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My Pension is “GREEN” – You are an Idiot Labor Rising. Well Let’s See –

The Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPP) created the zone statuses of red, yellow & green. The Act helped define funding levels of multiemployer pensions among making many other substantive changes!

Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014 expanded zone status to fine tune options for funds in trouble, giving them the ability to potentially cut benefits even to retirees in distressed/insolvent situations.

Understand that when the PPP was passed, our Taft-Hartley plans, aka multiemployer plans, had to acknowledge funding levels and have them certified by professionals. Most trustees had to have their respective professionals, in many cases, make their pension “GREEN”. The plan professionals had some latitude in the way funds were calculated per the PPP. Example:  PPP will allow the IRS to let multiemployer plans that anticipate a funding deficit in the next 10 years to EXTEND the amortization schedule for paying off its liabilities by five years, with a further five-year extension possible. It required plans in trouble to adopt a rehabilitation plan and to use specific interest rates for plan funding calculations – a credit card of sorts. Memberships of pension funds just short of green, even after the calculations, started to put contributions from new raises, and even money off the check, into the pension to help this underfunding – action born of this allowable strategy.

Understand the word “certified” as it pertains to our pensions. An actuary has to sign off on the health of the plan within the current and future funding levels and laws pertaining to that respective plan.

Under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, eligibility for grants ($94 billion) has been established. With application priorities (pecking order of plans that get the grants), the $94 billion is already gone and another infusion of money for grants is needed. If more grants are appropriated, lots of $$$$ will be needed! “IF” is the operable word here – which is a major political equation.  

The multiemployer/Taft-Hartley pensions (ours) stayed green with the help of several significant changes in the law along the way to enable them to be certified green. The additional money from contributions and/or check has helped. However, many pensions are putting a square peg in a round hole because the debt they have is greater than money coming in. Those plans that could not stay above water are part of the existing approximately 206 pension that are failing or have failed.

To have any chance of getting a grant if and when more money becomes available, a fund that has been using the previous rules to be certified green now has to be certified to be in trouble to get the grants! The irony here is just too great a stretch of reality. And the more in trouble (underfunded) a pension is, the higher in the pecking order for application. The worse run funds get the most money asap – WOW!

Since 2006, fund trustees and plan professionals have contorted themselves so the funds can be certified “GREEN”! Now the reality of lost market share, modularization, non/anti-union, future solid contracts, demographics, retiree ratios, and “good ole boys” sitting on their asses for decades comes into play & full circle!

Trustees use to say what are we going to do with the money – now they say where are we going to find the money?

The answer – the big bad government in lieu of anything that resembles a strategy from the trade’s senior leaders. Funds that have been living on borrowed time funding-wise have to have a come to Jesus moment. CAN THEY PAY THE RETIREES THE PROMISSED BENEFITS? Approximately 206 pensions today and rising cannot.

Many trustees soon will use the words “better safe than sorry”, code for we better get our pension under the umbrella of receiving grants “just in case”. For decades trustees have maxed out the laws to favor a green zone status. They will now have to get real with those funding rules; however, in a very tight way. Only plans eligible per the SFA (Special Financial Assistance) can apply for grants. ONLY!

In street vernacular – no more BS massaged numbers. Does the plan, given the present and future, have the money to pay benefits? Hundreds of them do not, many more into the not to distant future will not. The trustees have to hedge the plan’s future on the hopes of Congress for grants; in lieu of that, cuts will be made.

The senior offices should get off their collective asses and can change the trajectory the pensions and also market share plays out if they “man up” and lead:

  • Organize and quit the BS of saying we are organizing. We are net losers. Get after the wallets of end-users, developers, CMs. Labor Rising will give you our program – make it yours and win! No charge!
  • Get the Carpenters in line or totally out. The management alliances can no longer dictate that. A certain Building Trades Council in the U.S. has a solution, so it can be done.
  • Become Construction Managers and do the building ourselves. We say we are businesses, so be a business.

We can fund our pensions and improve our market share, but not with the current losing cartel of senior officers and a complete lack of a strategy!!

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising                                                  

So, The Rank & File Thinks They Have a Pension Thru 2051?

At Labor Rising we deal with measurable facts in the full light of day! We have written 4 versions of this blog with the longest being 3,983 words, this is number 5. The issue of multiemployer pension underfunding and pension failures is setting up average R&F members for a very real financial haymaker!

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021 is now over one year old. The total maximum amount of grants allowed for multiemployer/Taft-Hartley pension plans like ours in the trades is $94 billion (yes, that’s with a “B”) maximum. Underfunding of our pensions, per the pros one year later, is now north of $100 billion and is highly unlikely to abate.

The current approximate number of failing/insolvent Taft-Hartley plans eligible for grants is now around 206. Why we say “around” is because that number continues to rise with zero end in sight.

The predominant reason for insolvency is that the trades’ senior leaders, down to local Business Managers and Trustees, paid out far more in benefits than the funds could afford. Not surprisingly, there is a huge political component to those decisions.

From the late 60’s & 70’s to approximately the late 90’s, when the members have been confronted with funding a pension they overwhelmingly have VOTED to put most, if not all, raises “on the check”. Grown men in the full light of day made those decisions for nearly three decades. But as they confronted the reality of retirement on the horizon, they shifted gears hard. They put a lot, or most, of the raises into the pensions which saw generally good investment returns. Now if only they were allowed to buy accruals in line with what those contributions & investment returns could buy and the relatively short period of appropriate contributions (typically under 10 years prior to retirement), the trades would not be in this present-day disaster.

Since the early 90’s until today every leader & most journeypersons had more than an inkling that we were building a hole of debt (underfunding) that the trades would not be able to get out of. Actually, they KNEW it because it was the hot topic at every conference, convention, board meeting and shanty conversation.

I saw the whole progression of the underfunded hole that was being dug as a pension fund trustee, conference presenter, trainer for the International Foundation’s New Trustee Institute and Advance Trustee Program and as a committee member.

Every year when I looked up from the lectern of these sessions, at least half of the trustees who were registered never showed. Often, money managers, administrators or other trustees would drop the attendance tickets of those missing in action into the box, while trustees en masse were everywhere other than learning about their trust funds.

For 30 years we VOTED, knowingly, to put the money on the check. However, from the early 90’s until approximately 2010 overly generous increases in benefit accruals continued for many pension funds & were voted on and granted to the roar of applause for union trustees posing like they knew nothing of the hole they were creating. The political accolades were just too strong an aphrodisiac & the pension underfunding hole was dug for those funds. Additionally, many agents, BM’s and senior officers had multiple pensions. The other pensions were single payer and the members funded it entirely. If those additional pensions were in trouble because of bad habits and decisions, which happened a lot, it was no problem as they could just hit up the members for the do, re, mi outside of the view of members.

The talking points back then and continuing until fairly recently came down to one pension rule that became the mantra of pension increases that overwhelmingly could not be afforded. It was “the government made me do it” line of BS defense. If a pension fund is approximately 120% overfunded, trustees where compelled to raise benefits. Kind of true. HOWEVER, prudent trustees would have bought down debt, made prospective accrual increases, had a fixed payout like a 13th check and used other tools to keep funding levels at a point that could last for the life of ALL pension participants then and into the future – all things being equal. Had this scenario been the case and grown men were responsible for their votes, then the odds are the current and growing number of pensions being insolvent would be minimal.

That is how we got to this point. It is not lost on Labor Rising that the same stewards of leadership who forfeited market share, can’t organize a sock drawer and continue to run the trades into the ground are almost exactly the same leaders who put their respective pensions in the hole. Reverse engineer that statement. Comb out the BS and see whose names correlate with worst in class unions. From the 70’s until today our senior leaders’ numbers are measurable and a combined “NET” disaster for organizing, pensions, wages, conditions, benefits & concessions to management. And, yet we all say nothing – not on a union floor or at convention. We let them dictate how they run the show and ANY opposition is met with retaliation.

Back to the $94 billion.

Our pensions HAVE to have three things to stay solvent: hours, investment returns north of 7% year over year to at least cover the actuarial assumption and avoid being in debt (underfunded) up to their ears!

What’s todays and tomorrow’s reality? Continuous lost market share from the mid 70’s to the present has killed the hours part of the above equation for about 90% of unions. Even with infrastructure spending, non-union market share and modularizations ramping up by the end of the decade will be the coup de grace for hours insofar as pension funding is concerned.

Despite members putting money from new contracts and off their existing checks for almost a decade to address pension underfunding, it may be too little too late for many funds with baby boomers continuing to retire at approximately 10,000 per day until 2030 with every intention to begin collecting their pensions.

Senior trades leaders know how to dig holes!

I hear the “G” word from time to time. GREEN! I’d put LOL here if it wasn’t so pathetic. From the PPP (Pension Protection Act) of 2006 right through to the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021, along with a few other “credit card” pension bills in between, our pensions need gangs of actuaries to figure out all the changes made to keep us thinking we are GREEN.

In lay persons’ terms, our pensions have changed significantly in how we calculate funding since 2006. Think of taking out credit cards (pension amortization schedules – plural) to pay off credit cards times more than a few, and you get green out of a mountain of red! At the end of the day, we owe this money, and all the machinations to deflect just how bad it is does not resolve the actual underfunding of those pensions.

DO TRUE GREEN PENSIONS EXISTS? A PRECIOUS FEW! Elevator International comes to mind and is on the short list. Those trustees on both H&W & pensions are best in class with a deep lineup. Ask them questions and you will think you are talking to plan professionals. An actual plan OMG!

A Hail Mary of sorts. ($94 billion Hail Mary). As noted above, the trades knew since the 90’s that they were digging this underfunded hole. A small handful of professionals kept this issue in legislators’ sights. RdF, TM, BP & a few others educated/lobbied Congress and Senators. Without this education it is entirely possible that multiemployer plans would have gotten next to nothing. Multiemployer pensions do not even rise to the level of red-headed stepchild in the pension universe. So, with an all-democratic vote and a pandemic to fly cover, $94 billion in grants became law and available to multiemployer pensions. There are approximately 1,440 multiemployer/Taft-Hartley plans in total that are potentially eligible for the funds. Approximately 675 are Building Trades pensions – YOURS!

Is $94 billion enough? Not per the projected underfunded levels that are being calculated. Retirees to actives ratios are growing, non-union is growing, modularization is growing. How they invest the $94 billion in grants per the SFA (Special Financial Assistance) rules (all fixed investment grade bonds, which unless these bonds return double digits are a “NET” drag on total investment return)?  If R’s have control of even one chamber of government, the odds of more grants dimmish. If R’s have control of all three chambers of government, flat out repeal of this grant is extremely likely. DOL (Department of Labor) has not yet written guidance for these grants giving pension boards and their professionals direction on how all this works, including the application process and how the grants will be paid out. PBGC (Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation) funding for future plan insolvencies is a huge question mark. And, if the market returns are under 7% even occasionally, big nails will be driven into the pension coffins at an expediated rate of failure!

MOST GOOD ESTIMATES INDICATE THAT THE MULTIEMPLOYER/TAFT-HARTLEYS’ UNDERFUNDING IS 3 TIMES THE $94 BILLION! The Teamsters Central States pension needs north of $31 billion today and that is just one of approximately 206 plans that are insolvent or headed for insolvency at this time.

The worst run plans get the money to bail out all those piss poor decisions and restore nearly 100% of benefits. Meanwhile the plans that have been duking it out working with the members to help minimize the underfunding are in a very real position to get zip should the $94 billion be a one-time infusion (highly likely) of funds.

Example: I became a pension trustee of my local in the early 90’s. We moved to only grant prospective accrual rates going forward – by and large a hated position at the time. Members wanted, and in many cases demanded, increases to past accruals. If we had solid investment returns, we could do that, BUT only in line with what it actually bought (which wasn’t much). All new contributions were prospective only.

Then we set about the task of getting rid of the hole we dug by putting money from new contracts in the contribution to specifically reduce the unfunded liability. Today that fund is solid. It will still suffer from reduced hours as technology in construction delivery ramps up. Full employment today is very different than full employment 15 years ago. In addition, the promise that the unfunded liabilities would turn into surpluses as baby boomers died off more than likely will not be realized because of loss of market share, non-union, modularization, etc. (See above)

The actions, or rather pathic inactions, of senior leaders are coming full circle!

Labor Rising is about solutions and offers three ways to turn this nightmare around. First, hope and pray for approximately $300 billion or so from congress!

Second, organize our way out of this mess. However, the caveat here is in entirely new markets and quit using the “toolbox” of losing “strategies” like bottom-up & top-down. Maintenance will be needed for the foreseeable future, along with service on facilities including modularized buildings. Quit being the minions of the management alliances and habitual concessions. Take on the wallets of senior management; and yes, with a militant edge. On the Rank & File side we can’t even do a no-nonsense Work to Rule en masse to demonstrate that workers, not management or our internationals, own the JOB!

Third, make some hard decisions as true leaders are compelled to do. $94 billion is very likely to be a one-time GIFT & if more $$$ comes our way GREAT!! Our two blogs in 2010 and 2015 outlined that “IF” political conditions were right we might get some relief. Could never have imaged a pandemic being the cover for the $94 billion. A hard decision might look like this. The $94 billion CANNOT go to only those pensions that quite literally put themselves in this insolvency position. In 2014 Congress passed MPRA (Multiemployer Pension Reform Act), which proposed a temporary or permanent reduction of pension benefits if a plan is projected to run out of money before paying all promised benefits. The PBGC was broke back then and is not any better off today. They were supposed to pay approximately 30 cents on the dollar of failed pensions. MPRA is a bitter pill and allows cuts to existing pensions, so everyone takes the pain together. There are SOME EXCEPTIONS to MPRA, but they are very narrow.

The $94 billion should be spread out and have a hard maximum unless and until more money is found. Plainly stated – $94 billion is far from enough to cover the underfunded hole the multiemployer pensions are in. The first insolvent pensions to make application for the grant should only get money based on a formula that fairly spreads out the $94 billion. Will those pensions be made whole? Hell NO! However, how is it fair to reward the worst run plans to 100% of funding and past benefits restored to 100% when hundreds of more plans are on their way to insolvency with no assurance of additional grants coming their way?

Another hard decision that could be considered is to move to a Cash Balance plan if the plan has the funding needed to cash out “so to speak”. Get out of the way of a moving train.

Another huge issue is that sooner rather than the  later management alliances using PLA’s WILL NOT want to pay into a defined benefit plan. Check out the priorities of the NMAPC on this statement. The $94 billion grant is a great exit point for them.

We know there are those who say we at Labor Rising are “loose cannons.” Well, the loose cannons we hang with only know how to win and their organizing records clearly demonstrate that. Conversely, there are those the R&F listens who have demonstrated a lifetime of losing market share, pensions, conditions, etc. Direct descendants of losers since the mid 70’s. That is all – no time to be at ease!

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising                                  

Work to Rule Regarding Safety on PLA’s is NOT…

a strike(s), sympathy strike(s), work stoppages, picketing, slowdowns, interference with the work or other disruptive activity by the Trades on a PLA job.

This is what is being told to union building trades members throughout the U.S. by officers of the respective Internationals where Work to Rule is unfolding on PLA’s, and even a couple of specialty agreements’ sites.

The first paragraph above is typical “boiler plate” language found under Work Stoppages and Lockouts on PLA contracts.

Work to Rule is doing EXACTLY the work under the rules you signed off on regarding safety when you hired on to the PLA job. Most, if not all, of those PLA’s state that those employed WILL (very powerful word) adhere to OSHA, Construction Safety Act, respective state OSHA, applicable other safety provisos AND that contractor’s/company’s safety plan. The company’s/contractor’s safety plan is a huge “GOT YA” you most likely missed because it is frequently buried in the maze of safety documents that were shove in front of you to sign in a short timeframe!


You may want to get the name, title & date of those officers who misinform you that Work to Rule in regard to safety is in ANY form a work disruption. Just in case, God forbid, you are hurt, you want to have that name handy because once injured you may need it in court. We all want to honor our commitment to the LETTER of safety on PLA sites. However, once hurt, those PLA jobs are going to work hard to limit and/or deny any claim or compensation to the degree they can.

Comparative negligence is building across the trades’ spectrum of work on the union and non-union sides. On the non-union side, workers hurt on the job have a poor chance against the contractor and recovery.

On the union side, our skills typically reduce the chance of an accident right up to the time of an accident. Our egos also play a role, in that we think we may be working within the LETTER of the contractor’s safety rules. When hurt, we are exposed to the contractor’s specific work rules not being followed to the letter and have to fight to receive any compensation. It is a big reason why we all see millions of ads from comp & injury lawyers across the country in approximately that last decade.

Those safety folks 12” on center on the job are partly there for OUR safety. But they play a dual role in that they document EVERYTHING they can, which favors the contractors in court once an injury occurs.

Touting our skills can be a double edge sword. We often feel we know how to do the job even though we also know when we are outside of the safety rules even for the briefest of time. Also, when we find ourselves fighting for compensation due to an injury, a court will highly consider that we absolutely knew better because of all our training, most of all, our SAFETY training. That fact will raise the comparative negligence factor by the contractors’ attorneys to nullify/limit recovery!

In this day of judging all actions workers make on a PLA job – to then cripple our chances of any sane compensation once injured working for THOSE CONTRACTORS – why would we play roulette with our safety, livelihood and that of our families?

Work to Rule regarding safety on PLA’s is what the Internationals & the contractors demand us to do. They make us sign off on it. Remember you can stop the job if safety is in question or not being followed. Get safety involved on any and all questionable issues regarding safety and have them there when the work is performed. Specific questions need to be asked at the Toolbox Safety meeting and at the jobsite safety meetings with specific written safety plan for your day’s job within all GOVERNING safety documents pertaining to that job! OSHA is a standard; however, the contractors up the ante with their own safety rules in addition to OSHA’s. Having them watching you is a way to ensure that if injured you are covered. And, as we all know, should an unplanned jobsite event occur safety is conspicuously absent. Those days need to be over! The contractors need to be present to sign off on our safety and limit to a high degree the possibility of denying an injured worker the damages owed.

The days of completing a job off the backs of our skills offered in a good workman-like manner need to be done when they now also hammer us and our families when injured. The job will get done when it gets done per the letter of safety on PLA’s. The Internationals are part and parcel to this – it is also their names on every PLA contract.

Who knew it was a WARNING all along? Treat it as such! Snap out of it!

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising


Workers Own the Job – Work to Rule

Not management – not the senior trades leaders – we, the workers, do!


  • Measurable market share over the past 50 years has continuously declined “NET” across the trades.
  • Density of trades workers vs. non-union workers is worse than market share and is the better measure for senior leadership’s failures over the same 50 years.
  • Organizing via the protocols of the trades IS NOT organizing. It has devolved into recruitment. The standard rank & file organizer who attends either that trade’s in-house organizing or the Building Trades junk, even including marketing training, is limited BY DESIGN by our senior international leaders. Should an organizer build a “war room” and bring heat on the alliance’s contractors’ non-union jobs, that organizer will be derailed and/or shut down. Organizers and marketing reps at all levels (including international organizers) are to be kept busy and out of the way! The sheer number of hours in meetings and generating reports mitigates against effective organizing & marketing along with ineffective training and turnover. How is it possible that the current international organizers, and the prior international organizers since the late 70’s, have ALL failed so spectacularly? If a contractor should be signed, it is more a matter of being in the right place at the right time than a result of the efforts expended. Low hanging fruit contractors that are signed will not be enough to raise market share – check the actual numbers of your trade and locals and you’ll see for yourself that 92% are making no progress improving their numbers.
  • Pension underfunding is growing. The once fair way of trying to zone a fund, i.e. Green, Red & Yellow zones, has been totally prostituted. Hours and return on investments drive the health of the pension – and you need both to stay well-funded. Investments and hours evolve and can be smoothed out, but that ship has sailed, especially on the hours side of the equation. The government, both D’s & R’s, have added layers of restructuring debt via legislation, so our funds look far better than they really are. More specifics in upcoming blogs – warning, details are a bitch!
  • Modularization, miniaturization, roll-ups, consolidation & contraction of the construction industry as we once knew it is rapidly changing with technology finally coming to construction via block-chain and other industry advancements in construction delivery. By the end of this decade, because it is ramping up that fast and all things being equal, hours will continue to be eroded and mega jobs will take a fraction of the hours to build compared to yesterday and even today. These changes are already here folks and most rank & file field journeypersons, and even apprentices, see it!

The bullet points above can be objectively measured when all the subterfuge of our internationals peeled away. Our Building Trades are not unions any longer – they are businesses that are mostly controlled by the management alliances to facilitate the jobs they do. A rank & file member has close to zero input as to who their senior leaders are. The Building Trades are far from a democratic free and independent trade movement!

How many examples of our internationals rolling over to the alliances do the rank & file need?

Here’s yet another one dated 01/17/2022

“Use of Specialty Contractors The Committee has been requested to provide a clarification on the use of “specialty contractors”, as it relates to Article IV, Section 3 of the National Maintenance Agreements”.

Translation may be that more non-union contractors that are “specialty contractors” will be on jobs going forward. The few remaining union contractors will double breast their specialty contracting operations as modularization ramps up. Nearly all construction companies will be specialized so they can adapt to a fast-moving construction delivery.

The trades will train the workers for these specialties – union or not. The odds are those workers will not be paid even though they are training for the specific specializations.

Management alliances have been very smart in keeping the trades unions in “NAME” close to them. Giving the respective trades senior leader just enough hours to maintain their power over the rank & file to do the alliances’ demands and jobs!

It is impossible to review the Book of Decisions coupled with the steady erosion of wages, conditions, benefits, per diem and more since the early 70’s and not see our senior leaders as nothing more than minions of the alliances.

If we as workers value ourselves and our families this poorly, then we deserve what will transpire as construction enters this new era of modularization and construction delivery.

We own the jobs if we Work to Rule on safety on our respective jobs that are under a PLA or specialty agreement.

Why are we NOT working to the letter of safety? Almost every journeyperson knows when they are not. A little voice or bell in our heads warns us. That bell/voice matches up with the letter of safety very closely.

Example: Prying a pipe into position in the air with a 2”x 4” while you wedge yourself around a hanger so you don’t fall if the board breaks. We could fill books with these examples for all the trades. If you need to build a scaffold and use a chain fall, for example, you know that is precisely what that voice in your head said. Whatever time it takes to do it right and safely, it takes. That is exactly what the governing safety document for the job says you should do.

Because of our skills we typically silence that bell/voice in order to produce the job and meet deadlines. A decade ago, that was fair. However, now the companies will do everything they can do to deny any compensation once we are hurt.

This isn’t retaliatory or vindictive behavior; it is sound reasoning given the circumstances our own internationals have placed us in.

We are either victims and continue to blame those who are actually to blame, or we own the job and work professionally but to the LETTER of safety that both the company and the union want you to (BUT, do they really?)

Work to rule. It is your job, your body & our union, if we want it to be again.

Nothing is guaranteed without action. Case in point: Roe v. Wade was a lock – not!

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising

Meanwhile on the Non-Union Side of Work to Rule –

Those who have taken the Labor Rising Foundations course on organizing know that we have a solid foothold with 17 non-union Facebook Groups. Combined “members” of these 17 groups total approximately 235,000. Part of an organizers mission!

Those non-union group members interact to a high degree with our posts. They have followed the posts regarding Work to Rule perhaps in greater numbers than the 42 union groups, mostly Building Trades with approximately 139,000 members, to which we post.

Previously Work to Rule was used as a tactic by prime-time winning trades’ organizers. Seldom, if ever, do the trades’ organizers use it today. Work to Rule, when used by the non-union, gives them control over their lives while working on the job and sometimes even off the job. It can create cohesion among workers.

However, without unions to provide support and transparency, the typical non-union workers will find themselves without work.

Labor Rising has been working with the administrators of the non-union groups on a tactic that can succeed. That tactic is for non-union trades workers to use an employment contract with whomever they work for.

The contract can be simple and straightforward. It can lay out the terms, conditions and pay that the non-union worker would work under for the duration of that job. Examples would be being paid to lease (by the contractor) the tools/truck they bring to the job similar to some that get “rig pay”; per diem reimbursement for travel and lodging; and getting paid for testing of all types. In upcoming blogs we’ll discuss pay for other features.

We’re not talking about a 1099, but rather workers having their own terms and conditions for employment agreed to or they do not “man” the job. Using social media, certain jobs in the world of non-union can be marked as those that will not comply. In this day of skilled worker shortages, good luck getting that job done.

Per the Labor Department, both union & non-union trades are approximately 1 million workers short (on the U.S. side) of full employment. The odds of the non-union workers demanding and getting an employment contract is increasingly excellent.  

Is the average worker, union or not, capable of writing such a contract? In today’s world – absolutely. Of course, if someone helped with templates & education for the variety of employment contracts that would help. Some types of jobs would warrant an expanded form of employment contract, which is doable.

To that end Labor Rising could build a non-profit 501c3 with the purpose being to educate and provide specific help to workers so they understand & can use an employment contract.

Most workers can do this themselves, using simple language – which is the best language. As more and more employment contracts populate the construction landscape, contractors’ lawyers will do everything they can to undermine them. That is why solid and consistent contractual terms and conditions will be critical to workers, in conjunction with the education on how to ensure compliance with them within the existing framework of federal & state employment laws. As the world of construction changes, so must the employment contracts.

Work to Rule on the union side of PLAs and employment contracts on the non-union side will empower workers to again work in solidarity! Those who stick their union card in their boot and work both sides can be a conduit to connect ALL workers.

Building Trades unions are at the end of their being anything resembling a free and democratic trade union built on one person one vote and offering a true voice, if not power, at the table with the contractor alliance members.

Non-union members, along with union members, can take back their combined power on the job using the two tactics, Work to Rule and employment contracts, for their respective groups.

A contemporary trades union may very well be the result. We at Labor Rising will work to that end unless our senior leader’s step into the breach of labor battles of today and start winning!

North American workers are waking out of their slumber and organizing is on the rise. The trades continue their losing ways entirely because of our International Presidents’ relationship with management alliances. Our IPs WILL NOT allow field organizers to bring the heat on owners, end-users, developers & even Construction Managers – to use field slang! We play small ball with bottom-up and top-down with the subs – a loser by design over the decades in the trades.

Also, many union members have come to understand what Work to Rule means on the job and the value of using these tactics as a means to a work life that is better compensated & more $$$ in your pocket. Keep building numbers and continue to send that info Labor Rising’s way.

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising


WWOFD – What Would our Founders do?

Many of the founding fathers were not looking for trouble. An example is Archibald Barnes, 1888 First General President of the Tin-Knockers. Brother Barnes wanted the tin-knockers to be recognized as a valuable partner within the industry and with employers. Sound familiar?

However, employers believed to their core that capital and labor had “nothing to arbitrate.” What made our Founders so compelling was that they shifted tactics when employers did not share their ideas of a “COOPERATIVE” labor-management relationship. The Founders shifted hard and with a passion in a timely fashion. How hard? Well, an organizer back then might as well have been the devil himself if you were an employer. In short order the tin-knockers established over one hundred unions; and a middle class was born. Repeat for the other trades – some even beginning earlier than the tin-knockers. What Labor Rising admires most about Brother Barnes is that he was the most enthusiastic president about labor-management cooperation. But (and this is a big but), he knew when it did not work and what to do about it! That is LEADERSHIP!

For many years I was the Treasurer for the Illinois Labor History Society. Dr. Adelman, Molly West, Les Orear and many other historians worked on the histories of various trades, both local & international. We helped provide the research and gave tours of various labor sites and resting places of more than 50 labor activists throughout the Midwest. ILHS held the deed to the Hay Market Martyrs Monument at Waldheim Cemetery.  

We know the history of the trades since the mid 70’s and what our Founders would most likely think of today’s IPs. We believe our Founders would see management alliances playing the International Presidents and Building Trades Presidents like a fiddle. The Founders most likely would not want the current Rank & File watching over their backs because this generation of both baby boomers & millennials continue to just roll over to both management and senior leadership of the trades.

The Founders would see Maintenance Agreements from the early 70’s thru to today’s garbage, along with the steady loss of market share, wages, benefits & conditions. They would be horrified knowing that approximately 60% of all hours come from PLAs with huge numbers of members living and working on the road even though there are PLENTY OF BOOMS in their own neighborhoods.

Our General Presidents from the 70’s thru today have eroded members’ rights both on the job and in our constitutions.

The electricians just finished their convention. As has been the case with the trades, no serious challenges to the current direction and/or leadership were evident. Everyone just falls in line as though they are afraid of their General Presidents.

As members, we could not run at all with the rank & file back in the day! Now those were bad asses! And our Founders would certainly not support what passes for leadership today. Labor Rising is highly confident the convention floors of the respective trades would look quite different today if our Founders were in attendance based on the histories of conventions past! We present an image of talking and looking tough, but without any actions to back it up on the convention or union floor.

Membership of unions the world over understand that the rank & file has to take back their power when leadership no longer represents the workers, be it with employers or are own internationals. This is confronting the realities of power.

Solidarity Unionism is a model of labour organizing in which the workers themselves formulate strategy and take action against the company directly without mediation from government or paid union representatives.” [author unknown]

Work to Rule is but one strategy of solidarity unionism. It is doing our jobs and tasks to the letter of the safety rules. We recommend keeping it to safety for the time being – it matters. Let’s see if we have what it takes to run with our Founders and step out of the shadows of fear now decades beyond.

Why are we traveling to remote jobs with reduced wages and benefits (hoping our money gets back to our funds) with conditions & compensation being far less than what it takes to raise our families? In many cases we subsidize the job off our own backs. Many times, if our spouses do not work, our household finances falter.

Why are we working to the spirit of safety only to be injured and held responsible for the injury while working on a company’s job site? Why are we letting management, with our own international’s full knowledge, dictate per diems, testing, discipline and much more without any membership input what-so-ever?

Work to Rule is solidarity unionism banding workers together on a PLA job to change outcomes. We do not need to talk to management or unions – just work to the letter until we are compensated for the risks we take. Think about it – are we being paid sufficiently for the risks we take? Can we raise our families on one income? If not, band together in your actions regarding safety. Management built this current environment, but it is up to us to show management and our internationals we own the job. We provided a couple of safety templates in the last blog. This is what is used in court if injured on the job.

Start with revisiting all the safety paperwork you signed when hired and continue to sign, such as toolbox safety meetings. Form discussion groups to educate yourselves on understanding what the letter of safety is – you signed it. Individuals and even groups can get clarifications from the safety officers – but in writing. Union stewards are not going to do this. However, unless they want to be named in a lawsuit – will back working to the letter of safety. Example: Toolbox safety meetings were once thought to protect workers – now they can and will be used against you when injured and to reduce any workers comp claims and compensation.

Of course, we can just keep rolling over until the checks run out, our bodies fail, the pensions fail & our families fail once injured.

“IF” we want to have healthy finances today and be well regarded in history we have to move. Hence a MOVEMENT!

Every ability to measure workers’ progress in the trades in the PLA era indicates we are going backwards. Increasingly, management can even pick the contribution rate within the District Council they want to use on a job. And what about pensions? So many patches have been applied to our pensions to smooth out our funding it would be criminal if it wasn’t the government. More on pensions soon.

Our leadership knows how bad it is and also that management wants out of the pension contribution and liability altogether. How come we don’t know? Bottom line is we are too afraid to demand an answer on the convention floor or union floor! We’re afraid to take on these issues and others that are germane to being a member.

We have to back a member(s) asking a legit question regardless of if we like them or not. The in house animosities need to be checked at the door or jobsite when legit questions are asked. The divisions are killing us.

It comes down to real action. Feel free – in fact we recommend that you rake the statements in our 252 blogs in the last 12 years over the coals. They will stand up. Now, will you?

Unionism is on the rise everywhere except the trades. Recruiting IS NOT organizing. Why? Because we can’t organize when we can’t even go toe to toe with our own internationals to break these alliances with management. BTW, what is currently happening in the trades IS NOT organizing. Our Founders would see through the smoke & mirrors that currently keeps organizers and marketing reps busy but not productive in a heartbeat. Approximately 2,700 paid organizers and marketing reps throughout the trades, and we have continued to go backwards for 5 decades!

How can a troop of 2,700 be this inept unless it is by design caused by undertraining and not cutting them loose to use all organizing and marketing tools available to win? They only know the tools the internationals provide them. It is far from a complete toolbox. Think about it!

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising

Remove “THE” From Work to the Rule and You Have Work to Rule –

Haymarket Martyrs’ Monument – “The day will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you are throttling today.”

Labor Rising has many legit organizers and historians in our rank & file. I got beat on as the author of the last blog and appropriately so.

One organizer who we work with closely really questioned my use of Work to “the” Rule. He was right to do so. LR’s rationale is that we softened Work to Rule with “the” in order to educate and introduce a way for the membership to understand the effects Work to Rule would have should membership enmasse chose to stand up for their rights.

Work to Rule is a militant and forging action carried out by membership acting as one on the job regarding safety, and only safety in this instance. Work to Rule can be used in other ways very effectively, but we’ll stick with safety as an opening gambit.

At its core, Work to Rule reclaims the job, our actions and our rights. With WTR in place, management and the senior IPs no longer dictate what happens on the job or in our unions! We do!

We received a lot of commentary that we union members work safely and professionally. True right up until time of injury and we remain uneducated on that until it is too late.  

We see workers given drills/stuff and being awarded safety plaques on a regular basis. They are models of working to the spirit of safety. They provide a job that is on time and on budget for management and our IPs who are working with the respective alliances. The odds are excellent and strongly favor management that a journeyperson can do a job safely within the spirit of safety – again, until they are injured.

So, management wins regarding safety on a day-to-day basis as it relates to the production and profits because we work to the spirit. Think of all the tasks we do to the spirit of professionalism and then once we’re injured it is busted off in our respective backsides. They also win when our IPs cut a deal on the R&F backs especially with PLA’s. They win when per diems and travel reimbursements are reduced. They win when we provide many resources of value like tools, transportation, food, etc., on our dime. In most cases, they win because we are no longer compensated for testing for drugs, welding and job specific requirements, even when we pass. They win because they provide the medical care and staff that work to hedge their losses immediately after an accident. They win because most discipline issues on the job remove input by unions and our collective bargaining agreements by and large (that is part of the reason for the existence of Standards of Excellence). They win because they play to the pride of journeypersons creating quality circles. Journeypersons improve processes and outcomes in the field and the company makes huge $$$ and the journeyperson gets a pat on the back and an award (maybe). We can be pretty stupid sometimes.

If you have been a journeyperson for approximately 25 years, there is better than even odds that you are restricted from employment for some/many contractors – because the contractors want unilateral control over employment more and more.

If you have 25 years or more in the trades, you have seen and witnessed this erosion of union rights both inside our own halls and especially on jobs. Mostly you just want out and hope you have a pension.

Since the mid 70’s our collective International Presidents, one after another, have stripped any semblance of a “free and democratic trade union” inside the house and have given the house away brick by brick to management through these alliances on the job.

If you have 10 years or so in the trades, you have come to understand that the trades used to hold their own at the bargaining table on every subject listed above and far more. But you never witnessed it firsthand. Our IPs have played to our skills and professionalism as though they are the shiny objects that R&F tout, while the IPs and management strip away jobsite and union rights. It is very common for many journeypersons to think their skills are why they earn the wages they do. It is easy for them to believe this when the message from leadership reinforces that thinking.

The tension of R&F is very real, and solutions are needed to put the R&F back in charge of their working lives. Workers all over North America, except in the iron-handed trades, are taking action!

Without Work to Rule actions when union workers are injured, the letter of the safety plan is used to limit or deny claims for compensation in many states. There is zero “good faith” once injured. Some of us get played yet again when our company uses the theater of BS telling us they will take care of us. When we are desperate after an injury, we want to believe what we hear.

Without actions, pensions will continue to fail. If our intel is correct, this is high on the agenda of the alliances between the trades and management, which we’ll address in depth in a future blog soon.

We project that the final straw is the contribution on benefits to our funds. This is huge money to the contractors and management’s bottom line. Most think the contribution to a benefit fund is their money. NO – this is a NEGOIATED item.

Work to Rule is how R&F take back their working lives. Here are a couple of examples of a safety plan. One is for U of M and DOE. Go ahead and click on it – if you have the guts to learn how the deck is stacked against you. We can change our stars, but that requires solidarity and action. U of M

DOE’s National Renewable Energy Lab site (NREL).                            We find this template very interesting.

You likely signed a number of papers regarding safety that links you to similar safety templates. They will be used to the letter when there is an injury. Your health, your family and your livelihood is but one injury away.

I was an expert witness for several dozen workers comp cases in the past – mostly for the worker. Those same cases today in a Comparative Negligence state would take big hits to zero compensation in today’s environment. 

Remember that the next time you think “I’ll just climb up onto that rack and fix or replace something that’ll only take a few minutes.” Why would you work outside of the letter of the rules? Put the proper platform in place. Or the next time you’re hurried through a toolbox meeting and the tools are not tagged with the proper color, don’t change the tag and don’t use the tool.

When something has to get done, regardless of importance to management, get clear instructions from safety and have them sign off on them. Have them watch the job. The days of posting a lookout to keep production on time need to be over. BTW, have you noticed that the safety officer disappears many times by design? We take all the risks – they take all the money and kudos.

Badass workers today Work to Rule to show we value and have control of ourselves, our work, our health and our livelihood. If management and senior leadership is upset – well, the door swings both ways. But only if the R&F Work to Rule!

Should the last straws fall in place with the alliances, the trades are destined to be a temp agency.

We deserve what we get.

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising

Work to the Rule in Safety – Only Safety –

Work to the Rule brothers’ and sisters’ with regard to safety only! We’re not advocating a wildcat strike whatsoever. Doing so doesn’t come under the NLRB and isn’t in our PLAs or constitutions. We are referring to safety, pure and simple, following the safety measures that we are held up to the letter – not the spirit – to the letter of the management’s rules!

It is bad enough that our Internationals have capitulated our wages, conditions and benefits to management for decades. It is also bad that we no longer have a free and democratic trade union. And it is bad that we lose in almost all cases when our IPs interact with management.

It is bad enough that the same culture of predetermined IPs has sunk organizing and presided over the substantial underfunding in our pensions. Same guys who, by and large, have never stood in a competitive and free election.

It is bad enough when the management side of construction secure yet more profits for the corporate coffers – off of our backs. And what specifically have our IP’s done?

We collectively deserve what has happened to us, as we spend our time and energy whining, complaining, and swearing. But what action have we taken to change the downward trajectory? Labor history will have zero respect for our generation of the rank & file. We have coasted on the shoulders of giants and now do we really believe that posting rough and tumble memes will square history?

If we want to square with history, then leave all the blue & red political stuff aside and pull in one direction – our families. Being divided only serves corporate money and our IPs continued control of our unions.

Safety to the LETTER! Keep our actions only about safety, no other issue with the only exception being coercion & intimidation. Work to the rule regarding safety has nothing to do with pay, benefits, conditions, hiring, firing, the hall, the agents, etc. We have to keep cool – no yelling and losing our composure – but staying laser focused on being prepared with a professional demeanor. MANAGEMENT KNOWS HOW TO POP YOUR CORK to then diminish your claim. Listen carefully and let the other side dig a hole and document it. All things considered, the less you say the better. We work in an adversarial pro-management system – snap out of it! Bring witnesses and co-listeners when in a meeting. Even though it may seem to be an inquisition, it is not. Just shut up until you have creditable people hearing your story.  

  • Secure copies of all the safety documents you signed and review them carefully. Become an expert, but not an arrogant idiot. Remember, if you worked for that company previously you have a mountain of history regarding safety. Read the literal words – they are quite plain. Should they refer to another document get it. Some are on Google, and you should also help populate Google with your info so Google can index it.
  • Understand that the Human Resources (HR) department is there when and if you have to go over your foreman’s, GF’s or Superintendent’s head. Why would we have to do that – because coercion and intimidation by anyone to finish a job when the letter of safety is not in compliance is never acceptable. Safety is always superior to production, regardless of situation. Just because the company has an emergency does not mean we should forfeit our rights.
  • As we all have become aware, company health facilities are not there to secure a healthy outcome for you as an injured worker. They are there to mitigate recordables and deny or limit claims. We need to go to a neutral clinic and/or hospital and listen to those professionals who have no horse in the Workers Comp game. With anything more than garden variety cuts and stiches, go to an independent doctor even if they say we cannot. Bear in mind that different states have different subrogation laws, and we travel for work a lot. Pay attention or you will be, yet another union tradesperson caught up in the called Comparative Negligence game where you may get little to zero compensation. And BTW a busted-up body. Before we drink that 6 pack of Keystone – we need to read and ask questions.
  • ANYTHING NOT covered by the safety rules – get safety involved and have it put in writing before you lift a tool. Remember if a worker can “shut down” a job because of safety, that means it is very important. So, treat safety to that standard because management will do it to us if injured.
  • All tools, yours and theirs, need to be compliant to the safety officers’ inspection records.
  • Musical chairs – if most or all of the workers work to the rule regarding safety, few will be fired. Firing someone because of safety triggers all sorts of other actions. Right now, and for the immediate future, jobs need bodies. So, whoever replaces you should work to the rule regarding safety and when you get to your next job, work to the rule. Musical chairs will cease when the R&F are one.
  • Perception of a company’s safety record in social media and construction circles is a big deal. If you get fired because you worked to the letter of the safety rules, make your case on the social media of the group of companies you worked for. The straws of social perception will soon break the companies’ backs.
  • Should the union agents tell you to get the job done and do whatever it takes to do so, or you’re lucky to have a job, so just stay cool and document the conversation. Keep a log of any and all comments to push the job when safety is not being complied to the letter.

The rank & file is on its own – has been for a while. It’s time to be a band of brothers and sisters to protect our own safety. Let’s not hurt our families and those of coworkers by jeopardizing our health, wellbeing and earning power. Now that’s being tough. Funeral expenses are at the core of why most trades union started if you know your history.  

Share this like your family’s financial health depended on it because when an injury happens it will!

Our Founders knew how to work together to get the respect they worked hard for. Being tough means standing for something bigger than ourselves. Our Building Trades once lifted all workers. Since the 60’s, that has retreated, and the trades now serve management’s interests far to often.

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising

The Building Trades “Our Movement – Our Moment” Convention Anthem: Yet Another BS Slogan?

Since Georgine in the 70’s right through to this year’s conference, we hear hollow slogans crafted for the masses. If the slogan was indicative of a strategy, it would be backed up with structure. We challenge you to go to NABTU website or anywhere and find structured strategy to back up “Our Movement – Our Moment” talk! NABTU doesn’t even update its website with the new slogan – “Whatever it Takes” and “Value Centric” are still posted.

The Rank & File agents heard yet more “rah rah” promises from politicians speaking. Regardless of position to the right or left, THIS IS NOT what a LABOR MOVEMENT depends on. A true labor movement drives change – it does NOT hope for change. Hope as a strategy is for fools!

Labor Rising has documented other unions in our blogs, predominantly led by women presidents who are kicking butt in organizing. Starbucks Workers United, an independent affiliate of the Service Employees International Union is out in the field organizing & driving change. Brother Smalls’ Amazon Labor Union is independent entirely at this point & is driving change. Apple? Several others. Unions are cool again with workers especially millennials. Yet the trades fail to capitalize because EVERYONE knows (especially workers) we are business unions and NOT workers’ unions. And no slogan is going to change that!

Do the trades’ senior leaders think they can ride this current wave of true union organizing? If so, they are in fantasy land!

The trades across the board can barely GIVE books away just to maintain membership numbers. Over one million tradespersons are currently needed in North American construction; and the directors of organizing across the trades can’t raise numbers or organize a sock drawer. They continually and consistently lose. It is only through recruitment, pulling in bodies from failed campaigns, that the membership numbers stay afloat. However, retention continues to slip. The trades are under one million field members “NET”.

Those who are recruited have traditionally put their book in their boot when needed, not much different than our home-grown tradespersons. I’ll use the word trend, however LR falls just short of enough info to call it a trend on REINSTATEMENTS. Intel across the trades describes scenarios where former members are NOT being reinstated. Makes us wonder – are the trades’ internationals using the pension forfeitures to shore up underfunded pensions?  If so, this is like throwing a snowball into a raging fire!

Pensions are slipping underwater more and more, even with legislation designed to prop them up. For an example check out the Update – American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“ARPA”) ARPA’s Impact on Multi-employer Pension Plans and Contributing Employers written by the National Law Review.

ARPA’s legislation follows up The Taft Hartley Pension Reform Act of 2014.

If you are a union member contributing to a pension coming, you may want to read this! Basically, through legislation our pensions are taking out additional credit on existing credit to smooth out severe underfunding. With hours sliding – pensions will fail. Far too many unions promised benefits they could not afford in the 1990’s & 2000’s. Its pretty straight forward math.

By the end of this decade, hours will increasingly be harder to come by. With modularization, miniaturization, block chain, updated operating systems and more, where do the IPs think the hours will come from?

From Georgine thru today the trades’ IPs have aligned with management alliances to provide bodies. The IPs from then till now have changed the respective constitutions to crush any attempts of membership democracies. Members have close to zero input as to who their national leaders are. Locals and District Councils can be taken over or eliminated summarily.

We see concessions and capitulations on PLA after PLA since the 70’s. THE TRADES HAVE NOT WON OR ADVANCED ONE MAJOR PIECE OF A WORKER’S AGENDA IN 60 YEARS – NOT ONE!

Organizers like Brent Emons, Paul Long, Mike Lucas and scores of others who were passionate organizers well into the 90’s and even early 2000’s have long been purged from organizing. Training for both organizing and Value on Display marketing is designed to keep the troops busy and out of the way of the labor-management alliances, but it is not effective. So, how do we explain the spectacular failure of organizers and marketing reps unless they are being groomed to fail?

We have plenty of Chris Smalls of Amazon in the ranks; however, the trades’ organizers are not allowed to get after the wallets of the end-users, developers, CM’s. Here’s the point —the sycophants of the respective IPs WILL derail true labor organizing, militancy, boycotts, strikes, etc., as ordered by their task masters, the IPs, who themselves have a task master called management.

Nothing can get in the way of the senior-most alliances between end-users and the trades – nothing.

The trades’ senior leaders have reduced the R&F to a temp agency; few members join for any reason other than to collect a check.

Labor Rising promised to present our solution to the persistent death spiral the trades are in, and we have waited until the NABTU Conference. The status quo of talking the talk vs. walking the walk has not changed with our IPs. It is theater, photo opts and sound bites for the R&F! Tomorrow and the next day the IPs will do what the management alliances want them to do.

The Electricians are next in convention in May. If they and the other trades are moved to be a MOVEMENT, then walk the walk. Here’s some radical ideas: Adopt one person, one vote in the constitutions. Get rid of prime language that takes away rights of members and locals, doling out cards and continuing to disrespect our apprenticeships. Fight for workers’ rights on and off the job site. Sign & impose CBAs on behalf of workers instead of agreeing to the scraps dictated by a PLA.

Approximately 60% of all hours are under PLAs – Management can WALK away from PLAs at any time.

So, Part 1 of getting back our market share is getting rid of the Carpenters. Declare their jurisdiction vacant. Not happening. Why? Because they belong to the alliance and management will not let the rest of the building trades declare the carpenters’ jurisdiction vacant – case closed.

Part 2 is creating our own specialty construction management firms. Changing times demand changing strategies. Not happening. Why? Because the management side of the alliance will not want any type of competition, least of all from their minions over at the trades. Talk about being able to raise hours – this is the vehicle to do it.

Part 3 is work to the rule! As organizers, we must plan our strategy from start to finish. Without that plan we lose far more times than we win. Work to the rule is typically used in organizing the non/anti-union workers. It gives those workers control over an aspect of their working lives.

The trades need to adopt WORK to the RULE with regards to safety on the job and only safety. Working to the LETTER of safety, not the spirit of safety. Every time we step onto a job, we are handed scores of documents and confronted with training that states we WILL be safety compliant to the letter of those documents.

Once we sustain an injury, we are held to the letter of the documents we signed. Approximately a decade or so ago big construction figured out how to make money/profits off of injuries on the job. We’re not talking about making money by having a better safety record – but an actual profit center: OCIP – Owner Controlled Insurance Program & CCIP – Contractor Controlled Insurance Program.

OCIP & CCIP came into being partly because of changes in workers comp law. One of those changes is called Comparative Negligence. States’ workers comp rules apply it differently. In a nutshell, an injured worker’s award of damages is reduced reflecting any percentage of fault deemed to be the worker’s contribution to the injury.

Example: An award of damages is $100,000 and the worker is deemed to have contributed 25% to causing the accident, so the worker gets $75,000. In some states, once the threshold of the worker’s fault reaches 51% or higher, the worker gets no award of damages – zero.

We should no longer post a “look out” to watch for the safety officer, driven by thinking we know more about how to do our jobs than they do (even though we do!) Safety is the point, not our professional egos. Let’s show our IPs and management that we can work to the letter of safety, leaving “the spirit of safety” at home. ZERO accidents.

Let management tell us specifically how to do the job from the safety perspective. Put it in writing. We want them documenting all of our moves. Frankly, we don’t get paid more for re-engineering the job more efficiently; and, when injured, we and our families are penalized by comparative negligence as a matter of course. When a worker says they got f*^ked after a case is settled, overwhelmingly this is the reason why. So, be sure that all safety documentation is used for your benefit and not to limit or disqualify you and your family from being compensated if injured.

Come to think of it – every journeyperson reading this that agrees, please share this, and let every tradesperson know to be safe.

Example: You use a folding ladder; it is on an incline and you get hurt. Any injury, not just falling from the ladder, will be held up to the comparative negligence standard.

Example: You have signed off on inspecting the JLG – sometimes every time we use it – so do it. If the paperwork for the inspection hasn’t been completed, do not use it. We often think that when working to the spirit of safety rules, we are ok. But there are volumes upon volumes of injury cases that dispute that thinking.

Example: The Standards of Excellence for some unions say we are to bring and use our own personal tools. Think that through. If your safety harness has expired or there are visible burn and cut marks, what happens if an injury occurs? What about an expired hardhat? Or tools that are altered, like grinding the jaw of a crescent? You will be held up to the safety documents you signed, and you will not like the outcome. Good faith is long gone. As for me, I’d have the safety officer sign off on all tools I use – my own or the company’s. Question, do our respective internationals educate us on that? Labor Rising has yet to find any evidence; but if you have some please share the specifics. And, by the way, are our internationals at fault if our own tools fail?

The Rank & File should own the jobs, not management. However, management sets the terms, and we should follow them to the letter in all cases while on the job – every time.

If we are following their rules, we can’t be disciplined whatsoever. Anyone who might suggest that we go with the flow or work outside the rules, name them in the injury lawsuit.

With construction across North American being over one million workers short, just follow the rules to the letter. There is no one to take your job.

Remember anyone can shut the job down if safety is not followed – management says it all the time.

This is especially important when the end-user’s production is at risk. Safety officers seem to disappear when production is at risk. Get specific directions in writing with the proper training or don’t do it!

When we all follow the safety rules on the job, we can make a lasting positive imprint on both our IPs and management.

We will discuss this in more detail in upcoming blogs and also show the state of union trades’ pensions.

“if you see a good fight – get in it-

Danny L Caliendo

Labor Rising


Brother Chris Smalls – Organizer for Amazon Labor Union  

What a contrast to the Building Trades’ 60 year losing streak of market share.

Brother Smalls is an organizer who was left to act on his passion and learned how to channel it. He witnessed and acted on an injustice to fellow workers consistent with what the Founder of the trades witnessed. He took concerted action undeterred by outside voices!

Labor Rising has trained hundreds of Chris Smalls in the trades over the last decade. Hundreds – all of whom displayed passion and commitment to similar values and an understanding of a greater good. LR has written 248 blogs in 10 years, and in 27 of them we have addressed the ability of the trades’ organizers.

It is not the organizers of the trades that lose – it is the 14 International Presidents’ constraints of organizers, and even market development, which are at the core of 60 years of losing market share in the trades!

The CEOs of mega businesses, intertwined with the Building Trades’ IPs in so-called Labor/Management alliances, which have ALWAYS (and by design) been a roadblock to organizing militancy, worker justice and equity for its members since the early 70’s.

In 1979 JC Turner, General President of the Operators, penned a White Paper called “The Business Roundtable and American Labor”. Much of the information in that White Paper was taken from a “special report” produced in 1979 by Georgine as President of the Building Trades Department. Link to JC Turner White Paper:!AmKOi71GyLcgqyOmg3JjY_OKGTEi?e=JoMlBQ

Labor Rising has linked this White Paper numerous times in our blogs – it does a good job of detailing what the CEOs of the Business Roundtable et al were doing to eliminate the trades.

What the White Paper, or the “special report” of 1979, does NOT do is to delve into what the International Presidents & President of the Building Trades did while the Business Roundtable was strategizing the trades’ demise. This would take decades to uncover by authors and historians.

One of the best written works describing the Building Trades’ actions in the early 70’s is titled: Continental Crucible – 2nd edition copyright 2015 by Richard Roman & Velasco Arregui, specifically about NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) throughout North America. For those who want to understand what was happening in the three NAFTA countries by government(s), business, and labor – this is a great read. It also has contributing content from authoritative authors.

Let’s step back into the late 60’s and see how the actions of the then senior leaders of the Building Trades have continued right through today. And why our organizers and market reps lose so much today.

The late 60’s saw a very aggressive and militant BT. The combined trades have huge market share and a solid piece of the business pie contributing to the steady growth of the middle class. The Building Trades’ influence could impact both political & business leader’s decisions at that time.

Those who believe the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 and the Landrum-Griffin Act of 1959, both designed to slow the growth of unions, were the cause for union losses would be wrong – dead wrong.

A little history:  Big business began to enact a plan in the late 60’s for “total annihilation” of organized labor in part because the T/H & LG Acts did not slow unions’ growth. And the Building Trades were ground zero in that plan. Georgine spoke to a “terrible conspiracy” that would be executed by the Business Roundtable – Georgine’s words in 1972.  

Georgine was elected in 1971 to become the Secretary-Treasurer of the Building Trades. By 1972 he spoke to the “terrible conspiracy” of big business CEOs coordinating and orchestrating attacks via the newly formed Business Roundtable (BRT) against the Building Trades. The Labor Law Study Group & Construction Users Anti-inflation Roundtable merge, with The March Group merging one year later. The mission of these three groups was to destroy organized labor with an emphasis on the Building Trades. Big business was off to a good start with a win at the NLRB allowing double breasting in 1971. By 1974 Georgine was the President of the Building Trades.

From Georgine’s blistering comments of 1972 until his “special report” released in 1979, Georgine and the IPs were, for all intents and purposes, silent regarding the aggressive and destructive practices of the BRT during this time period! Even after the “special report” was released in 1979, Georgine and the IPs of the construction unions continued their sharp retreat in battling the BRT and fighting for workers’ rights.  

Total and complete capitulation by the IPs of the construction unions and Georgine was complete by 1982, as is captured in notes from numerous meetings with the alliance members’ CEOs and their companies.

Understand that the IPs and Georgine took a bullet-proof market share in the early 70’s, won on the backs of activists through civil disobedience and construction union militancy, and ran it into the ground by 1982.

So specifically, what the hell were the International Presidents and Georgine doing during those 7 years?

BUILDING ALLIANCES with the very CEOs who want our destruction!

Nearly every specialty agreement and Project Labor Agreement (PLA) made with end-users started in the early 70’s under these labor/management agreements – ALLIANCES – which continue uninterrupted today.  

Example: The National Maintenance Agreement Policy Committee. (NMAPC) was started in 1971. The NMAPC was actually the National Erectors Association (NEA) formed in 1969. The biggest steel erectors and fabricators hated the Ironworkers and wanted to destroy them as best they could. Back then the trades could not be defeated, so better for the top CEO’s to switch tactics by forming alliances. Research by the management groups prior to the BRT indicated that senior leaders of the trades & their pawn Georgine were coasting on the gains made by organizing through the 60’s. Management knew the trades had WEAK leaders who could be worked in many ways.

THEY DID THEIR HOMEWORK! And the trades didn’t disappoint.

It was the Iron Workers and the Boilermakers that joined in alliances in 1971. In 1972 five more trades joined: OE, UA, IUPAT, Laborers & Carpenters. Following them over the next few years were the BAC, Masons, SMW, Teamsters & Insulators, with Electricians and Roofers joining last around 1980.  

Hence by 1982 the BRT had run the table of trades, and all joined the NMAPC et al! 

From the beginning of the alliances through today the trades have gotten their collective heads kicked in. In every measurable way the Specialty Agreements have favored management rights. Concessions and capitulations are the order of the day for our International Presidents and the President of the Building Trades. We can use the NMAPC’s own Book of Decisions as a guide as to how impotent the trades have been over the last few decades. Management has won or prevailed in over 90% of all decisions regarding labor/management.

The notion that our IPs are any type of “labor leaders” is a joke when looking at the sheer volume of losing that has and continues through today! It is also a joke that the trades are in any way a democratic institution. Only the Teamsters (being part of the trades) have an international where members can vote on their leaders. They did and elected an insurgent – Brother O’Brien. His predecessor was neck deep in the alliances. This upcoming chapter for the Teamsters may be very interesting!   

Georgine and the “good ole boys” gutted activist organizing and purged most local organizers or promoted them up the ladder to shut them down.

Since the Labor College trained all of organized labor back then, the trades began to form their own version of organizing mostly in-house. Some trades, like the Electricians, still had an edge to the organizing training until the Hill era began in 2001. However, most trades used the title of organizer for political reasons and did little field organizing. For example: few understand that bottom-up organizing in the trades is a loser far more times than not. The primary reason for that is that the trades are highly transient, which makes campaigns like bottom-up highly ineffective unless you have veteran field organizers. Most of them were being moved up and out by design. Also, the BRT went to work on the make up of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) right from the start. Their list of wins from 1971 through 2017 is, by any standard, impressive. That the trades did little more than go through the motions of fighting BRT legislation was very helpful to the BRT’s successful strategy.

In comparison, an organizer like Brother Smalls has a FIXED target to organize – still not easy what-so-ever but doable. Manufacturing, industrial, service, mines, docks, etc. are examples of fixed organizing targets. Brother Smalls’ new union will face significant hurdles in getting a first contract. However, our not so new Labor-Secretary will provide a level playing field at the NLRB as best as he can – something labor has not had in decades! In the trades, what looks like a fixed target such as fabrication is diluted because they may also be the installer and/or erector. Gums up the voting unit at the NLRB. Advantage management.

Georgine retired as President from the Building Trades in 2000 and was forced to retire as CEO of ULLICO in 2003 because of a stock scandal where millions had to be repaid back to ULLICO.

The trades went from having huge market share and protecting middle class values to being management’s minions – having little power past beating up their own members, sometimes literally.

Surely the trades can’t get any weaker.

From approximately 2000 through today our market share continues to decline in the trades. The management side of the alliances holds all the cards, and our IPs are management’s minions. Our IPs know it. Maybe they think they are fooling R & F members – NOT!

Thanks to the trades’ senior leaders, the trades have become business unions. We are, in fact, a temp agency. Very skilled temp agency – but dictated to by the alliance!

The trades have transitioned from selling/marketing to recruiting to facilitating bodies for management’s needs. IT IS ABOUT HOURS for the senior IPs and basically that’s it.

The Value on Display model of skills have become a cancer. Having pride in your skills is always good. Being an arrogant a*^hole about being god’s gift to construction, is quite a different story. Little wonder in this age of workers interested in unions the trades have few takers.

The trades WILL NOT train organizers and market reps by design. Any organizer/market rep who has attended a Labor Rising class knows they are NOT being trained to win. An organizer like Brother Chris Smalls can wreak havoc and win but must fully understand how to bring pressure to bear on the wallets of management and NOT be impeded when seeking fair workers’ rights. That is fulfilling the true definition of a being a labor movement!

Our IPs have been told by the alliance management members that credible labor activism, militancy, civil disobedience, strikes, boycotts WILL NOT be tolerated on their respective jobs– case closed!

So, the trades do blitzes, bannering, inflatable rats, ineffective bottom-up, VOD and the lot – all the while getting their asses kicked!

I know I promised Part 3 of solutions in this blog – however we wanted to provide some cliff notes in context before presenting Part 3 for how the Rank & File can take back control of its leaders and leave an imprint on management going forward.

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising