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Infrastructure and P3s – The Final Nail in This Version of The Trades –

P3s are Private Public Partnerships – and, the trades are in the wrong place with the wrong strategy if P3s are the primary way we (re)build infrastructure going forward. Just because there may be endless amounts of work in no way ensures that union trades will be doing the work with a P3.

Right now, the senior leaders of the trades are working deals to use union pension money to fund investment vehicles for P3s. The trades’ senior leaders are working thru some complex deal making and evaluating how to deal with the financial risk regarding the viability of the projects and profit.

Value on Display has been a massive failed strategy during its entire use as the go-to strategy of the trades – and the P3s are going to eat this strategy up (use it to their exclusive advantage). Yes, use it to their advantage. P3’s is in no way the way both the US & Canada has built infrastructure in both D’s & R administrations until now. What is even more disappointing is these types of P3 projects would be hugely susceptible to organizing. Any disruptions to the for-profit construction of P3’s would give labor leverage on both non-union contractors and workers. However, we will sell and talk our way into even lower market share relative to the work and let the GREED of management proceed with the trades complacent! Lots of rhetoric but complacent actions deferring at all times to management!

The trades have limited pension dollars to risk on funding/investing in for-profit infrastructure. Those few pensions healthy enough to invest in them will be limited in the dollar/percentage amount available for allocation – typically 10%.

The P3 investment world is going to recruit our Pension Trustees/Agents/Senior Leaders to be partners in infrastructure. At best, we will be a junior partner in most of the deals (with little to no leverage).  An example is The West Deptford Energy Station, which is a $1.5 billion redevelopment construction project. In 2016, ULLICO Infrastructure Fund (UIF) completed a $78 million equity investment in West Deptford Energy Station. ULLICO is a Union owned insurance/investment company. ULLICO will have approximately 5% of the project to buy jobs and take on the risk of the deal making money OVER TIME! It is a highly illiquid investment and the returns hover around most Taft-Hartley assumptions of approximately 7%. We will go to all the collaborative meetings with management and teach the end-users et al how to do the job, especially the highly technical parts. The trades will bend over backwards to facilitate initial and advanced training. And, on top of putting our dollars in the project and teaching and training, we will still take cuts in our pay packages to get “HOURS”! And the old and tired mantra of “lets get on the job and show them what unions can do” will still take place. IT HAS NEVER WORKED!

Many, if not all, P3s will increasingly opt out of paying into a Defined Benefit Pension Fund as we move into the end of this decade and into the next because of the underfunding issues of so many pensions – yep, the very Infrastructure Funds that are soliciting our Pension Funds to fund their P3s. An irony, but this will be true. The trades will get a sliver of the total infrastructure work and be kept on life support by the corporations to milk every ounce of total benefit from the organization formally known as the free and independent Building Trades. Every number and trend indicate that the union contractors and blue-chip union hands are being recruited to the non-union, by design! BTW, good luck getting your pension funds back once invested. These are long-term investments, be it closed or open-end funds, separate account or pooled, equity or debt funds. Any takers on this? The comment section is open for all, including senior BT leadership and/or ULLICO folks.

This collaboration/capitulation to secure hours is Value on Display on steroids! So, the trades will PAY for the privilege of being put out of existence, at least this version. Labor Rising has said for 10 years that our research and trends demonstrate that the anti/non-union are transferring the union contractors and workers to the non-union. A very smart strategy since time and 90% of the market is on the non/anti-union side. Given a complete lack of leadership, the trades are set up to fall and pay for it all at the same time.

During the last 30+ years the Building Trades history is crystal clear. We concede huge amounts of wages, benefits and conditions, while helping the customer learn how to efficiently do the project and typically are then shown the door in upcoming phases. We do all the heavy lifting and concessions and still lose the job and market. “NET” across all trades – the loss of density of market has been a complete catastrophe with Value on Display which is void in GENUINE ORGANIZING! The trades have lost market share in EVERY sector across the board, even factoring in advances in construction delivery due to technology.

It is no coincidence that anti-union legislation/NLRB/Supreme Court/Congress/RTW are lining up to deliver both public and trades unions a decisive, and if things don’t change, a fatal blow to any type of workers’ rights. P3s will be exempt from Prevailing Wage/Davis Bacon laws. In short order, PLAs will be gone, too, for all intents and purposes.

The trades have relegated themselves into being a temp agency to the construction world, in that they do the “recruitment” and training of workers. Recruitment IS NOT organizing. And the retention rate of nearly 1:1 throughout the trades means we are training the non-union and losing our best hands. The dogs and our legendary comp case workers stay and hide behind union rules. Blitzes are a worn out and failed strategy and yet we continue to use them now for “recruitment” – got to find bodies. It is called organizing – but it is NOT! Weak organizers use it in lieu of decisive tactics and strategies.

P3s are for profit. Think back to the advent of the contemporary Construction Manager in the 80’s, this is when BT market share started to decline rapidly. Why? That’s where the money is! Think of the role the construction manager plays on the job – to save the end-users’ money. However, think of this, the CM is a “for profit” company. So, riddle me this Bat Man – how do you save money for the end-user and pocket sizable profits for the CM (typically north of 20%, depending on type of CM and their role and relationship)? The answer, through gouging union CONTRACTS/CBAs, and off the union workers’ backs. Add in the Value on Display catastrophe for giving away workers’ wages, benefits and conditions by selling (out) the trades; and the trades have been on a losing streak in market share and pay ever since. The Race to the Bottom started in unions, and because the trades have been conceding at every turn, this has affected the entire workforce. The charts showing loss of union wages = loss of all workers wages for the past decades.

Well, P3s are today’s version of the CMs from the 80’s until present day. P3s turn a “PROFIT” and at the same time save money on total project cost! The workers, especially UNION workers contracts/CBA’s, will once again be the way the two objectives described above can be accomplished.

Every time the trades participate in their endless labor/management collaborative meetings and “let’s all love each other PARTNERSHIPS”, they’ve lost ground across the board – “NET”!

Now that the Rs are calling the shots, P3s will be the biggest pot of legal cash ever for management! The rebuilding of North America! However, this time around workers will not participate in a fair deal because our senior leaders have long abandoned any semblance of a trades union for workers. It is all about hours and being a temp agency! The trades are responsible for the worker class now forming and have long abandoned being the champion of the “MIDDLE CLASS”! The sheer numbers of the concessions over decades by senior leadership is verifiable and felt in the families budget.

On one hand, Trump (our President who couldn’t pass a lie detector test to save his soul!) is playing the trades like a fiddle – making promises that otherwise discerning grown men are believing! And on the other hand, Trump is allowing every non-union Executive Order and legislation through with his signature. With the addition of a very conservative judge, the Supremes will rubber stamp most, if not all, workers’ rights issues negatively.

All of this because the Trades WILL NOT FIGHT & ORGANIZE! The Trades will not train their Organizers  how to formally build a market; format sectors; learn SIC codes; separate non-union and anti-union companies, end-users, and construction managers; develop specific strategies and tactics for each; understand recognition and secondary law, hiring and application law; use mass communication with the R&F; use membership as a sales engine; do formidable opposition research; learn how to use opposition websites; learn to shut up; learn to quit selling and represent the interests of workers; impose a CBA on all companies, regardless if they want one or not! No scorched earth tactics. Methodical structured strategies researched for the trade. These are what our Founders did, and what is included in Labor Rising’s & Labor Combat’s instructions. But, the Internationals shut us down at every turn, even though they have a totally failed strategy and no strategy to win past losing! Labor Rising is said to be BT BASHERS – the overwhelming bad numbers of the Trades performance is the basher – LR just reports it! Our Founders would kick their butts big time!

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo
Organizer
Labor Rising/Labor Combat

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