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The Ranger Handbook vs Building Trades Academy & Organizing –

Delta Force, Seal Team 6 and MARSOC all have developed and structured battle plans for engagement. They ID friend from foe and understand that today’s ally may be tomorrow’s foe!

Contrast that with the Building Trades (BT), which have tools to sell Value on Display on one axis of market development and bottom-up on the other axis. Tools not strategies! Organizers have next to zero ability to ID the foes from friends on the battlefield of construction past the obvious. Hidden from an organizer’s education and training are the senior decision makers and the $$$ that bankroll the construction.

And then there is recruitment. The capitulation of senior BT leaders for hours. With retention in the trades running at or below 1:1 for the BT net, desperate leaders show how inept they are and wave the “white flag” by having great organizers waste valuable time and resources on yet another band aid approach to securing market share!

Both axes used now for decades are abject losers “NET” for winning market share. Labor Rising has found just 9 BT unions out of 317 trained to date that have developed structured and written organizing strategies – NINE!

The Ranger Handbook (et al) is the opposite of the historical losing streak of the North American Building Trades Union (NABTU). The first is the very definition of structure and discipline while the latter is not. Consider the NABTU website – Organizing per se is not even listed on the main menu. It is quasi-listed under Apprenticeship & Training as a bullet point – The Building Trades Academy (BTA).

Thousands have attended the BTA, which seldom changes or evolves. It offers the same losing classes, by and large, that are taught in an ever-changing environment/battlefield where the BT continues to lose market share. The fractured, splintered and incomplete tools provided lead to losing in the field. Numbers can be manipulated to lie; however, the numbers “NET” from the BT are rock solid losers over decades!

BTA classes knowingly (or unknowingly) foster losing, as it is built into the BTA classes. Few participants even know it until they go back into the field and have no idea what to do the day after BTA classes end. They lose far more times than they win, hence the continuous downward trajectory of market share and density, and yet the BTA continues to teach systemic losing.

The equation is simple and straight forward. Either every trade organizer/market rep across North America and across all trades are clueless in using the tools they’ve been taught at the BTA, or the classes are incomplete and ineffective due to the underlying strategy of Value on Display (VOD) that is interlaced throughout the training. In addition to the chronic losing perpetrated by the VOD tool is bottom-up training. Both are taught and tantamount to sending sheep to slaughter. The organizers/market reps are not the reason why we lose. We lose because of the incomplete tools we pass off as strategies that are core to losing!

NOTE: Please read the complete course descriptions provide on the website.

BTA 101: Strategic Planning –

“This course covers the developing and applying a full strategic plan. Specifically, participants will review basic concepts of research, analysis and strategic planning for construction organizing.”

Reality: The BTA does not cover SIC/NAICS codes in depth, opposition research and how to maximize its use, market formatting in Excel, how to use and read various credit reports, strengths and weaknesses analyses, hiring law and more. Labor Rising has trained hundreds of participants who have been through the BTA organizing sessions. To a person, Labor Rising is asked why if we can teach it well enough for them to use it, why can’t the BTA?

BTA 102: Closing the Deal –

 “This course is intended to help union locals and building trades councils effectively manage their organizing activities and to efficiently use union resources. This course covers the developing and applying a full strategic plan.”

Reality: The BTA trains selling via Value on Display, aka top-down, to the exclusion of organizing with the exception of bottom-up.  VOD/top-down is a TOOL not a strategy.

BTA 103: Getting the Word Out

It is about social media and communications, but I am not even going to quote a section in the description because it is far to touchy feely.

Reality: Until the entire BT and affiliates have a text messaging/communications platform from our Internationals, down to our local unions, we are going nowhere! Developed membership lists need to be used so as not to spam the NABTU memberships. A message to apprentices or retirees is specific by its nature and should only be sent to those who need it. These tailored lists HAVE TO be crafted to be effective as an organization. It is why Ranger groups (et al) win – through effective communications, comprehensive intelligence, preparation & practice, and development of underlying written strategy!  

BTA 104: Campaign Organizing

“This course offers a comprehensive overview of organizing issues related to the construction industry, offering constructive ways to organize the industry, including the value proposition for members, contractors and construction owners.”

Reality: This is all BS. Comprehensive is a gross overstatement. And again, there is a disproportionate emphasis on VOD. See the word “constructive” above? It is the very word that makes VOD a losing program! IMPOSING a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) on the construction industry has NOT been viewed as CONSTRUCTIVE by our 14 International Presidents for decades now. If you reply that bottom-up imposes a CBA on management, you are technically correct. Good luck on that. Bottom-up was NOT designed for building trades unions, as it is far too transient with temp employees, 1099’s, cash and a mix of bogies that just keep moving. Additional hurdles include organizers who only last about 2 years in the position and an adversarial NLRB, just to name a few. There are a few locals that have game with bottom-up, but not enough to move the needle in the game of market share. Even they are NOT prevailing “NET”. Bottom-up was designed for fixed campaigns, e.g. a fab shop and the like.

BTA 105: Contract Negotiations

“This course is for union officers and staff members who negotiate labor agreements with their signatory contractors.”

Reality:  Not a bad course based on comments from those who have attended.

BTA 106: Labor Law for the Construction Industry

“Federal labor law provides special provisions applicable to the construction industry because of the unique nature of employment in construction.”

Reality:  Sections 7 & 8 can be effectively taught in about 3 hours. What is completely lacking is a thorough discussion of recognition and secondary boycotts, including what specifically they mean to winning in the field. Replace the losing instruction of how to run a bottom-up campaign with how to get to the wallets of the senior decision makers in construction and the trades will win again. Bottom-up is a tool – not a strategy. It has a place as a tool inside a strategy, but it cannot win in enough numbers as THE strategy. So, it begs the question – what is the written strategy of how to raise market share/density? Where are your locals’/DCs’ Ranger Handbook?

Long ago, a great organizer taught me a valuable lesson: “Put ‘puppet strings’ on the anti/non-union contractors’ hiring, and the trades win.” Yet, 99% of those attending Labor Rising do not have a clue how to use hiring law & the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). So, we recruit and then do nothing more. More would be securing an exit interview from every non-union worker. More would be learning about how the anti/non-union hires and their application process (and BTW, securing ALL relevant info on the anti/non-union employer). More would be attacking their hiring processes or lack thereof in a structured manner. More would be attacking anti/non-union employers and temp agencies both overtly and covertly. More would be to deny those contractors access to workers via the application process, websites, Craigs List, etc., or have them think that they may be hiring union field organizers. Teach this!

BTA 107: Multi-Craft Core Curriculum (MC3): Train-the-Trainer

“This course is required for apprentice instructors, representatives of Building Trades Councils and their affiliates, and/or Council partners who plan to implement the Multi-Craft Core Curriculum (MC3). Each prospective program must send at least one representative to this class.”

Reality:  Remember above when Labor Rising said that the trades have “Fractured, splintered and incomplete tools that lead to losing in the field?” This is part and parcel to that comment. There is some really good stuff in this class. However, it has the effect of sending an organizer/market rep in far too many directions. What is the underlying STRATEGY of this, and specifically, not conceptionally, how does it fit into winning?

BTA 108: Business Managers Training

“This class is a management and leadership course for Building Trades local union officers.”

For Labor Rising, this is the litmus test. If a new or old BM buys into the business side of unions after decades of losing, then Labor Rising is NOT for you or your local/DC. Can a movement and business exist side by side? Every single number since the early 70’s resoundingly says NO!! We only work with a union/DC that has a renegade style BM. One that hates losing and does not tolerate it or chalk it up to “it is what it is.”

The principle of Occam’s razor may apply to the BT! That is when all facts are accounted for regarding two explanations, the simpler explanation is more likely to be correct.

Explanation # 1: Perhaps the BT senior leaders alone want to strike deals with senior management in respective sectors of construction with PLAs and specialty agreements of every type as appeasement & concessions to management to keep enough hours coming in to keep their gig. Recruiting, top-down and spin your wheels on bottom-up fits well within that agenda.

Explanation #2: The BT is committed to a hard-core organizing effort to sign a CBA, regardless if contractors want one or not; and to empower organizers with the necessary tools and abilities to raise all workers up & in keeping with our Founders’ vision. In short to be a MOVEMENT of free and independent trade unions. One person one vote!  

What Labor Rising knows is that every time we train a winner to organize, they are thwarted, promoted, reassigned, fired, or told to put door hangers on the non-union workers’ doors to try and recruit them. Hence why Labor Rising only works with those leaders who reside in Explanation #2.

Occam’s razor – it’s a bitch!

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising

Building Trade Owned and Operated Construction Management Company –

A brief history: Nearly 30 years ago the Milwaukee Building Trades Council put into place a Construction Management Company called CCM (Complete Construction Management). It was designed by Brother Brent Emons to combat the rising use of construction managers then coming into being.

A construction manager’s entire purpose is to reduce costs to the end-user/clients they are working for, along with making a very substantial profit themselves – adding yet another layer to the total cost of the project.

Take a guess where the money comes from to achieve the 2 purposes above. If you guessed union contractors and union wages, hard numbers and facts say you are right! This is a big reason why we continue to have all the specialty agreements along with the increased use of PLAs (Project Labor Agreements).  For decades, the trades have conceded more and more concessions and have continued to lose market share. The strategy of Value on Display ignores this reality completely.

This concept of CCM was nearly 35 years ahead of its time and is still very viable today. In most Building Trades Councils that Labor Rising visits, it is the for-profit construction managers that are squeezing the unions off the jobs acting on behalf of their clients. The “good cop – bad cop” games played between the end-user, developer, construction manager and the general contractor are consistently pitting one union against another, and union vs non-union.

CCM was created by Brent to get union contractors and union workers on the job in Milwaukee. CCM also acted as a PLA for the job long before PLAs were around and provided craft integrity and jurisdictional resolution. It would be the construction manager of choice for any union pension-funded jobs. Many real estate managers take union pension funds and build quite a few projects with non-union. That has been going on for decades. CCM would be a force to bid public and private funded jobs of all types. It was fully implemented, up and running and hated by the for-profit construction managers.

CCM was in the “black” by its third year. It sent a clear and powerful message to the construction managers then coming into business and their clients. 35 years ago much of the construction was performed union in Milwaukee – so a deal was made to suspend CCM, because it truly would compete with for-profit Construction Managers on just too many jobs with which unions had a relationship.

Jump ahead 35 years and few relationships exist, and ALL that do are driven by $$$$ – hence all the concessions, which BTW we are still losing on!

If the Building Trades leadership resurrected this strategy for areas that could use it, the for-profit construction managers’ business model and profit margins would be in jeopardy. This matters, because the for-profit construction managers represent a big part of the cost of the total job cost to the end-user/client! The Building Trades with substantially lower profit margins would become competitive with the for-profits construction managers.

CCM is a for-profit company; however, early on could minimize profits in favor of securing jobs. The medium to large construction managers cannot.                                                                          

The for-profit construction managers are going to hate this; however, in a lot of areas throughout the country this is the only vehicle available to use to get unions on a job NOW! Many other areas need a competitive tool to market unions and their contractors in entire regions and sectors. Value on Display has clearly not been able to dent these markets, much less hold onto former union markets!

This is not theory or “what if.” The documents exist intact to provide the platform to move quickly and decisively to implement CCM in today’s environment. Building Trades Councils and/or national/regional unions can be construction managers if done properly.

It thwarts nearly all anti-union initiatives at all state and federal levels because of its structure! RTW and most of the current anti-union legislation is thwarted and can go to hell!

CCM falls under corporate law and NOT labor law – hopefully, the readers understand this – it is huge!

As profits rise and CCM eliminates non/anti-union competition, many benefits present themselves. Top of the list is that underfunded pensions would be the clear winner with a union owned construction manager. More hours paid at top dollar with little threat to their very existence. Those underfunded pension plans need money and hours asap. Even if all D’s sweep into office in November, at best the pensions get a bailout and not a long-term sustainable solution!

The trades could be a temp agency and dispatch workers for any number of situations.

As to how to fund CCM, look at our current budgets for political activity, labor/management relations, the use of contractors’ crack (aka market recapture funds, won’t need them any longer), representational and market development activities – all which have NOT led to increased market share “net”. All or part of these budgets can be redeployed “if” we develop union construction management entities. Now that is a real value-added concept – a WIN/WIN scenario for all but the non/anti-union construction manager. Someone IS LEAVING the construction world in the upcoming decades – either the trades or the existing for profits construction managers. Senior leaders – Brent Emons and The Milwaukee BT – gave you a way out of this disaster. Can we please quit standing on the RR tracks waiting to get run over!

We have enough contractors, supervisors, workers, funding and clients to do this. Any non-union contractor that would want to bid on jobs would HAVE TO sign a CBA.

The frosting on the cake may be that CURT would be interested in this concept because right now they pay for a dumpster being moved on a job. The paperwork and costs are off the charts to end-users. We could set a negotiated rate far more competitive than what the for-profit construction managers’ CURT uses! And we could pay real packages. This is not pie in the sky – it can happen.

The “sword” cuts in both directions, and what is a dying Building Trades relationship with all industries could flip very dramatically. We have been on CURT’s jobs for decades and know every nook and screw up. If our numbers are well below those of existing construction managers – well, it is all about money and a job done well and on time.

The entire legal framework exists, which is hundreds of legal hours necessary for CCM to be viable – done and still viable per the lawyers who have reviewed them! They are being made available by Brother Emons, through Labor Rising for the last 8 years, to again provide a forceful, real world solution to increased market share before we are dead. The Building Trades at the local, state and national levels can be our own legal construction managers through consortiums of regional and national unions and building trades! Think of the Gulf States with a Building Trades CCM and many other parts of the U.S. The lawyers would have to chime in on whether or not this can be done in Canada.

Why are 14 International Presidents & the President of NABTU still refusing to do this even in heavy non and anti-union areas and industries? What the hell is going on? They keep saying they want to do something BOLD & GAME CHANGING – well here it is!

The CCM document includes:

A complete Business Plan. Statement of Purpose. Business Philosophy. Policy & Goals. Overview of the Business. Operations. Timetable & Funding. Competition. Promotion Strategy. Management of Company. Organizational Chart. Strengths & Weaknesses. Complete Market Survey of Target Area. 5 Year Budget.

Thank you, Brother Emons, for the vision.

The Articles of Incorporation are completely done and living.

It is a potent weapon for those Building Trades Councils aggressive enough to pursue it, with minimal downside risk.

Articles of Incorporation –!4091&authkey=!AOLovtNorbitcQ0&ithint=file%2cpdf    

 Business Plan of CCM –!4095&authkey=!AC5adMs3LjYq448&ithint=file%2cpdf   

 Bylaws of CCM –!4096&authkey=!AH1pjd4PrdA50II&ithint=file%2cpdf       

Shareholders Meeting of CCM –!4093&authkey=!AHd1LEVzccM0_Bw&ithint=file%2cpdf  

Meeting Notes of CCM #1 –!4097&authkey=!AK4LcK9Whc4I2ec&ithint=file%2cpdf   

Meeting Notes of CCM #2 –!4094&authkey=!APLnoyRadbraz7g&ithint=file%2cpdf   

Meeting Notes of CCM #3 –!4092&authkey=!AGDOJj0T-UAEmfk&ithint=file%2cpdf

Share with Building Trades leaders in your area & state. You may have to cut & paste links.

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising/Labor Combat


A Defining American Experience is Happening Right Now –

The Trades have not cornered the market on racism – but, we have certainly contributed to it!

If you see Brother Floyd as an individual, with the flaws of an individual person – stop reading now. More than likely you are part of the problem! If you saw a Black man lynched in broad daylight, read on. It is why Black Lives Matter – too!

Gut check time for the trades:

  • Failed at accepting Black Americans and women into the trades – from the beginning of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) on December 8, 1886 to the present day
  • Failed at being a business – using its brand of Value on Display
  • Failed as a MOVEMENT defending and advancing workers’ rights – regardless if they are union or not for the last 40 years
  • Failed at organizing
  • And, on the brink of failing to keep the promise of a pension – many pensions have already failed and many more will

Gut check #1 – Failed at accepting Black Americans and women into the trades

Discrimination in The AFL Labor Movement? Most craft unions either refused or, as in iron and steel and meatpacking, failed to organize the less skilled. Since perceived skill lines tended to conform to racial, ethnic and gender divisions, the trade union movement took on a racist and sexist coloration as well. For a short period, the AFL resisted that tendency. But in 1895, unable to launch an interracial machinists’ union of its own, the Federation reversed an earlier principled decision and chartered the Whites-only International Association of Machinists. Formally or informally, the color bar thereafter spread throughout the trade union movement. In 1902, Blacks made up scarcely 3 percent of total membership, most of them segregated in Jim Crow locals. In the case of women and eastern European immigrants, a similar devolution occurred – welcomed as equals in theory, excluded, or segregated in practice.

In some cases, Black Americans and woman are in worse numbers today than they were 140 years ago when the construction trades were founded. Here are just some of the jurisdictions and blended jurisdictions from the 2019 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Survey    NOTE: view the entire list for details. Also, this represents union & non-union workers. Some BT unions have a better percentage of Black/woman members – some do not – they come close in net numbers! Question to ponder: Who are the North Americans BT’s going to ORGANIZE, not recruit?                                                                                 

                                                          Percent of:   Female      Male      Black      Asian     Hispanic

Brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons    0.7         91.6       5.2         1.2              37.7

Carpenters                                                                   2.8        89.1       5.1         1.5              37.3

Carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers       1.9         90.8       5.1         0.5              59.7

Cement masons, concrete finishers                        3.0         89.5       4.4         1.1              53.5

Construction laborers                                               3.5         85.3       8.6         1.6              46.7

Operating engineers & const equip operators     1.7         85.1       8.9         0.9              14.9

Drywall installers and tapers                                    0.7         91.1      2.5         1.7              67.7

Electricians                                                                  2.2         87.4       6.8         2.6              21.1

Insulation workers                                                     3.7         91.8       5.9         1.4              43.3

Painters, construction and maintenance               8.9         87.4       8.1         0.6              55.5

Pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, & steamfitters 2.7        87.1       8.4         0.9              27.1

Roofers                                                                         1.9        87.7       5.2         0.7              50.7

Sheet metal workers                                                  6.8         89.1      6.7         2.3              28.9

Structural iron and steel workers – not rebar        0.9        75.7       11.7       7.8              18.7

An example of a white racist trades-person’s post on FB is that Black Americans are privileged because they have Jordan sneakers, Beeps headphones, new cell phones, “free breakfast” at school – all paid for by various social welfare programs as a “privilege”. These kinds of posts are all over the trades’ forums.

But, for most Black Americans having new Jordan’s is like the white trades guy driving a $50,000 pickup and Beeps is their version of a premium sound system in a HOUSE! The fact that many cannot provide a meal to their children should infuriate us and not be viewed as a “freebie”.

All the self-serving FB comments like “I bust my ass” – belie any knowledge of life outside of their own. For those type of trades-persons, and there are many, it is all about “me”. Note to those racists: Black Americans have been and continue to be LOCKED OUT of the ability to bust their ass to secure the same way of life you have! LOCKED OUT! The opposite of that is White privilege, which means that if a White citizen busts their ass, they actually can have a slice (or the whole pie) of the American dream. The playing field of life for a Black American has never been even close to equal to that of a typical White American – NEVER!

At one time in American history “Irish need not apply” dominated the business want ads. Jump ahead to Hispanic Americans, illegal or not, who have “bull-dogged” their way into the trades and a piece of the pie. They were certainly beat down and it was a beating to be sure. However, they were NOT locked out!

From the time of slavery until today some 6,500 Black Americans have been lynched. That is “JUST” lynching’s reported as cause of death! Defining moments are abundantly and clearly anti-Black throughout many milestones of U.S. policy.

Take for example how the GI Bill’s promise was denied to Black WWII Veterans.

Many Black Americans could not access the GI Bill for housing, education & other benefits that helped propel White Americans who were willing to “bust their ass” for a better life. As a White GI if you wanted to be a small business, have the best health care, buy a house – bust your ass, go to college/trade school and it is all available to you. But, not so for an overwhelming majority of Black GIs as their respective states’ politicians meted out availability of the benefits according to their preferences and prejudices. And, the Civil Rights Act was 20 years away from enactment!

From my personal historical perspective, if you are aged 65 years or older, as I am, you witnessed the Civil Rights Bill being enacted in 1964. Shockingly, there are recorded lynching even during the 60’s!

In 1968 I attended Proviso East HS, a majority Black HS, when the Chicago riots were sparked in part by the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Rioting and looting followed, with people flooding the streets of major cities, primarily in Black urban areas.

In August 1968, knowing that there was a draft going on and that I was going to be draft eligible, I went to hear the Vietnam veterans who had returned from the war. At the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, thousands of Vietnam War protesters battled police in the streets, while the Democratic Party fell apart over an internal disagreement concerning its stance on Vietnam. Many Black American soldiers felt that they were fighting a White man’s war yet again.

The next year while at Proviso East HS, the Black Panthers’ Fred Hampton, 21, and Mark Clark, 22, were shot to death by Chicago police on December 4, 1969. Fourteen police officers raided Hampton’s apartment, which was a known Illinois Black Panther Party stronghold in Chicago’s West Side.

Off to the Army – I know that many Black and White soldiers formed enduring interracial friendships while fighting overseas. I was grateful for those friendships; however, inequities and blatantly racist treatment stained their experiences both during and after the war. In Vietnam, Black soldiers were disproportionately sent to the front lines, jailed, or disciplined at a higher rate and promoted less often. Upon their return to the U.S., they were presented with menial job opportunities, often denied support by Veterans Affairs (Agent Orange and other substantial disabilities) and received little empathy from their own communities.

Many local unions, including mine, had consent decrees requiring admission of minorities as early as the late 60’s – all to too little avail.

I taught in the apprenticeship in my Local in the 90’s. I can count on 2 hands the Black apprentices then. We saw our first women in the trades in the mid 90’s, even though the enrollment and workloads had been at their peak and continued until 2008. I literally had guys recruited off bar stools in class – nice! Heaven forbid a Black or woman veteran.

We talk about worker and skill shortages in the trades, yet young Black citizens in huge unemployed numbers are not organized/recruited other than in rhetoric. The trades cannot just snap their fingers and recruit Black citizens after 140 years of locking them out. We need to build trust, and with the comments I’ve see for years on FB, why would Black citizens want to come our way?! Ditto for women in the trades. I have personally been told more than a dozen times that it is NOT the older tradesmen that give the women the most grief. It is the entitled younger white males who do.

And…well indigenous American Indians have yet an entirely separate history of near genocide!

Gut check # 2, 3 and 4 – The trades’ failure as a business, as a MOVEMENT and to organize

BLS: Just 12.6% of U.S. Construction Industry is Unionized – March 3, 2020

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ annual union members summary report published Jan. 22, 2020, union membership in the construction industry increased slightly in 2019. However, just 12.6% of wage and salary workers were members of unions in the U.S. private construction industry. NOTE: The trades’ “net” counts on their respective LM-2 include many tens of thousands non-working participants, such as Honorary members and other designations.

According to BLS data, construction unions gained just 7,000 members in a year-over-year comparison (1.048 million workers in 2018 to 1.055 million workers in 2019), even though the U.S. construction industry added 192,000 workers (8.169 million workers in 2018 to 8.352 million workers in 2019).

This data suggests that fewer workers chose to join unions as the construction industry’s workforce grew in the robust U.S. economy.  Likewise, union membership as a percentage of the U.S. construction industry has steadily declined throughout the last 75 years. In 1947, approximately 87% of its workforce was unionized. During the construction industry’s recession in 2010, just 801,000 construction industry workers belonged to a union (13.1%), the smallest number of union members in recent history.

Visit the BLS’ website to view the news release and the full report

Gut check #5 – Failure of pensions – many have – many more will

Not a fan of 11th hour hyperbole, however it is the 11th hour for Taft Hartley pensions. The last stimulus package provided no PBGC and/or relief for underfunded existing trades pensions. The odds appear long that “IF” there is another stimulus, it will NOT provide for T/H pensions. It then falls to the election and the Ds have to win all 3 branches to even talk about relief. Problematic is the sheer size of the debt being amassed. And, should the Rs really feel they are in a position to lose in November across the board, they will spend everything they can before exiting. With all the “what ifs” possible, MAYBE the T/H plans get $100 billion or so to fund PBGC. That is a long shot today – and NOWHERE near the money needed to pay for the promises made to date! Think of it as 30 cents on the dollar of promised benefits for insolvent pensions. Hours will continue to fall as market share continues to drop. Markets are inconsistent to poor – so no help there either. Most pension funds need approximately 7% out of the box (it is called the actuarial assumption and is set in stone by and large). Only (and Labor Rising means only) ORGANIZING, in which we take both the contractor and workers and IMPOSE a CBA on them, can get us out of this collective hole we have dug for OURSELVES! And while we’re at it, we also need to go after the wallets of those end-users, developers, and CMs that show consistent anti-union sentiment and practices!

The senior leaders of the trades talk smack – stuff like, “We have to be bold”. Our take is that bold means getting a “certain state BT leader who is at the top of his game” to run the NABTU (hint: he may or may not be from a certain large west coast state). BTW, the NABTU has elections in August.

If not that – we can provide 3 women organizing candidates who can and will kick start the trades and break the status quo. This is not being politically correct – these women have proven track records. The trades are different than the unions these women organize in; however, they will adapt and win. I would also take Brother JW in a heartbeat to run organizing – but it has to be his way. The current BT organizers by and large are not the problem – it is the strategy of Value on Display that is the loser. Lose it! What does it say that the most successful unions for the last decade, in an anti-union environment, are All run by women!?!

The trades need to jettison the racist dead weight and again be a MOVEMENT!

This is on you senior leaders – right now you are going down with the Titanic. Time to build a current ship consistent with improving workers’ lives both on and off the jobs. North America is growing activist again. Organizers are learning the ins and outs – out on the streets & with their computers. A new day is here – so suck it up buttercup, it is their time! Another Building Trades can be founded which will be much more in line with the goals of our labor Founders. Ask The Knights of Labor how fast a labor movement can be replaced.

In Solidarity,

“if you see a good fight – get in it” Vernon Johns said this – look him up

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising

If You Can’t Throw a Jab – The Trades Will Never Win Market Share –

Yep, a jab my Brother & Sister Organizers/Members/Boxers! For the past 40 years or so the trades have fought with both arms tied behind their backs. Value on Display has not knocked out, much less won, most decisions on points in 40 years. A loser with the record to prove it!

The Internationals are the promoters. As long as they have enough fights (jobs & hours) they are content with the commissions (paychecks, pensions, perks, dues) on the purse. However, the promoters’ boxers (members) are getting hit in every which way, both physically & economically, throughout the fight in terms of wages, benefits, conditions, etc. The senior leaders are themselves insulated from any hits to their livelihoods or persons. Promoters (aka the trades as a temp agency) are putting any fighter (trades-person) they can RECRUIT in the ring (job), with the terms dictated to them by management!

The trades members (boxers) are the punching bag in the pseudo L/M relationship, taking hit after hit and returning none of them. In fact, they are penalized if they dare to jab back – not by management,  but by their OWN Internationals! 

Organizers are in an even worse position. In our Founders’ time thru to the late 60’s, trade organizers knew or learned how to throw jabs (organize). And, even had some power punches to knock out management when needed.

Labor Rising knows firsthand that the trades have organizers who can or will learn how to jab! Labor Rising also knows firsthand that for every organizer we have taught to jab, the Internationals WILL NOT let them – case closed! Hundreds of ORGANIZERS Labor Rising has trained throughout the trades have either quit, been fired, or been moved to other positions when they choose to jab with effect. Labor Rising knows the names of every one of them.

Bottom-up is the closest thing the trades has for using at least 1 arm in the fight. However, just like a jab most of the trades’ organizers do not know how and when to use it!

A jab (bottom-up) can be used offensively or defensively. A solid boxer, much less a great boxer (organizer) knows and goes to school on the various forms of jabs, whether it be: regular, tapper, space-maker, power, double, body, counter, etc.

Now when the trades refer to using a “tool-box” to organize, jabbing (organizing for effect, to sign a CBA) should be included AND USED! Solid boxers can and will win most of their fights with nothing more than knowing how to effectively use all the jabs in their arsenal.

For example:  Marvin Hagler was one of the greatest fighters, although he was not a world-class athlete like some of the opponents he faced. He made up for that by training hard and having the discipline to get the most out of his ability, and he was an excellent jabber. Was he also a solid power puncher? Absolutely! But ask him how effective his power punch would have been without using his arsenal of jabs!

Organizers who use a one-size-fits-all style of bottom-up organizing will win some campaigns – much like a boxer who has a jab that fits the handful of fights it would be effective in. However, they would not have a winning record (market share) just knowing the one-size-fits-all style of bottom-up/jabbing.

Just like a boxer, an organizer has to know WHEN to use different styles/types of bottom-up. When to sign cards, in what environment/market, prevailing laws, knowledge of management using the NLRB, true sentiments of workers, community environment, trust, how to legally and effectively use hiring laws to stymie the non-union in securing workers  – along with many other factors of organizing (styles/types of jabbing) is critical to winning. Can an organizer/boxer bring enough heat to outright win a CBA (knockout)? Impose a TKO on management (perhaps a PLA – but with the trades setting the majority of the conditions, not management)? Win on points – (bringing enough heat on a job or market in a sustained fashion) especially on markets where management has ALWAYS had non-union on a job?

The second arm that has been tied behind an organizer’s back is solid opposition research, opposition websites, real credit reports, labor law as it pertains to recognition along with secondary laws and more. We’re talking complete and developed research on the end-user, developer, construction manager, and far more, including the use of VOD in correct and specific circumstances, taught to then deliver power punches set up by the jab to those that use anti/non-union construction companies. Labor Rising’s fight ring is the Compression Zone, which is developed research reduced to specific actions regarding the contractors and those that use them. Using the Compression Zone, the organizer (boxer) can distinguish between who to work with vs. who to face with gloves on!

VOD is NOT one of the arms of organizers (boxers) tied behind their backs in and of itself. It is a tool or one of the many styles/types of jabs. But it CANNOT win on its own in big enough numbers to increase market share. It is just PART of the arsenal that a great organizer (boxer) uses to win rights for workers inside a MOVEMENT of and for workers!

Organizers (boxers) live a life of hard work to get to the top – not for just a day, a week, or a month, but for many years if not a lifetime. And, you generally do not retire from organizing. You are either doing, teaching, coaching, supporting, or advocating for your life’s passion throughout your life. It is what you leave to your children and their children! It is in your blood, to be part of the balance between labor and management. A MOVEMENT that outlives you individually and is passed on! VOD has broken the MOVEMENT of workers and is a mere business philosophy now. That is WHY it cannot and has not advanced workers’ rights during its entire existence. It is a business tool, and not a workers’ strategy!

Money and budgets help; however, our Founders and then the Greatest Generation organized in far worse conditions than exist today with next to nothing in terms of money. Today the trades TALK a good game or fight. The Internationals are afraid of stepping into battle.

Labor Rising is always perplexed by the number of posts on Facebook about what labor has done for Canadians and American workers. That list is long. The list is also approximately 60 years old & more! The answer is my generation (men & women between ages 55 to 75 years) consisting of pseudo labor leaders who have done nothing but coast on the shoulder of the giants who created a MOVEMENT of and for workers many decades ago!

Stop with the BS stickers, shirts and thinking that we are badass. The trades have to earn the right to be badass, just like a boxer – IN THE RING! All talk stops once inside the ring! The standard of living is what establishes whether the trades are winning. It has declined my entire life in the trades and continues to do so, with the real prospect of disappearing entirely – ON OUR WATCH!

Labor Rising has been dedicated to training an army of organizers (boxers) to win, in a fair but pitched battle! The INTERNATIONALS have prevented it at all times, with the exception of the UA. The UA hopefully will evolve into using a bigger toolbox of jabs and perhaps bring both arms into the fight!

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising

Trump Did Not Cause Chaos – Chaos Caused Trump –


Karl Rove’s (The Architect) masterful use of party partisanship is a political game that few in Washington can play. His plan was to build a permanent R Majority in the Federal Government. What he understood was that the majority of U.S. citizens gravitate towards the center, with most tilting right or left but not far from center! That seems like an eternity ago.

The point here is that Rove knew that by keeping all Republicans acting on sharp partisan votes, the perception that the Democrats are also a partisan party would emerge. We are talking about developing citizen partisanship in the “extreme”.

Turns out Rove was far too nice. His version of “extreme” was still “establishment Republican” and not really all that extreme. However, who was paying attention to this strategy was the Tea Party, which started in early 2009 and the House Freedom Caucus started in 2015 – funded by the Koch Brothers, et al. The Tea Partiers concluded that the Newt Gingrich Contract with America failed in part because the political partisanship was not extreme enough! Enter the Steve Bannon’s of the world, who are no fans of Karl Rove. Breitbart News was founded in 2007 by Andrew Breitbart. Upon Breitbart’s death in 2012, Bannon was named editor continuing the opening of the flood gates to a new style of governance. [Thanks to Brother SWS of the IBEW for a correction to these details].

Along with the increasing extreme partisanship that the Tea Party used in saying NO to both D’s and establishment R’s, these disrupters masterfully infused fear-based politics. “Primarying” establishment R’s and vetoing any legislation that is not 100% consistent with their narrow agenda is their MO! Primarying has been around since the 70’s and even before; however, in the 2004 – 2006 election cycle both D’s & R’s cranked up aggressive primary campaigns. The R’s found yet another gear in using primarying as an effective tool for ideological groups to threaten any moderate/reasonable R’s types!

The Club for Growth started in 2000, providing increased funding for alt-right candidates. The D’s, with a far bigger tent of constituents, could not compete in the corresponding far left campaigns of primarying.

Ironically, if the D’s had developed a similar or identical strategy, the U.S. would still be in the exact same position – HUGELY POLARIZED! The D’s have many self-interest groups that just cannot get it together.

Our political environment is one of neighbor against neighbor, using hyperbole, extreme rhetoric, flat out lying, etc. to get a super narrow agenda passed. How narrow? As an example, approximately 150 R Federal Judges thus far and counting – to serve for life! And, yes, the D’s would do it too given the chance. Who really should be pissed are the young R’s, D’s & I’s inheriting a Justice Branch without any input? They have been locked into a life of laws not of their own choosing. Also, they inherit debt, roll back of regulations & rules across the board – all done while we watch the shiny objects. Our country’s Founders screwed up by not writing into law that 2/3 vote is needed in ALL judicial lifetime appointments. Well, they kind of did, but Harry Reid found a way around it (going nuclear) and Mitch McConnell has perfected it. Poll after poll measure positions that are increasingly extreme. Nearly 40% – 50% disengagement of the electorate tells the story of the citizen voter. Voter disfranchisement is a close second. The R’s are particularly good at this. It is fine with the extremes that approx. ½ of our citizens sit out or are pushed out of voting! So, we end up with a government in the extreme either to the right or left (currently alt right), a Trumpian Party – which is a true minority government.

Far too few voters and even many trades Brothers & Sisters do not use true Fact Checking services as they want to believe that which validates their fears. They are only a click or two away from solid news. Not fake news – cited and sourced facts in context. Both far left and alt right wing have many sites that create a lot of misinformation. For those who see President Trump as the second coming to those that see him as the anti-Christ, not much can help them. For the rest do some homework and post it!

Hence the title of this blog. Chaos -structured chaos has been building for decades. With the trades on the sidelines, along with much of labor for decades, fear-based politics has grown almost in direct proportion to labor’s loss of market share.

The coronavirus did not break America. It revealed what was already broken.

Tolerance of each other IS NOT acceptance. But in this hyper-state we are told it is. Most issues that affect the average citizen have a consensus, compromise, or pragmatic solution available if the parties would work to achieve it. For the last few decades this has been nearly impossible because of political fear replacing integrity. We are now at a point of either/or in a country of realists who instinctively know that such dualistic thinking creates impossibilities in a nation of 330 million people with 40 religions and 140’ish nationalities.

The Trades, whose members politically represent American voters probably better than any other group, have been sitting on the sidelines for approximately the same length of time. Why? Because of a strategy of concession and appeasement to get any crumbs they can get, along with the totally failed strategy of Value on Display!

The Trades have ceded their role as a MOVEMENT and as champions of workers. The trades have abandoned being a bulwark to organized capital in the U.S. and Canada! If Labor and the BT narrow the divide between the haves and the have nots, right and left can close towards the middle.

The trades, being absent in the fight for so long, and in fact working with management, has helped the extremes take root and empty the pockets of workers! Organizing is taking management on – directly, and in some cases in a no-holds-barred fashion to force management to come to the table for consensus or compromise. The trades and labor are that important. Workers’ rights, pay inequity, racial inequity, safety being transferred to the worker, building in unsafe working conditions, limitations and destruction of benefits, collapsing market share and density numbers, which are all measurable, rest on the shoulders of current and recently former trades senior leadership abandoning the roles the FOUNDERS built!  

When WORKERS’ pockets are full, along with the self-esteem work provides, and they see a balance of labor and management, they don’t fall for the extremes but talk in much more measured tones. We all benefit. The extremes, whether right or left, can go jump in the lake! When workers see lives collapsing around them, including those of their kids and other family, they are susceptible to fear.

Our International Presidents have settled for being a temp agency, except maybe the UA, which is on the fence. The trades find bodies and do what they are told by management. The trades are in fact losing market share even in record years of construction, hoping that the millennials who have polled strongly in a pro-union direction are taking a flyer on joining the trades in any kind of numbers. This group is growing strong in their beliefs. As they mature into activists (and stay the course as our Founders did) they will not want to be a part of “union” with old, stale, and pale businessmen leading them – not happening!

A MOVEMENT is energy in an organic form: Knowing right and wrong. Built on fairness and transparency. Being part of something bigger than ourselves. Providing the balance of ORGANIZED workers to take on organized capital. TAKING ON – NOT CAPITULATING!

As we emerge from COVID-19, we can take advantage of an opportunity to reignite workers! But, many organizers are furloughed to save money. Or they are studying Labor Law, which is ALMOST a complete waste of time in the current environment. And, while much of the country is effectively learning and working from home as they shelter-in-place, I have only found 19 organizers who are new to the group that has learned to effectively use cyber-organizing.

We in the trades are soon approaching the point of considering: “Is it better to let the existing trades die (go out of BUSINESS) and be reborn?” It is on you – senior leaders – history is a harsh judge!

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising/Labor Combat



Band of Brothers & Sisters –

For those of us not familiar with the work of construction annalist Ed Zarenski – here is a link to his latest construction updates. 

He is a non-alarmist or drama queen in his assessments.

He does call it the way the numbers stack up. 

The trades need a plan and here are just some of the numbers at the macro level the senior leaders need to consider – now!

When Labor Rising said in our last blog, that coming out of COVID-19, that it was going to be CURT’s way or the highway!

We don’t pull statements like that out of thin air. We never have.

With a long Easter weekend – time to further our homework and ask very pertinent questions of the trades senior leaders come Monday. 

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

In Solidarity –

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising 

Will COVID–19 Sound the Death Knell for Value on Display –

Surviving COVID-19 is going to require a plan for the trades to continue to exist much less grow. Prior to this pandemic, the big construction users were very close to consolidating their business models into specialty contractors and vendors. If anyone in senior leadership down to the apprenticeship doesn’t think that coming out of COVID-19 will be the construction users’ way or the highway for the trades in particular — snap out of it! Labor Rising can think of hundreds of millions of lost profits why that will be the case! A fancy acronym, a brand or a snazzy Power Point by the trades is not going to cut it – a real nuts and bolts written plan can. Think of the North America style of business dating back during the Industrial Revolution, and now apply it going forward! Workers are expendable – NOT essential.

At a minimum, an effective written plan would include:

  • Aspirations – aka mission statement – we in the trades are good at this! But what we suck at is:
  • Core Values
  • Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities & threats
  • Objectives (past the obvious), strategies (written & flexible) and operational tactics
  • Measurements & timelines to re-evaluate (minus egos) and funding

However, before we can execute a written plan, we need to be able to:

  • Do real and in-depth research. True Organizers are at their core researchers! Some, internationals are capable of research. However, the sheer number of requests, along with the quality of the requests, are time wasters to the highest degree. Also, many internationals are limited by the vendors that they use. The type of info and quality matters to the degree to which we can be effective.

Ms. Jennifer Cave of Rochester Research Association (RRA) has given me permission to share her/our first-generation links to these research videos. Consider them Research 101, as they provide 2 ½ hours of solid, basic info we have historically shared only in Labor Rising training. Upcoming times in workers’ lives are looming to be particularly challenging, so thank you Ms. Jenn! Also attached is a template of what RRA searches. This is a proprietary document. However, it is now expanded and updated in many ways so RRA will let us share an older version with organizers and agents. The completed research comes to you in a well-formatted document, with highlights of items of interest to the Building Trades. At Labor Rising, we have zero financial interest of any type in RRA. We use them because they are best in class! Fees for research vary. But consider a journeyperson’s package per hour and know that it comes down to how in depth the union wants the research to be. RRA knows how to search the deep/dark web. And, by the way, if you don’t know the difference between that and a simple Google search – then learn. They also can build an Opposition Website and have far more capabilities.

Rochester Research Associates # 585-471-6056   Website – Ms. Jenn Cave – President

Intro to Rochester Research via Labor Rising –!AmKOi71GyLcgq1akY0LFWV-04vmI?e=TYziwK

NOTE: may take a bit to download.

  1. Part 1.!AmKOi71GyLcgqm5vfKnYL54OVKUw?e=MVDkyv
  2. Part 2.!AmKOi71GyLcgqm18mice3bKELcBU?e=hFLkJa
  3. Part 3.!AmKOi71GyLcgqmvssIASJ68cJ7Ni?e=WySlMa
  4. Part 4.!AmKOi71GyLcgqm8DfJPmBWDzbgoc?e=cv79WL
  5. Part 5.!AmKOi71GyLcgqmzN04eeM7Z9Rpkt?e=ZTJ357
  6. Research Template –!AmKOi71GyLcgnBsIaJK0z36D27iD?e=jzbOEW


  • You also need to be able to work in Excel, we know from experience that 85% or more of existing organizers don’t know how to use Excel as an organizing tool. Here is an old link of a BT union on Excel to practice on:!AmKOi71GyLcg3GqIVslwrNY4SWSm?e=oDblNQ Download it as a start. Now can you sort by column (as long as your spreadsheet is formatted that way) the respective revenues of companies in order to plot them on a revenue scatter chart. How do we build respective charts, graphs, etc. in Excel? Can you select the cell or range of cells that you want to format? Can you share the document and when changes are made by another organizer flag yours to reflect that change? Can you add articles, media, documents etc.? There is so many more valuable capabilities available with this research data. For those of you who know how to use it appropriately – teach the others. For those that can’t – learn!

Hopefully – organizers and agents understand what is being asked. If not, then go back to school in concentrated doses. We were all apprentices at one time or another – be open to learning again, and not just a couple of hours a week for 4 months. NOW is the time because we have the time! So, if the international can’t connect with you at home or in the office or wherever you may be working these days, and if they don’t offer you a genuine expert to teach you how to handle this necessary data via Excel and other software – we are going nowhere.

For those who have a mission-driven BM/DC officer, go to It is the site most LR organizers use to improve their skills. Don’t bother scrolling for info after a few minutes. Go to the research bar and ask how to do Excel formatting 101. Excel alone has approximately 17,000 entries last time I checked. Call customer service and they can help you help yourself. Get a computer training center trainer to come in and teach you and your group in concentrated doses. DO IT! You don’t need to be an expert, just a solid journeyperson in moving and manipulating data.

  • Go 2 Meeting, Skype for business, Zoom and other video conferencing platforms. You’ve got to know how to use these apps for many reasons, and COVID-19 is as good as any. These apps offer person-to-person connection for organizers, salts, peppers, activists and workers (both union and non-union) via technology. Blend this platform and Excel together for in-house meetings to transfer info and lock down on a strategies and tactics in real time with minimal communication errors. Think Navajo Code Talkers – the info is in a timely and hard-hitting format to deliver on organizing with NO HOLES!

This is where cyber-organizing wins. This is not a fancy name, but rather a real ability to connect to the non-union. You need this type of platform and the skill to use it. You need a mass texting platform. You need cell numbers of the non-union workers. Be honest – are you still using a yellow lined note pad to track and answer the questions of scores of unorganized workers? For pennies on the dollar you can use a platform like these to communicate with non-union workers to provide education and conduct organizing drives. Use these platforms to send out every type of info you otherwise hand out in small numbers. You can do one-on-ones with non-union workers once they have sufficient info and have developed interest. The platforms can be used in many ways. For example, who cares if management gets in and listens? Everything we SHOULD be saying is legal and it is documented. Establish options in the communications platform to be a one-way system where those on-line can only hear you. Have participants type questions so no one has to speak. Spouses and workers can both get the info they need. It can be done in multiple languages. Learn my Brothers & Sisters.

Most importantly, when a connection and underlying trust is established with a worker and family, get ALL the info you can on business practices including ALL the parties up and down the business line. Do not fall for “I don’t know” and weasel words. Fill in the business puzzle! We can’t just organize workers – WE HAVE TOO TAKE THE COMPANY ALSO! Or – put them down.

Bottom line, we can’t be on the sidelines any longer during and after COVID-19 – not if you are in the trades. From all Collective Bargaining issues through pensions, life is going to change baby! Is it going to change for the better, which is going to be a fight? Or are the trades going to think the BS status quo of Value on Display is our play?  If anyone up and down the ranks think that “they need us” (The Building Trades) snap the hell out of it!

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising

The Same Building Trades Hacks Who Sunk the Pensions Sunk Organizing –

Hacks is as strong a term as I can find given the circumstances of my generation of leaders – starting in approximately 1970 and persisting through today. Let us see if it unfortunately fits! Many times, in our Blogs, Labor Rising has been less than flattering to senior Building Trade leadership. Read on and you will see precisely why!

The Coronavirus stimulus package was passed last Friday with zero major multi-employer pension funding relief in it. Republicans won’t provide relief because all indicators point to them using the Trojan Horse of underfunded pensions as a way to eight-six unions, including the trades. And Democrats, most likely, are using it now, as in the past, as bargaining leverage. Yep – bargaining leverage. All evidence points to unions being used to further other agendas. MAYBE PBGC relief can be squeezed into an upcoming stimulus package. That is doubtful, and even if so, the PBGC would only fund $0.30 cents on the dollar of insolvent pensions. For several years now the union pension “can” has been kicked down the road even by Democrats. This disaster of under-funding has been on the radar screen since the late 90’s.

I know this because I spoke to large numbers of pension trustees back then in over 80 forums, from the late 90’s until 2008. At these forums only a few trustees were in attendance because so many of them were out and about on fund money sightseeing, golfing, drinking, etc.!

I use the term hacks because that’s what the majority of trustees were then! When I read comments, even today, on Facebook saying that the government and markets sunk our pensions, I know I’m dealing with an uninformed member and/or a politician – and perhaps even a current day hack repeating national BT’s and Internationals’ talking points. THEY are playing the VICTIM well! Labor Rising has personally gone through nearly 250 multi-employer pension filings and knows firsthand how the “hacks” paid out huge amounts of benefits that would not be covered long term. In nearly every organizing training class Labor Rising teaches, we help organizers understand and address how to deal with the underfunded pension issue should it exist.

And to be fair, the trustees minted after approximately 2006 are far better trustees than in my generation of the 70’s, 80’s & 90’s. They are left with the underfunded mess of “where are we going to find the money” vs. in my day “what are we going to do with the money?”

As members, we can’t say what my generation said, “Put the money on the check” for over 30 years and then near retirement time throw in a few bucks in contributions for a few years and think we can sustain 100% – 300% increases of benefits for 25 – 30 years in retirement. The math has NEVER worked out!

Why is Labor Rising so adamant in stating this? It is for the following reasons:

  • We have to own up to the under-funding. As long as we play victims and blame everyone but ourselves, we will never be trusted. We were all taught to “man/woman” up to bad actors, even in our own house, and take responsibility for our actions. To quote President Eisenhower, “Leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well.” Until this happens, the non-union and union workers know we are “leaders” without integrity! More accurately, we are piss poor politicians and most likely even worse – modern day hacks. Many members didn’t know they were in fact digging their own graves of under-funding – but trustees of my generation absolutely knew.
  • The numbers correlate very highly that where pensions are in trouble with funding levels today, those same locals/DCs/Internationals also failed to keep market share. Reverse engineer the numbers and see if that isn’t true. They were thug officers/organizers at best and coasted on the shoulders of the Founders! They failed as leaders across the board.
  • Quite a few of those local/DC leaders are still around today, many in high office. And unbelievably many of the wannabe leaders of today still come from this cast. Albert Einstein once said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Our combined Building Trades culture is compliant to management granting concession after concession! The trades have “NO” winning strategy to date!
  • COVID-19 is likely going to hurt at a historical level. All of labor, but especially the trades, can reshape the current culture shaped by decades of losing market share and being the stooges of management. A MOVEMENT of workers borne out of a disaster would put us collectively back in the good graces of the Founders! For those taught about cyber-organizing by Labor Rising – this is the time to use it. With most workers being at home, now is the time to put that tactic to use! Talk/via technology to increasing numbers of workers and extract huge amounts of info from the worker along with their fears and hopes. As importantly, extract the info on the contractors up and down the chain from the end-user to the sub. Find every Achilles heel and plan from there. We at Labor Rising call it a Compression Zone, knowing exactly who to work with – or to put down hard.

Unlike the Miners back in the day with Black Lung disease, where the miners wanted better for their families and traded their life for that chance, COVID-19 is worse. It will take entire families and communities given the chance! Workers, union or not, need a collective voice. A leader who can acknowledge past transgressions and move to fix them, should be in power now! Dump the dead weight of senior leaders, rank & file! Carpe diem, seize the day! Both workers and country WILL be better off! Example: Some underfunded funds, should they get to 140% of funding, can elect to buy an annuity. I use this example because management “if working in good faith” can structure jobs and even PLA’s to help that happen. That would be labor-management cooperation. And to date I have NOT seen one article or notice to that fact from any of the BT affiliates. If someone’s got one – please post it in comments. Purchasing an annuity is NOT ideal; however, it may very well be far better than an insolvent pension and insolvent PBGC. I pray/hope (not a good strategy mind you) that The Butch-Lewis Act can pass. It also has some issues and depends on what the final version looks like to fully understand it – or does it just kick the pension can down the road?          

  • Increasing contractors and workers via true organizing, along with going toe to toe with the anti-union, when needed, is the only way to insure a middle class. Coming out of COVID-19, even the BT may very well be reduced to being working class if Value on Display remains as the go-to strategy of the trades.

We need a return to the Building Trades with a foundation of integrity and leadership on behalf of all workers. “ALL” that stands between that goal and the present is a BS culture that has long outlived its time!

Ironically, Labor Rising is reminded that BT unions mostly came about to bury those workers killed on the job. History is reminding us that we have a mission and selling bodies and hours isn’t It! Changing the conditions of all workers for the better – is!

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising

Is COVID a Wild Card for the Building Trades and Labor?

You may think this is no time to be talking about organizing. Let me shed light on a perspective worth addressing. While the plight of COVID takes shape and affects all North America, be assured that some (most) people’s pain offers an opportunity for extreme groups to advance their agenda.

Fighting the battles of organizing and getting our ducks in a row while the COVID war is being waged is essential. A cornerstone of Labor Rising Organizing is in depth market research – chart building and far more. What we have is time to build REAL info, not the BS currently taught. It will take months.

In the last 2 blogs Labor Rising has continued to cite verified numbers, making the case to move to hard core organizing and to put the Value on Display (VOD) DISASTER back in the genie bottle! It is the strategy that has failed across 4 decades and in every economic environment, in conjunction with every generation of trades senior leadership teams failing. Some trade(s) should have been able to figure out how to make VOD a winner, but none have – it is the VOD strategy that is the loser! It would be of immense help if our senior leaders would again be labor leaders – but they continue to think of the trades as a product/service to sell!

In the last 2 blogs and several others from 2012 to the present, Labor Rising clearly showed that the union trades are in fact being reverse-recruited, and that our combined training programs are training for both the union and non-union sectors. No spin or BS can dismiss the fact that MORE & MORE union trained workers work non-union. The trades have put themselves in this position which includes reverse-recruiting of union members, hiring policies in the halls that allow contractors to pick and choose and the total capitulation of senior trades leaders, to cite just a few.

Labor Rising’s trend lines indicated in the last blog that the union trades had maybe 10 years to again become a MOVEMENT and quit being a temp agency. With every year of the 10 lost, reversal becomes that much harder to accomplish.

With COVID just ramping up and so many unknowns due to lack of testing, workers are going to get hammered. And union construction is near or at the top of that list. Government workers will likely be blown out with the current declaration of a National Emergency. God forbid the threat of Martial Law becomes a reality, which would waive every type of law, including labor laws and Collective Bargaining Agreements, etc.

Before COVID, management of construction were working an effective strategy of letting us do all the vetting and training in our apprenticeship training programs, and then reverse-recruiting those skills over to the non-union as needed – a hugely successful strategy, as the non/anti-union market share has grown steadily in every decade since VOD has been the trades’ strategy.

Construction owners may not want the destruction of the trades. Especially since we have been lap dogs for decades with concessions of every type of conditions & packages. However, the anti-union see a path to knocking union labor out, including the trades. And COVID, in many ways, is the perfect Trojan Horse to accomplish that. With the “perfect storm” of COVID, Scalia at the Labor Department, Trump as the President, McConnell as Senate Leader and the anti-union entities like ALEC, RTW, CPAC, Heritage Foundation, et al, major changes are already underway.

While the Rank & File will mobilize using their skills to help all citizens union or not, many as volunteers/many as essential services, anti-union forces will be at work behind the scenes to knock labor down and out given the chance.

These groups have learned the lessons from pro-union periods during WW I till the 1950’s. Union density was at its max – 30% in 1960. So, in the late 60’s The Construction Users Anti-Inflation Roundtable, now simply known as the Business Roundtable, and later The Construction Users Round Table (CURT), were borne!

From then until now, the trades side of the labor equation has been systematically attacked by the above entities. I have shared several times the White Paper of JC Turner, Former General President of the Operating Engineers written in 1979. He was spot on in ALL areas of the White Paper! Here is the link. Few have read it in the past postings – lets see if readership improves:!AmKOi71GyLcgqyOmg3JjY_OKGTEi?e=5Ci2TC

The trades senior leadership have put us collectively in harm’s way with all the political BS over decades – along with the adoption of Value on Display. Robert Georgine’s capitulations to the Roundtable in the 70’s opened the door for most of the specialized agreements we see today. Add in Value on Display, which has its roots in the 90’s and was put on steroids in the early 2000’s by the trades as a “strategy” to recover work, and the trades leadership has clearly ceded their role as a Labor Movement under their watch!

Leading the list of threats to the trades are our pensions. The anti-union sees these pensions imploding in on trades. They know many funding wounds are self-inflicted. Bottom line is union leadership promised far more benefits than can be paid for; substantial liabilities that will not be paid putting those funds in jeopardy. True the “government” imposed rules around funding levels and markets have faltered. However, then ALL funds would be in nearly the approximate set of circumstances, and they are not! Many, but not enough Trustees, held the line in giving out benefits unless they were PAID for!

Reverse engineer your funds and see if those statements aren’t true and score high on the Fact Checking meter! Here is the link of the Multi-employer pensions that are currently in trouble as of 2019.  The 2020 list is due out soon; however, it is the 2021 list to watch out for if you’re vested.

The anti-union has little more than to push a few initiatives to cause an implosion of union pensions. The anti-union has other avenues to weaken and destroy union labor – but pensions are our biggest Achilles heel and require the anti/non-union to do little to achieve a lot!

Four threats loom on the immediate horizon for the pensions – all pensions, not just those on the list!

The anti-union knows that…

  • Hours – down across the board even in good construction times, as in the case of the last few years. Hours and market returns drive the ability of a pension fund to promise a level of benefits. Hours are trending down overall because of loss of market share and increasing use of technology in construction delivery. We can’t control the use of technology, nor should we. However, we can control organizing workers. Value on Display and recruiting has NEVER and will NEVER get hours up to where they need to be to have both a career, a pension and most likely an affordable Health & Welfare benefit. Hours are a huge part of the trades’ viability to secure our pensions! They also are mandatory to have political influence. No politician must listen to most state, local & national BT affiliates as they are either too weak or not to be found.
  • Markets, both stocks and bonds – The S&P average return is 9.8% over the last 90 years. The funds typically use the S&P benchmark. ALL the trades’ multi-employer funds hover around a 7% actuarial assumption +/- ½ %. Simply stated, after all fees, commissions and administration costs are paid, does the fund meet the 7% assumption? If at the end of year, year after year, if the realization is less than 7%, then the Fund is underwater on schedule of benefit payments promised. Add in hours that are at, above or under those needed by the Fund and you have a starting point of calculating benefits and the sustainability in the future. There are some other very important components of time that factor into a fund. Pensions ARE NOT Ponzi schemes – although they can look that way to members when the leading trustees play politics with the funds returns and spent far more time on the golf course with the respective managers. Example: The S&P is 9.8% just on the stock side of the investment funds which is typically 60% of the total asset allocation. A trade fund typically spends approximately 1½% in administration and fees. Now that number is 8.3% on 60% of funds. Remember that different types of stock investing also can affect the return by+/-, such as small caps. 40% of investments can be in fixed investments, like different types of bonds. Bonds seldom in a fund’s history hit a composite return of 7% after fees. USUALLY fixed investments are a drag on investment return but are strongly needed to balance the long-term volatility and returns. Now add in hours to the above equation. What was full time employment 10 years ago is NOT what full time employment has been the last 5 years. And, that’s a big deal! The actuary must adjust the total hours down and that is painful. The anti-union only has to keep withdrawing hours to sink even healthy pensions, which would be catastrophic to the funds on the DOL link above.
  • Specialty agreements – There is a growing evidence that management wants to exclude the pensions in upcoming specialty agreements. Since the trades have zero negotiating pressure due to low market share, they are now able to be dictated to! Post COVID jobs will be faced with this. Why? The construction management firms are all reorganizing their business models. They have a 3-fold reason to do this: 1. Get rid of any potential liability; 2. Reduce the cost of construction so they can rebuild profits and save end-users’ money, all off the backs of union trades; and 3. Put pressure on the fragile pension structures that many are in and many more will face. Trades pensions are failing now, and they will hit critical mass if the trends continue. Think of union members PR when they lose a pension speaking to all workers, union or not. Game over!
  • PBGC – The insurer of our Multi-Employer pensions is the PBGC. They are having a hard time getting enough funding to even cover the $0.30 cents on the dollar for pensions that go insolvent! They are basically broke and have no where near the funds needed for current insolvencies, much less those that will become insolvent. With all the relief and stimulus packages the government is going to provide in the upcoming months/years, the odds that the trades even get the PBGC funding is shrinking to highly unlikely. Even if the D’s win control of all parts of national government, the deficit will be a direct threat to the national economy; and, it is unlikely in an austere budget to get this kind of relief. It could happen, but it will be a tough hill to climb. And, remember that is only to cover the $0.30 cents, not the entire insolvent fund. There are now even more draconian measures for U.S. pensions being used today – but we will close here!

Bottom line – ORGANIZING the company and the workers, regardless if they want to come or not, is the ONLY way to keep the trades in the game. Bottom-up & Top-down are far to slow to secure the number of new members and contractors. What is in it for the younger members? When they raise market share and pour huge hours into the funds, (approx. 9% market share increase ASAP) those funds will surpass the liabilities they owe which will in turn produce surplus. That and us old guys & gals cashing it in. Surpluses for prudent affordable and sustained pensions and to make workers a force again politically.

Also, COVID is a double-edged sword. There will be many anti-union companies that can be put out of business with the right concerted activity. Unions need to be smart. The Patriot Act could pronounce unions as unamerican. It has been done before (unions pronounced as unamerican) in the U.S. We must be about BUSINESS – Labor Rising develops Compression Zones staying INSIDE of business law, NOT organizing law! When organizing is all about going after the end users, developers and construction managers clients, credit and their social perception – the trades win!

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo


Does the UA See the Iceberg in the Building Trades Waters –

If they do NOT – then the trades are in their final decade of viability as a free and independent trade union.

Why? In reports from organizer after organizer doing the UA blitzes, they report big numbers of ex and current UA members working non-union. This is also confirmed by the organizers who have attended Labor Rising/Labor Combat training from the UA; and as point of order, all trades organizers who have reported this since the inception of LR in 2012. This is just over 600 total organizers/agents.

The number reported directly to Labor Rising firsthand as a consensus number by UA Organizers is 20% + of ex and current UA members working non-union.

There is no longer any doubt that the non-union contractors WANT Building trades members to keep their union books up to date. The non-union wants the UA, and all BT members to be able to move between both the union and non-union jobs they work on. They want us to train and vet the workers which are used increasingly on non-union jobs! It is also a big part of the reason the big national and regional constructors have pushed for portability of workers and to be able to call for the workers they want – to bypass local hire and the lists of available hands maintained by the locals.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. 20%+ of union hands in boom years of great work are working non-union at any given point of time. 20% of 300,000 is 60,000 journeypersons!

The hidden part of the iceberg is no longer hidden, and it is hoped that the UA is acknowledging it with the actions it is taking in organizing. The total membership of both the UA and the rest of the BT sits at approximately 50% of all members who are 50 years old and older. 50% of all UA and BT workers are one DOWNTURN away in construction from joining the non-union or retiring, which WILL BE catastrophic to both the unions’ pension and membership health. 70% of the total membership is in play. Add in that the non-union has 88% of market share along with the iceberg described above; and the BT market share is clearly at risk to the viability of survival within a decade. The non-union recruiters are also making a solid push to recruit newly minted apprentices turned journeypersons. Many who have advanced welding credentials are being recruited to run jobs for the non-union.

Most/all of the biggest construction companies are in the early stages of being restructured and all are getting mean and lean using forensic auditing to lose unprofitable segments. They are moving to become specialty constructors. Mc Dermott is in talks with lenders to file bankruptcy. Its stock is being hit hard. Bechtel does not have a direct contract with any of the trades, nor do others. CBI, Fluor, Black & Veatch, Jacobs, KBR and others are all dumping unprofitable segments of their respective businesses – such as engineering, maintenance, heavy & highway, etc.

As these and other big national and regional constructors restructure/merge, many will become specialty firms with which the trades, and specifically the UA, have few – maybe zero – agreements. As specialty firms they collectively will employ fewer and fewer UA members and other trades. The UA and the other trades will do the higher end of the high skills work until they are no longer needed.

EVERY single major national and regional constructor is double-breasted. Most have more non/anti-union firms they use then union contractors; hence, why these firms want union workers to KEEP their books. They can move workers to and from union and non-union jobs they serve – almost at will!

Also, once the restructuring of the national and regional firms is complete, the trades can expect that they will be MANDATED to cede approximately 25% more in wages & conditions – over and above the concessions already ceded with Value on Display over the last 3 decades! The trades have zero leverage and will have even less, if that is possible, with a downturn in construction. This reduction of wages and packages is happening regardless of construction environments!

It is why the trades have approximately a decade – MAYBE – to get their house in order. Top priority of the trades is to lose the Value on Display quasi-BS strategy. Most likely not happening! And every year VOD remains counts against the trades going forward.

The UA being in the field in big numbers is the only intraconnected and structured organizing going on. Keep sitting on your butts other trades! The clock is running.

Labor Rising had many comments after the last blog. Many asked questions and some criticized us. The top comment was, we thought LR hated bottom-up, recruiting, top/down and Value on Display.

Yep – make no mistake – we do! Labor Rising sees them as combined losers per all numbers available over the last 3 decades. Some have a place as a tool inside a greater strategic campaign – but none or all can win in enough numbers to put the UA and or the trades back in the game.

We like the current tactics the UA is currently using because they are like the ante in a poker game. It is a starting point. First the International President of the UA had to even want to play – thankfully he did. Why:

  • Huge numbers of organizers/agents are confirming the sheer number of ex and current UA members working non-union by the blitzing they are doing. They are connecting the dots!
  • Huge numbers are working in concert with each other.
  • Huge numbers are being familiarized with labor law and the NLRB. Almost all for the first time.
  • Huge numbers will have connections with each other and can network with peers going forward. Mentors will emerge. It is hoped they have their names on a CBA. True organizers!
  • Huge numbers will learn how to handle the job – or not – balancing family, time on the road and the demands of the job.
  • Huge numbers will come to understand how hard it is to win a bottom-up campaign enough to raise membership numbers “NET”!
  • Many will learn the distinct differences between building trades and metal trades organizing.
  • Many will learn how to manipulate data in real time, do research and to WRITE and execute a plan.
  • And perhaps, many will learn that unless the UA and other trades IMPOSE a Collective Bargaining Agreement on a constructor and make them sign a CBA and/or be put out of business, we will lose! Hopefully the UA and other trades will learn how to grab the major constructors by the WALLET, build a Compression Zone, and get after the clients’ credit and social footprint of the national & regional players. And, keep our mouths shut. No more tri-partite meetings which continually inform the national and regional players where labor is at on the battlefield!

As LR stated in the prior UA blog – we hope they win – as in now! WE have zero problem being wrong. However, should the UA learn WHAT DOESN’T WORK AND WHY – it is hoped they will evolve to a strategy which will win!

The rest of the trades are still sitting in the lobby talking a good game of poker.

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising/Labor Combat

UA Putting It on the Line Blog –!AmKOi71GyLcg2lYy3vsMWqj3wkxO?e=Lv3Ezo