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Old, Stale & Pale –

Old stale and pale

The term many use for Building Trades leadership.

When the many are predominantly non-union workers under 40 years old, this should be a window into what they think about their decision in joining the trades.

With construction spending at record levels in back to back years and more predicted – this should be a “golden era” for the trades to rebuild strength and membership.

The term should be, has not become a reality. With both turnover and retention rates in the red zone for the Internationals.

Why – old, stale and pale!

When you read in the worker forums and viral unions, discussions among workers who in every way talk about the value a union brings – and want to see them in their lives; and yet fail to act on those beliefs, then something is amiss.

If you drill down on those conversations and ask those that will respond, about joining a trades union, their answers sound a familiar refrain.

Is it money? Is it jobs? Is it benefits? Is it safety & training?

Not if you are talking to them for any length of time, with a worker under 40. For them it is all about community and camaraderie!

Those predominantly under 40 are very socially conscious and want to belong to a group. Poll after poll indicates this.

Just listen to them and how they discuss the trades. They are not inclined at this time to join us – and often even with superior training and decent pay – leave once they do = turnover!

Not to be confused with recruitment by the non-union contractors, of quality tradespersons because of lack of market share and jobs.

The very reason the Building Trades first came into existence, is also why this generation would join.

They the non-union workers don’t see it –and we in the trades can’t sell this precious aspect of unionism. It is either there, or it is not. And to workers across the North American continent and especially in the US – IT IS NOT.

If you compare us to our sister unions in the CIO – the reality becomes even clearer. They are starting to grow and become very active in the streets and trenches. Many of those affiliates don’t pay anywhere near what the trades pay and what the benefits are. And yet they are growing – and we are suffering thru large turn-over numbers and falling prey to recruitment.

Old, Stale & Pale is also to a large degree about “trust” – when you drill down into those worker’s thoughts. And why they hesitate to join, is mostly about trust!

The “good ole boy” and “country club” comments long associated with trade unions is the perception of the non-union workers – which is their reality.

So while we are selling them pay, benefits and safety and training – they are thinking do I fit in with this group?

When ex-military don’t flock to us as they historically have – that alone should be a wakeup call. When women are 2-3% of the trades in this day and age – that should be a wakeup call. When minority groups have to be sought to join with outreach, instead of the trades being a viable path up and out of poverty – that should be a wakeup call.

The trades will tell you, and show you, all the programs and membership money they spend on these and other programs. And yet…

In record years of construction, we grow marginally, if that is even accurate.

With several new International Presidents in the trades in the last few years – an opportunity exists to build trust with a new generation of workers. What stands in the way are old and arcane customs and practices – along with huge amounts of politics with translate into pure confusion for workers from the non-union.

What confusion – ask them? Some trades at the local level are getting their stride in building trust. They speak honestly and CONSISTENTLY from one officer to another, and from one administration to another.

However, for the majority of trades, message and consistency of message, along with how that message is delivered is everything. The trades have an absolute void in using 21st century tools when messaging. A passive Facebook page and arcane website – doesn’t even begin to get the job done. It is like using a crescent wrench for all jobs! Just because a local paid big jack for a NEW website, doesn’t mean it is a capable tool.

Confusion on national agreements and where they fit in, is another huge issue.

Energy, passion, trust and social justice is at the core of growth for the trades. If this ship sails and we miss it – a new version of the trades will become reality, and that perception is growing!

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo
Labor Rising/Labor Combat

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