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Bad Ass Trades Members Don’t Hide in a Foxhole –


This is for all the members who have every complaint in the world about their union and then never show up for a meeting, and when they do, don’t say a word!

Our Building Trades Constitutions are unique in that they can be manipulated if not properly attended to. Ultimately, the Rank & File are those charged with that responsibility. Some quick points to know: First – in the last 2 decades, most constitutions have had substantial revisions made to them that tilt the playing field in senior leadership’s direction. Convention delegates have rolled over time and again and spend more time worrying about their political pecking order, and where the hospitality suite is than the rules of order and the force/consequences of their actions on the R&F! Second – just because it is in the “constitution” doesn’t mean it is binding. Example: for many years, our constitutions prohibited criticisms of the senior leadership under a presumed penalty. Items in our constitutions which violate US and Canadian freedoms and law are null and void. The internationals have a tendency to change the constitution in a timely manner when Resolutions go their way, and get them printed quickly. However, when law or circumstances limits their authority over the R&F, Internationals have displayed a tendency to let otherwise illegal sections to remain in the Constitution until a Local or members go to court to get them changed and removed by order.

For those who don’t live in a foxhole, also know this: we call “must” and “must not” words of obligation. “Must” is the only word that imposes a legal obligation on your members to tell them something is mandatory. Also, “must not” are the only words you can use to say something is prohibited.

Nearly every jurisdiction has held that the word “shall” is confusing because it can also mean “may, will or must.” Legal reference books, like the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure no longer use the word “shall.” The Supreme Court ruled that when the word “shall” appear in statutes, it means “may.”

Bryan Garner, the legal writing scholar and editor of Black’s Law Dictionary wrote that “In most legal instruments, which our constitutions are, shall violates the presumption of consistency…which is why shall is among the most heavily litigated words in the English language.” So check your constitution for how it uses these words. The more the “shall” – the weaker the document. Even when “must” is used, find out “IF” it can be used in that situation and CONTEXT. Many advocate groups have already tested this and can be a great resource.

Next up is the mandated and preferred parliamentary procedures that the constitution of the International, District Council and Local Unions need to follow.

Those documents contain the Rules of Order for the respective bodies. Learn them. They are there to serve for the greater good of a MOVEMENT and NOT a BRAND “IF” the R&F climb out of their foxholes! Most constitutions, once they list their preferred Rules of Order, then defer to Roberts Rules of Order and usually state something like – current or newly revised edition.

Next up is understanding the Referendum Section of your constitution. This is the Trojan Horse for the R&F to lead initiatives of greater governance by changing the constitution fairly quickly.

Many memberships and Locals/DC’s are jettisoning old guard incumbents and they can be a force for change and leadership development which can unseat the “good ole boys” grip on the trades.

We are going to learn that the “door” that is the Constitution, swings both ways and these are just some of the items we will discuss.

Labor Rising has ramped down working with old guard leadership, “good ole boys”; and now generally only conducts training with Locals/District Councils with new leadership. We also work heavily with those we have trained over the last 4 years in advanced organizing. In addition to advanced training we now have had 38 organizers thru our version of Black Ops – sounds cool! We like it! This is a program for organizers, for winning against anti-union entities (plural) and conducting hard-core no-nonsense campaigns. Think of a Compression Zone(s) as a flock of ducks – anti-union are the ones in the back!

To repeat, a trend building in the trades is that many Locals and DC’s are putting in new R&F driven leadership – MOST EXCELLENT. Think this thru, and then connect it to the Referendum provisions of the constitutions. Consider not acting until a strategy and written plan with tactics is in place – no winging it!

Next Blogs will build on the above points and show practical applications to use in real time with various forms of leadership from the intimidators of membership to the true trade unionists!

Either we do this, or we continue down the path of becoming a temp agency for management and the Internationals as administrators – with next to zero rights because we are afraid. Translation – we get the leadership we deserve because of our actions, or lack thereof! Either a career in a free and democratic trade union; or a JOB for a temp agency where we shut up and do what you we are told! Your/our call!

“if you see a good fight – get in it” (NOW)

Danny L Caliendo
Labor Rising/Labor Combat

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