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Brother Chris Smalls – Organizer for Amazon Labor Union  

What a contrast to the Building Trades’ 60 year losing streak of market share.

Brother Smalls is an organizer who was left to act on his passion and learned how to channel it. He witnessed and acted on an injustice to fellow workers consistent with what the Founder of the trades witnessed. He took concerted action undeterred by outside voices!

Labor Rising has trained hundreds of Chris Smalls in the trades over the last decade. Hundreds – all of whom displayed passion and commitment to similar values and an understanding of a greater good. LR has written 248 blogs in 10 years, and in 27 of them we have addressed the ability of the trades’ organizers.

It is not the organizers of the trades that lose – it is the 14 International Presidents’ constraints of organizers, and even market development, which are at the core of 60 years of losing market share in the trades!

The CEOs of mega businesses, intertwined with the Building Trades’ IPs in so-called Labor/Management alliances, which have ALWAYS (and by design) been a roadblock to organizing militancy, worker justice and equity for its members since the early 70’s.

In 1979 JC Turner, General President of the Operators, penned a White Paper called “The Business Roundtable and American Labor”. Much of the information in that White Paper was taken from a “special report” produced in 1979 by Georgine as President of the Building Trades Department. Link to JC Turner White Paper:!AmKOi71GyLcgqyOmg3JjY_OKGTEi?e=JoMlBQ

Labor Rising has linked this White Paper numerous times in our blogs – it does a good job of detailing what the CEOs of the Business Roundtable et al were doing to eliminate the trades.

What the White Paper, or the “special report” of 1979, does NOT do is to delve into what the International Presidents & President of the Building Trades did while the Business Roundtable was strategizing the trades’ demise. This would take decades to uncover by authors and historians.

One of the best written works describing the Building Trades’ actions in the early 70’s is titled: Continental Crucible – 2nd edition copyright 2015 by Richard Roman & Velasco Arregui, specifically about NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) throughout North America. For those who want to understand what was happening in the three NAFTA countries by government(s), business, and labor – this is a great read. It also has contributing content from authoritative authors.

Let’s step back into the late 60’s and see how the actions of the then senior leaders of the Building Trades have continued right through today. And why our organizers and market reps lose so much today.

The late 60’s saw a very aggressive and militant BT. The combined trades have huge market share and a solid piece of the business pie contributing to the steady growth of the middle class. The Building Trades’ influence could impact both political & business leader’s decisions at that time.

Those who believe the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 and the Landrum-Griffin Act of 1959, both designed to slow the growth of unions, were the cause for union losses would be wrong – dead wrong.

A little history:  Big business began to enact a plan in the late 60’s for “total annihilation” of organized labor in part because the T/H & LG Acts did not slow unions’ growth. And the Building Trades were ground zero in that plan. Georgine spoke to a “terrible conspiracy” that would be executed by the Business Roundtable – Georgine’s words in 1972.  

Georgine was elected in 1971 to become the Secretary-Treasurer of the Building Trades. By 1972 he spoke to the “terrible conspiracy” of big business CEOs coordinating and orchestrating attacks via the newly formed Business Roundtable (BRT) against the Building Trades. The Labor Law Study Group & Construction Users Anti-inflation Roundtable merge, with The March Group merging one year later. The mission of these three groups was to destroy organized labor with an emphasis on the Building Trades. Big business was off to a good start with a win at the NLRB allowing double breasting in 1971. By 1974 Georgine was the President of the Building Trades.

From Georgine’s blistering comments of 1972 until his “special report” released in 1979, Georgine and the IPs were, for all intents and purposes, silent regarding the aggressive and destructive practices of the BRT during this time period! Even after the “special report” was released in 1979, Georgine and the IPs of the construction unions continued their sharp retreat in battling the BRT and fighting for workers’ rights.  

Total and complete capitulation by the IPs of the construction unions and Georgine was complete by 1982, as is captured in notes from numerous meetings with the alliance members’ CEOs and their companies.

Understand that the IPs and Georgine took a bullet-proof market share in the early 70’s, won on the backs of activists through civil disobedience and construction union militancy, and ran it into the ground by 1982.

So specifically, what the hell were the International Presidents and Georgine doing during those 7 years?

BUILDING ALLIANCES with the very CEOs who want our destruction!

Nearly every specialty agreement and Project Labor Agreement (PLA) made with end-users started in the early 70’s under these labor/management agreements – ALLIANCES – which continue uninterrupted today.  

Example: The National Maintenance Agreement Policy Committee. (NMAPC) was started in 1971. The NMAPC was actually the National Erectors Association (NEA) formed in 1969. The biggest steel erectors and fabricators hated the Ironworkers and wanted to destroy them as best they could. Back then the trades could not be defeated, so better for the top CEO’s to switch tactics by forming alliances. Research by the management groups prior to the BRT indicated that senior leaders of the trades & their pawn Georgine were coasting on the gains made by organizing through the 60’s. Management knew the trades had WEAK leaders who could be worked in many ways.

THEY DID THEIR HOMEWORK! And the trades didn’t disappoint.

It was the Iron Workers and the Boilermakers that joined in alliances in 1971. In 1972 five more trades joined: OE, UA, IUPAT, Laborers & Carpenters. Following them over the next few years were the BAC, Masons, SMW, Teamsters & Insulators, with Electricians and Roofers joining last around 1980.  

Hence by 1982 the BRT had run the table of trades, and all joined the NMAPC et al! 

From the beginning of the alliances through today the trades have gotten their collective heads kicked in. In every measurable way the Specialty Agreements have favored management rights. Concessions and capitulations are the order of the day for our International Presidents and the President of the Building Trades. We can use the NMAPC’s own Book of Decisions as a guide as to how impotent the trades have been over the last few decades. Management has won or prevailed in over 90% of all decisions regarding labor/management.

The notion that our IPs are any type of “labor leaders” is a joke when looking at the sheer volume of losing that has and continues through today! It is also a joke that the trades are in any way a democratic institution. Only the Teamsters (being part of the trades) have an international where members can vote on their leaders. They did and elected an insurgent – Brother O’Brien. His predecessor was neck deep in the alliances. This upcoming chapter for the Teamsters may be very interesting!   

Georgine and the “good ole boys” gutted activist organizing and purged most local organizers or promoted them up the ladder to shut them down.

Since the Labor College trained all of organized labor back then, the trades began to form their own version of organizing mostly in-house. Some trades, like the Electricians, still had an edge to the organizing training until the Hill era began in 2001. However, most trades used the title of organizer for political reasons and did little field organizing. For example: few understand that bottom-up organizing in the trades is a loser far more times than not. The primary reason for that is that the trades are highly transient, which makes campaigns like bottom-up highly ineffective unless you have veteran field organizers. Most of them were being moved up and out by design. Also, the BRT went to work on the make up of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) right from the start. Their list of wins from 1971 through 2017 is, by any standard, impressive. That the trades did little more than go through the motions of fighting BRT legislation was very helpful to the BRT’s successful strategy.

In comparison, an organizer like Brother Smalls has a FIXED target to organize – still not easy what-so-ever but doable. Manufacturing, industrial, service, mines, docks, etc. are examples of fixed organizing targets. Brother Smalls’ new union will face significant hurdles in getting a first contract. However, our not so new Labor-Secretary will provide a level playing field at the NLRB as best as he can – something labor has not had in decades! In the trades, what looks like a fixed target such as fabrication is diluted because they may also be the installer and/or erector. Gums up the voting unit at the NLRB. Advantage management.

Georgine retired as President from the Building Trades in 2000 and was forced to retire as CEO of ULLICO in 2003 because of a stock scandal where millions had to be repaid back to ULLICO.

The trades went from having huge market share and protecting middle class values to being management’s minions – having little power past beating up their own members, sometimes literally.

Surely the trades can’t get any weaker.

From approximately 2000 through today our market share continues to decline in the trades. The management side of the alliances holds all the cards, and our IPs are management’s minions. Our IPs know it. Maybe they think they are fooling R & F members – NOT!

Thanks to the trades’ senior leaders, the trades have become business unions. We are, in fact, a temp agency. Very skilled temp agency – but dictated to by the alliance!

The trades have transitioned from selling/marketing to recruiting to facilitating bodies for management’s needs. IT IS ABOUT HOURS for the senior IPs and basically that’s it.

The Value on Display model of skills have become a cancer. Having pride in your skills is always good. Being an arrogant a*^hole about being god’s gift to construction, is quite a different story. Little wonder in this age of workers interested in unions the trades have few takers.

The trades WILL NOT train organizers and market reps by design. Any organizer/market rep who has attended a Labor Rising class knows they are NOT being trained to win. An organizer like Brother Chris Smalls can wreak havoc and win but must fully understand how to bring pressure to bear on the wallets of management and NOT be impeded when seeking fair workers’ rights. That is fulfilling the true definition of a being a labor movement!

Our IPs have been told by the alliance management members that credible labor activism, militancy, civil disobedience, strikes, boycotts WILL NOT be tolerated on their respective jobs– case closed!

So, the trades do blitzes, bannering, inflatable rats, ineffective bottom-up, VOD and the lot – all the while getting their asses kicked!

I know I promised Part 3 of solutions in this blog – however we wanted to provide some cliff notes in context before presenting Part 3 for how the Rank & File can take back control of its leaders and leave an imprint on management going forward.

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising

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