITED and are treated as a pool of labor to strip for the non-union. The trades lose senior supervision and solid journeypersons to the non-union and the trades recruit basically ANONE that will take a book. Not sustainable. How many Open Calls are going unfilled today across the trades? It is a large number. We can’t get the workers because the non-union has the jobs. Also, all sectors of construction use less union trades measured in “CONTEXT” than a decade ago. So, this continued notion that the various sectors need us is not borne out in real hard numbers.

The amount of “concessionary” give-backs and bargaining has been staggering for now over a decade. It goes back to 1973. PLA’s replacing CBA’s is also setting the stage to contribute to an extinction of the trades. Management can “WALK AWAY” from a PLA in a heartbeat – case closed! BTW, the trades don’t offer PLA’s to management – they are demanded with concessions by management!

Any trade leaders that say stuff like “we have to be competitive” need to stop representing workers. They are certainly NOT Organizers. These comments are the roots for the “race to the bottom”. Can you even imagine our Founders saying that?

Consider big ticket items such as underfunded pensions and anti-union legislators across the board and the odds are tilting away from the trades restoring the heritage of our Founders as an independent and free trade union MOVEMENT with the current strategy and most of the current leaders!

The sinister component to the trades being in this predicament is a strategy of collaboration. The trades call it Value on Display! A loser since inception approximately 20 years ago, except for those on the Internationals LM-2 and management!

Who can we trust to collaborate with? Management, legislators of either party, community groups with their own agenda, safety enforcement by the agencies and/or insurers, enforcement of labor law, each other in the trades regarding jurisdiction, non-union workers? Every one listed above have been a “NET” loser in the big picture of market share using collaboration to lift the trades market share.

The Trades have the chance to play big; and yet we continue strategies and tactics that are proven losers!

Without legal & lawful Labor Unrest – 21st century style – the trades are testing the limits of our very existence. Not “bottom up” labor unrest – getting to the clients, credit and social footprint(perception) of the end-user, developer & construction manager – the trades are going nowhere.

As our Founders knew and practiced, grab business by the wallet and the rest will follow. Our Founders controlled the means of production and not just the workers of those companies at the top of the food chain! Not the subs and GC’s – those that sign the checks! They imposed a CBA on non-union companies, and helped put anti-union companies out of business! In an era of consolidation and contraction of the construction market – the trades could decide who wins and losses in these high stakes outcomes. Huge leverage and yet the shrinking violets of leadership are afraid to wield this powerful leverage.

This conference agenda falls short of helping Rank & File leaders to understand Labor Unrest to its fullest: the power that comes when we trust ourselves and lead from the front; when we quit playing and being victims; when we have the numbers to demand a seat at the table and not beg from the kids’ table.

Time is OUT! The R’s, after their bout with the ACA, are going to pivot to taxes, regulations and unionized labor. The Freedom Caucus has the leverage now to get most, if not all, of what they want.

The top item they want is the head of labor on a platter! Nothing less!

So, rah rah speeches and trips to vendor paid dinners (which BTW means the members paid for it) are rapidly coming to an end.

Business as usual is a bitch! It carries consequences when the trades’ leaders aren’t ready for the hand now being dealt!

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo
Labor Rising/Labor Combat

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