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The “Why of the Pinch Point” That Keeps the Building Trades Losing – Part 2 –

Here is the link to Part 1 – Specific Strategies & Tactics for the Building Trades to Win:!AmKOi71GyLcg11WuG__2UPghknwB

To understand this “pinch point” is to understand why Value on Display (VOD) is only a TOOL, and why VOD has been such an abject loser to the trades for decades!

Put your organizer/market rep/officer hat on. Rank & File, you may want to follow along. Think of the hourglass concept as described in Part 1 in the above link. “At the top of the hourglass is the entirety of all those that need the trades’ services, including new construction, maintenance, service, residential, etc. How in the heck do the organizers, now called business development people, exist in that environment?”

The trades are always saying we must use all the tools in the toolbox – what tools come to mind that the trades use to organize/market to this huge group? Typically, the tools are top-down; some political pressure/relationships, if available; leverage of pension funds, maybe (this is its own disaster); and various types of limited corporate style campaigns.  

For example – Top down is used to impart to management that using skilled labor is in their best interest. The trades use all types of positive marketing (anchored by training) to get that point across. It carries a substantial cost when you see the budgets of the BTs. It is a mixed bag of professionals helping the trades market, along with some current/former officer(s) who need a job and become marketing gurus overnight.

Political pressure has been and continues to dwindle rapidly. Why? Because, we have minimal influence on politicians, which parallels our loss of market share. And relationships are just that – relationships which come and go.

Then we have some semblance of corporate campaigns. Why is this style of organizing just a semblance of a campaign? Because it is typically targeted to the customer of the end-user, which is a big NO to the senior leaders of the trades due to the unintended consequences it invites. More on that soon. I can count the limited uses of corporate campaigns that have a developed strategy/structure on two hands. So, the trades have few corporate campaigns to point to and even far fewer wins to celebrate! We are using a broad brush in the top of the hourglass, however the numbers clearly and overwhelmingly show that every construction sector in both the U.S. & Canada have smaller market share since the inception of VOD – to use business-speak, negative ROI vs. time/money invested – NET! We will explain why that is later in this blog.

Let’s jump to the bottom of the hourglass. “At the bottom of the hourglass are all the contractors providing services. This is another minefield. Huge numbers come and go. Others have limited financial credit worthiness – so who finances them? Many are subsets of fabricators and installers of specific systems. How do they get the work they do? So many more real questions that even a veteran organizer and/or market rep is unable to answer them using the current tool of VOD in a market-wide setting. They are hugely under-trained by the design of VOD.” More about these comments later in the blog.

What comes to mind for you as an organizer/market rep/volunteer/officer/R&F member when you think of increasing market share in the bottom of the hourglass? Bottom-up organizing; Top-down; putting up the rat; using the NLRB to pursue justice; relying on politicians and connections; hoping the obstacles go away; training members to become contractors (some upsides to this one, but with qualifiers); stripping; recruiting; contractors crack (aka market recapture funds); handbills; passing the responsibility to a higher level; pretending the issue is solved; blitzing (possible the single worse tool without a built out strategy around it – getting names and supposedly scaring the non-union contractor is NOT a built-out strategy); etc.? This is a Pandora’s box of losing! WHY? Stayed tuned, as we are getting to that.

“In the pinch point of the hourglass is the group that have a date-specific need, such as building a road or a new warehouse or office building. In the pinch point is the developer who can’t work in vacuum and has numerous vulnerabilities both in being the developer of record and then moving the project forward. Inside that pinch point is the CM and GC.”

While the overwhelming number of organizers/market reps are aware of this group, they have little long-term structural interaction or developed knowledge of them. This is where the BT’s senior-most leaders play and exist almost exclusively! This is where the “DEALS” are made between management and the trades. Think of all the trades’ various labor/management committees that exist, which by the way you pay for. The correlation is very strong that the more we talk to management over time, the more market share we lose over the decades since the mid 90’s to the present – trackable numbers that can be measured objectively if only the senior leadership would take off the “rose colored glasses” they have been wearing for decades. Management has taken the cooperation component of VOD and flipped it against the trades.

Numbers overwhelming show that management is transferring the trades contractors and workers to the non-union! Losing takes on many forms at this level. The concessions and capitulations on wages, benefits and conditions are very real to R&F wallets. However, it is the other forms of losing that senior BT officers try hard to keep out of view of the R&F that is of concern, for example working on jobs with the non/anti-union workers under various forms of specialty agreements; striking deals with anti-union entities, such as CLAC and others in Canada and various non/anti-union entities in the U.S.; being lied to blatantly by developers, CMs, etc.; bailing out the non/anti-union on jobs executed poorly by using union workers; using union pension dollars to build projects with non/anti-union workers; rolling over in areas of safety that transfer the responsibilities of an accident to the worker – and, this is NOT the entire list.

The pinch point of the hourglass is a PROHIBITED ZONE for sustained use to those in the locals who are charged with organizing and market development. The NUMBER #1 rule dictated by management is that no trade will upset the business models of those companies/contractors in the pinch point the trades deal with! Any actions to bring concerted activities/pressure on these entities’ clients, credit, carefully crafted perceptions and business models and profits WILL NOT be tolerated. Let alone can an organizer bring legal and lawful concerted actions that would put them out of business. Even when they can be shown to be anti-union as a company/contractor. The box the senior leadership of the trades have put themselves in – is killing us. The design of VOD prohibits the average organizer/market rep from affecting this pinch point in a sustained manner and in doing so, all in the trades lose.

The senior leaders of the trades have transformed a once proud MOVEMENT into a temp agency.

Let’s jump back to the last statement in the bottom of the hourglass paragraph. They (the organizers, now market reps/recruiters) are hugely under-trained by design of the VOD!

If those in the trades were trained to analyze a market properly, the organizers, now market reps/recruiters, would run smack dab into the pinch point of the hourglass and violate Rule #1 if they were to effectively organize! Effective organizing is a CBA, the true standard of organizing. It is taking both contractor/worker and imposing the VALUES of a CBA on them regardless if they want one of not. However, the senior leaders, especially since the 90’s, can’t have org/MR understanding that section of the market. It is where the rubber meets the road. So, by DESIGN, the organizer/market rep/recruiter is kept in the top and bottom of the hourglass – to keep them out of the way. If the organizer/market rep/recruiter had the ability to fully understand the market players, they would easily identify the relationships that have formed over decades between the trades’ senior leadership and senior management. And, that would not be a good thing for the BT senior leadership – NET!

If you can’t fathom that we are all being controlled supposedly “in our best interest,” then you believe that ALL organizers/market reps/recruiters in every trade, and in every part of the U.S. and Canada, can’t figure out how to use the TOOLS to increase market share. They’ll have a handful of wins here and there, but no sustained growth in market share and density! Even in periods of great work as is the case for the last few years. We the organizers/market reps/recruiters/R&F are being spoon feed information to keep us out of the pinch point by design!

All training currently available (except for Labor Rising) of organizers/market reps by the trades omits huge amounts of germane information necessary to win. Without a sustained and structured presence in the pinch point by organizers/MR the trades will continue to lose – NET!

Changing the duties of an organizer to market rep and now to that of a flat-out recruiter has been a masterful transition by BT senior leadership. Provide bodies at the cost that management dictates and maybe the trades can have some crumbs. Screw the middle-class stuff. The internationals get direct payment on the hours worked on the vast array of agreements and make it mandatory for most locals’ R&F to fund many other entities.

This could be an opinion, if it were not for the fact that starting in the next blog, we will provide support for the statements above. In doing so, we will educate those who want to learn how to win! In the meantime, the senior leadership is, and has been, the biggest obstacle for the trades winning in the trenches and restoring the middle class! It is also why Labor Rising/Labor Combat is not well received by BT senior leaders. We train on winning and to do that the organizer/market rep needs to work in the pinch point – an area too fragile and filled with skeletons to the good ole boys’ strategy of appeasement with management!

From 2007 to the present, with nearly 680 formally trained labor activists and approximately another 500 informally worked with, Labor Rising/Labor Combat (LR/LC) has continuously gone to school on the complete lack of training needed to win and we have filled that void. However, international level officers have made it clear that LR/LC is not the “strategy” of the trades!

See for yourself if LR/LC can clarify and make precise points on the above statements and NOT SELL you BS on an opinion and/or theory.

Are we so comfortable with losing and seeing the destruction of the middle class that we just roll over!?!

Right now, and for the decades leading up to this point, the answer is YES!

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising/Labor Combat

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