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Bringing a Knife to a Gunfight –

The trades’ decades old “strategy” of Value on Display, concessionary wages & benefits, PLA’s, and every type of appeasement to construction management have had the net effect of bringing a pocketknife to the fight to represent union workers & raise market share!

In the era of industrial level modularization, the trades will face a machine gun of change by the end of this decade. The senior trades’ leaders appear to be clueless on what is effective, as these appeasements to management will be meaningless in this era.

The areas of construction that will be modularized first are healthcare, senior housing, low-income housing, commercial office building to 30 floors, multi-floor residential condos to 30 floors, student housing, hotels and a few other types of buildings that will be constructed on an industrial level of modularization before the end of this decade.

All locals and DC’s that build these structures are going to lose hours to a huge degree as these sectors become mainstream modularized. Zero amounts of would of, could of and should of will change this from happening. Keep in mind that industrial and power, as well as other industries, will also increasingly use modularization and miniaturization in the same time period with the same goal of eliminating field hours and skills needed to complete a project or man an outage.

Labor Rising has a set of strategies, that are continually fine-tuned in measurable ways with the help of expert (winning organizers & agents), to deal with change in construction before there is another Valentine’s Day massacre of hours and jobs – this time in union construction!

3 main areas are top of the list to change this trajectory:

#1 – Carpenters. For decades the trades have tried in vain to stem the tide of carpenters’ aggressive jurisdictional attacks.

For example, the carpenters are NOT a Building Trades affiliate. In theory the carpenters should have zero input at any level in the trades. And yet – they do. Many BT executives have let them remain in various councils around North America. Those leaders have felt strongly, and in good faith, that brotherhood is paramount to maintaining a strong united front when dealing with construction management. Many councils feel they have been successful at both the state and local levels. The thinking has been to keep them close and “work” with them – and yet:

  • Every measurable activity shows that the carpenters are worse today, especially in jurisdiction – NET – than in the past, if that is even possible! Carpenters are looking to survive in the modularized era, and they have zero respect for union workers, theirs, or anyone else’s – so snap out of it trades! The thinking above WILL NOT be of value to anyone other than the carpenters and management going forward! Case-closed.
  • LM’s paint a picture that they may use money earned in areas they are in to attack those areas they are not in or want to encroach upon.
  • The carpenters build relationships with the councils that include them, only to then use those relationships to their singular advantage.
  • Of course, management wants the rest of the trades to “work with the carpenters” and them – it is to both of their advantages. As of today, the carpenters CANNOT do the rest of all the trades’ work on the above sectors. This window will close by end of decade. NOW is the time to skillfully instruct management that the rest of the affiliated trades can do the carpenters’ work and declare the carpenters’ jurisdiction vacant once and for all. Force construction management into a decision about who they want doing their jobs going forward. No bluffs, no whining, be responsible for a decision and know our Founders (especially the Carpenters Founder) have to be rolling over in their graves!
  • Get rid of the carpenters on all affiliated union pensions. The investment managers may have to be bullied (of course, within fiduciary considerations) if necessary to use only affiliated trades on union only construction. They will lose the carpenters’ investments; however, they may gain increased investments from the rest of the trades.
  • Go after all carpenters’ contractors that do ANY work outside of the carpenters’ jurisdiction. Electricians and roofers are top of the list with a few other trades joining in that mix. When we say “go after” we mean organize via 8f or 9a and win the workers and the WORK of the contractor. Do not just take your jurisdiction back – attack them across the board and do ALL the work of the carpenter contractor you win. Scores of organizing drives will spread the carpenters out thin. Do it! Also, the heretofore carpenter contractors and carpenter R&F will need to become signatory affiliates to stay in business. This is not theory – do the above and it will happen. As an example, do the scaffolding within the affiliated trades. We are trained and/or can be. The big and small scaffold companies will need to sign with the BT. Use this thinking for ALL of the carpenters’ work.
  • The carpenters are now in the cat bird seat regarding modularization, even if by happenstance. To keep the carpenters in BT councils at any level throughout North America is fool hearty given the stakes that are present! Can leadership please lead! And for those affiliated BT locals that signed with the carpenters – think St. Louis, for example – contempt is the only word we can think of that is safe to print (in Labor Rising’s humble opinion)! These locals occupy even a lower status than the carpenters themselves.
  • Both union and non-union contractors are going to lose huge amounts of hours relative to their market share in the modularized era. However, on the union side any substantial loss of hours will doom both the trade and their respective pensions. We cannot leave the trojan horse of the carpenters play both sides. Add in the double-breasted companies and the affiliated trades CANNOT have ANY carpenters in the house – ANY! Now is the time to fight or die. Breslin in reverse.

#2 solution will be laid out in the next blog and puts the above bullets on steroids.

The Carpenters have to go, literally. In the era of modularization, new-build field hours are going to be reduced by 60% as a starting point, with a realistic goal of 80% as it hits its stride by those investing in it. If it was any other disruptor other than Berkshire Hathaway, Labor Rising would take those numbers with a grain of salt and marginal credibility. Beating against modularization and miniaturization is suicide.

Not one BT council should have any carpenters affiliated with them whatsoever. Not on the exec board, not in committees, not on pre-jobs – nowhere.

With real leadership, all the above bullet points CAN BE accomplished in 6 months, save the organizing bullet. The by-laws of the trades are quite clear – so follow them! According to the by-laws the carpenters are OUT! The trades have a huge anchor around their collective necks – so lose it!  

Move leaders at all levels – move!

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising

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