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Labor Day – Organizing Part 6 – Recognition and Secondary Activities in the U.S. –

Not a day for those in the trades to continue to play victim – victims who blame laws, rich people and politicians for the demise of labor power. Our Founders dealt with the exact same entities on steroids! Plus, blacklisting, physical threats and, for many, death itself – hence Labor Day or May Day! (Google the history of the 2). Not for those with bad ass shirts and little else. Not for posts you see today – that you should thank labor for all they have done because what have any of us alive today in the trades done to advance the plight of workers? Zip! All the LABOR GIANTS are dead, and with them the LABOR MOVEMENT they built along with the middle class! Labor Day in the trades is to recognize what “has been” won. Not to pat ourselves on the back for losing most of what has been fought for decades ago.

Consider Brother Sanders – if elected, the very best he can do is his version of the 1935 Wagner Act, which to be clear would be excellent news. However, the trades would be dead in the water since it has been decades since we knew how to effectively organize. The Trades would have to dig back into history to understand what a Labor Movement is and how to build it in the 21st century. Key to that reality is the “trust” of workers, and the trades have long abandoned being shoulder to shoulder with workers in the field, be it union or not. Recruiting IS NOT organizing and building trust in the fight for social justice. Since the mid 70’s to the present day, the proliferation of specialty agreements with every type of give backs, along with nearly all decisions going management’s way, have undermined the trust needed to effectively organize. Not to mention a void of trained organizers. North American non-union workers see unions as a plus again and want the fight necessary to achieve union status – yet our 14 IPs are clueless as to how to capture that spark! Sanders’ Wagner Act will be well received and acted upon by the rest of labor should it come to pass.

For 5 parts of this organizing series (links below) we have dealt with market development. Today it is appropriate to discuss the laws of Recognition and Secondary Activities as used in the U.S. Without knowing this and adapting to the change needed, organizing, or even market development is close to useless!

Trust will come “IF” we are dedicated to workers’ issues and can show we in the trades can WIN!

While we are deciding to again be the trusted partner of workers, we need to gain knowledge of the existing framework of laws which have derailed most organizers. Derailed because when you attend training designed to help you to avoid legal landmines in Recognition and Secondary activities, you are not trained completely so you stay in the maze. This keeps you out of the pinch point, and yes, it is by design. Should an organizer understand the complete laws regarding Recognition and Secondary activities they would advance the trades. However, the senior leaders would have a lot of explaining to do about labor/management collaboration or rather capitulation! The simple fact is ¾ of all attendees at Labor Rising’s training, plus all the organizers I have met through the years, don’t know the underlying laws of Recognition and Secondary Activities.  

Organizer after organizer describe being stuck in a maze. You are! As organizers and market reps you have NOT been trained to know the labor laws in practical ways that keep you in the maze.   

Reverse engineer the last few decades, and it is as plain as day. The correlations are very high. In our desire to be professionals and collaborate with management entities per Value on Display, those entities have drawn us in close and extracted every kind of information needed to defeat the trades. Keep your enemies close! And we are all too willing to educate and explain our value to management anytime and anywhere – to our own demise. Labor/management meetings of every kind have been used to limit the trades legally – to extract information and weaken the trades from trying to pursue concerted activities later. YOU ARE IN THE MAZE!

What you’ll find down to a gnat’s ass is that just because we want to collaborate, that in no way binds management entities to do the same. No number in any area of the trades’ market share in the past few decades can dispute this statement. Let’s see:

  1. NLRB – National Labor Relations Board. If the trades are put and kept in this endless loop of BS, then management has only to perpetuate it. The money they spend on labor lawyers is no more than a cost of doing business. The notion that we are “costing them money” is just not borne out. The word that puts the NLRB in play is RECOGNITION! Recognition to the trades comes in 2 primary forms, bottom-up and all types of top-down. At the end of the legal day – both types are asking for a CBA – Collective Bargaining Agreement. Management has very little trouble in connecting our actions to Recognition if they so desire in front of the NLRB.


Most of our Organizers/Market Reps think that because they discuss work, training, safety and the value the trades can bring to the non-union contractor, they do NOT fall under the definition of Recognition per the NLRB. They are always wrong when they are enjoined and are spending members’ money defending something that cannot usually be defended. Coercion would be the charge if the non-union wants to press their rights at the NLRB. And they WILL lie when needed to facilitate a NLRB charge. Then it becomes a “credibility determination” that will go to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) within the NLRB framework. What happens there is a blog all by itself. However, since most Organizers/Market Reps reading this have never been in this situation. I will tread on the trust Labor Rising has established to date and tell you – you will be a loser over 90% of the time. And forget the ability to appeal. 1st Amendment rights are waived once Recognition is in play. You forfeit that right. Big deal, right? And, you can avoid all of it if correctly trained to avoid tripping Recognition in the first place. But we are NOT by design & you must thoroughly understand it; and be willing to change who and when we talk to management entities and those they SERVE – secondary entities!


  1. Secondary Activities as defined in Section 8b4 under the NLRB. The average well-informed member/officer reading this can Google this section of the act. You will then know more than 90% of the Organizers/Market Reps we have worked with. They are taught basic labor law, minus the key points and persuasive speaking, in classes they attend, which is exactly why we are getting our butts kicked and continue to be stuck in a maze. What Organizers/Market Reps are taught in the field is that they can be effectively sued if we in the trades bring real and actionable pressure directly on customers of end-users, end-users, developers, CM & GC’s. Secondary targets!


8b4 is only actionable, which means we in the trades can only be sued “IF” RECOGNITION is established by the non-union world of construction. Because of the endless and continuous meetings that we have with all the construction players, RECOGNITION is almost always demonstrated should management play the NLRB card. So, re-think Labor-Management outside of our own union contractors, including tripartite style meetings with respective industries to “UNDERSTAND” their needs and other forms of meetings. The ENDLESS loop of meetings we have, have placed ourselves in harms way because the other side doesn’t want to collaborate with us, they want to limit us legally and economically. We will discuss how to defeat this endless loop in upcoming Blogs.


  1. Put your non-union hat on. As a non-union contractor would you rather have meetings with the trades under the guise of collaboration or would you prefer concerted activities on your doorstep? The non/anti-union has systematically taught this to the mid- and upper-level contractors since 2004. The anti-union lawyers hold seminars all over the place. Suggestion for Brother IPs and senior leaders: go to one and see what they promulgate. Also, the non-union links the union to Recognition by learning what type of Organizer/Market Rep they are dealing with. When we sit down with any non-union entity, we by definition are seeking Recognition. We want a relationship (aka recognition), perhaps voluntary, but recognition none-the-less. Management gets an inside look at our training and safety programs as a bonus – a very big bonus! For the price of a safety award for Best Job or Foremen Award from CURT, for example, we are trading away our careers, pensions and future generations of Building Trades jobs on the cheap.


  1. Being played – the non-union increasingly only hires the trades for 3 things: time sensitive jobs, high density of skills needed on the job, and to fix the non-union screw ups and punch list items. Why the trades are fixing the non-union jobs’ screws up and then being shown the door is just plain stupid. We are way past the cliché of let’s show the bad actor contractors how good we are. We don’t even have the juice to secure a job from the non-union company that needed us to fix the problems. Let that job go and sustain the liquidated damages and loss of revenue due to the job not being done on time!


We are also being played by detailing what the tasks to do future jobs looks like in detail. On most big-time jobs our foremen write detailed accounts about every facet of the job broken down to specific tasks. Job site analysts under the BS of safety. More and more around the country anti-union construction managers are being used on jobs that were historically done by end -users and developers that previously used unions.

All facts if we just look at them without filters and ego.

Each new senior leader thinks they can be persuasive with the “junk yard dogs” of the construction world! ALL have been wrong and the non-union now controls 88% of the work.

We are seeing a systematic transfer of building trades journeypersons and union contractors thru hard core recruitment to the non-union. Retention of our union workers is in the red zone even with record amounts of construction. We are training the non-union and every number demonstrates this. There are more union trained workers in the non-union than in the union.

As part of an overall integrated strategy, Labor Rising/Labor Combat instructs on how to defeat being played in this endless maze and win! Once you understand this reality and also the work needed to analyze the market – then and only then can the trades formulate a strategy to win in the Compression Zone.

So, step one in a strategy is to stop talking to everyone about everything and distill the construction world market down to identify who we talk to and why. This is not getting a list and calling 20 non-union contractors to schedule meetings with 5 of them each week. That overused and nearly 2-decades old “strategy” is being used against us to beat us – get it!?!

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising/Labor Combat

Part 1 –!AmKOi71GyLcg11WuG__2UPghknwB?e=rrJRB0

Part 2 –!AmKOi71GyLcg11NSofpusK8gPk2c?e=EIb1Qo

Part 3 –!AmKOi71GyLcg12UGmL4ILBxxEbYq?e=YlrblT

Part 4 –!AmKOi71GyLcg12a2PO8NqH2pnhcU?e=aqLjDT

Part 5 –!AmKOi71GyLcg13XA1pzP4ovULQ3e?e=fVhm4v

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