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The UA International President Putting It on The Line –

The current UA IP was elected in August of 2016.

He stands out from a very weak class of new IPs of his generation. An exception would be the IP of the IUEC – he seized the reigns to protect the interest of the Rank & File for all the right reasons.

Why is the UA IP different? Because he is “doing something” to organize! By November, UA organizers and agents hit area after area with blitzes. As many as 70 to 90 blitzers in some cases hit areas. Heavy emphasis in letting the non-union know that the UA is still around. Major focus on recruiting and bottom-up campaigns! Typically, the UA has had a blitz or more going on continuously since then.

While the other IPs continue to talk organizing, they do not commit their organizations for fear of the big contractors. The UA IP has taken to the streets, committing tens of millions of dollars and thousands of organizing hours in concentrated doses. However, understand that even the UA is hedging in their choice of campaigns in fear of the big constructors and those end-users/developers/construction managers that hire them – just like the rest of the Building Trades! Value on Display – what a demonstrated loser for decades in every environment. It casts a big shadow and yet, has always been a loser!

Labor Rising has worked with approximately 75 UA locals in both the U.S. and Canada, along with 6 District Councils. We keep close contact with many of those organizers and help scores of them now.

Labor Rising has been going to school on the progress at the 3-year mark.

Here is what LR has learned firsthand from those UA field organizers directly involved, along with the measurable real time outcomes!

  • At the 3-year mark, the UA has added approximately 6/10 of 1% of new members via recruiting.

However, field organizers have run into huge numbers of current and ex-UA members. The consensus number they put it at is 20%+ which are working anti/non-union at any given time. The numbers must be counted with this in mind. If a member is paying dues, but consistently working non-union, then what is the actual “NET” number. Labor Rising always has unions we work with run Health & Welfare eligibility numbers to have a clearer picture of who working enough hours and therefore a current union member vs. just paying dues.

Also, it should be remembered that construction spending, especially for the UA, is in its 4th record or near record spending levels. Any downturn in the market, signs of inflation or increase in interest rates will very likely put the brakes on construction spending.

  • Retention – the UA is at a 1:1 ratio. Why? Because like most of the trades, members 50 years and older, which is approximately 50% of ALL members, are facing retirement and/or being reverse recruited and are vulnerable to a downturn in construction work. Think of that staggering number!

UA field organizer after field organizer reported many UA members staying with the non-union. Those UA members bring leadership, skills, client knowledge and connections with current members.  

Blitzing track record is clear, it is not sustainable. It trains the non-union in skills to then take back to the non-union when they choose. It puts the union on front street and allows the anti/non-union contractors to further inoculate those non-union workers who are left and those who join the non-union. We know this because the non-union has 88% of TOTAL market share.

  • Blitzes and the follow up of blitzing – when scores of blitzers descend on an area and develop actionable info – who handles this huge volume of info? From the intel LR has, the current UA organizers in each area, must follow up on this. Even a crack local/district council team is going to have huge issues with what is subjective info which may be given to them – even when done by organizers acting in good faith.
  • Consistency – it is what senior leadership should be looking for in this ongoing drive. A rise of 6/10 of 1% in membership gains vs. the sheer numbers of current and ex-UA members working non-union, when work is very good, is not a sign of consistency. Add in members 50 years and older making up more than 50% of all current members, and the question becomes, “Can recruitment dig the UA and other trades out of a hole?”

If the UA senior leader is figuring this out, then this is the first committed campaign to figure it out in decades. The second question then becomes, “Does senior leadership move on if blitzing/recruitment/bottom-up does not produce the numbers needed?”

  • Bottom-up – the UA is hitting hard on bottom-up. Great! However, the track record for bottom-ups is terrible for the trades, and in a Trump era of NLRB, it is getting measurably worse. Bottom-up moves incredibly slow. The current top BU campaigns have faltered to date, this can be expected, time consuming, money pits and frustrating. BU generally needs many months and years to have a chance at being effective in campaigns of 50 workers or more. The issue becomes, how long does the senior leadership keep working toward winning a campaign, while witnessing failures on the losing side. Add to that the few remaining good CBAs merging and/or decertifying?
  • Speaking of consistency, as the UA moves into the 3rd thru 5th year, numbers will speak for themselves. For 3 decades the senior leadership of the respective Building Trades have ignored the losing ways of Value on Display!

The UA is reaching back in using tactics, like bottom-up, that the non-union is very good at defeating. Does the UA have a different way at using recruitment and bottom-up along with top-down?

ALL have been huge losers. As those members 50 years and older get closer to retirement, reverse-recruitment and being more vulnerable to down turns in construction, will the UA react in a timely manner? Right now, the UA is the only organizing game in town. Labor Rising is NOT a hater – we hope they kick ass; but, being a betting man, the odds are high that the current tactics the UA are deploying will fail. I hope Labor Rising is wrong however, LR sincerely hopes that the UA will sense that this version of raising market share is not sustainable and consistent and MOVE!

  • Maybe, just maybe, then it will be time for the UA to lead the charge in going after the money by imposing a Collective Bargaining Agreement on those companies and contractors, and when needed, putting anti-union contractors “out of business”. Grab the wallets of those big companies and be prepared to battle for the hearts of workers. Will Value on Display be abandoned in favor of the trades, perhaps led by the UA working on behalf of workers again. Will the UA teach themselves and the other trades to keep their respective mouths shut and fire for effect and quit playing with the small potato subs and minor players?

And the UA is in the right place for doing just that. The energy sector is poised for huge mergers and many big bankruptcies as the industry restructures itself in the next few years.

What a key time to put the UA stamp on that outcome – should they choose to! The clock is running!

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising/Labor Combat

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