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Chronic Losing Record of the Building Trades Hits Record Low in 2018 –

Union membership in the US hit a record low in 2018:                                                       

“Just 6.4 percent of private-sector workers belonged to a union last year (a slightly higher figure, 7.2 percent, were represented by unions but were not officially members.) Real estate firms, utilities and construction industry players saw drops in the rate of unionization.”

Perhaps one might look at the environment for the chronic losing numbers which are now 4 decades old. What one would find is NOT anything that would lead to the Trades chronic losing ways:

  • Strong and record amounts of construction dollars being spent for nearly a decade
  • Worker shortages in many industries, with construction high on that list
  • A demand for a well-trained work force to hire
  • The cost of union labor, which is lower than in the early 70’s – adjusted
  • Polls showing that workers generally support unions and are growing active

This is a Rock Star organizing environment and has been for nearly a decade. Great leaders don’t ever want to hear the whining and blaming of anyone but themselves. They take responsibility for their organizations’ overall goal and even its personality! Great leaders wouldn’t blame the Republicans, politics or NLRB for controlling their game plan. Try to imagine our Founders even thinking that way!

The Trades are a sub .500 team and yet talk like they are Super-Bowl bound year after year. More of the trades’ hands that are heavily skilled journeypersons are working for the non-unions, which have out-strategized the Trades’ International Presidents year after year.

A great leader admits that the incomplete tools they have used (Value on Display), along with a complete lack of a well-rounded strategy, have NOT worked for decades! For any top-line leader who measures real and hard numbers this is a no brainer. But not in the Trades x 14 Internationals! Breslin and the other pseudo coaches (Director of Organizers/market “experts”) from the respective trades have relied on plays and NOT a play book. They rely on a single phase of market development to win market share.

It is the tool of selling value and skills per a business plan (Value on Display). IT IS NOT ORGANIZING! It is a very limited part of an overall play book; without any greater strategy, it is like just using running plays between the tackles on offense. Recruitment is also a narrowly-crafted tool. It is all about finding bodies & giving away books for the temp agency formerly known as the free and independent trade MOVEMENT! It is also failing as a tool with retention rates of union workers at or below a 1:1 ratio – NET, throughout the trades. We are losing more skilled workers than we are training. Translation is we are training the non-union!

The BT will not train Organizers with skills needed to win. Why? Because if Organizers are properly trained to dig into their respective markets in depth, they will see the inner working of relationships between unions and management and the level of capitulation for hours to management. Labor Rising knows this first hand because the approximately 91 Organizers that have done the research have either quit, been fired or moved along to other positions by the union! All have shared their research with us. The only complete blueprint for Organizing is done by the Labor Rising/Labor Combat group for the last decade.

It takes a local/DC approximately 200 – 400 hours of no-nonsense work to distill the market down to actionable strategies – so the trades can win! It is called building a Compression Zone and there can be a few to several Compression Zones in a union’s market. The Trades CAN’T win and raise market share unless and until they do the following AT A MINIMUM:

  • Organizing the market along the lines of clients, credit and social perception.
  • Removing Recognition and Secondary Activity as legal constraints with owners, end-users, developers, construction managers & general contractors. 95% plus of those agents/organizers/market reps reading this bullet point have next to zero idea of what this means – tragic!
  • Putting hard pressure on the “money,” such as owners, developers, construction managers and others who direct and control the hiring of non/anti-union subs. It is usually a complete waste of time organizing the sub, there are a few exceptions to this. The trades need to organize a MARKET, not a company – absolutely can be done in this day as it was done in our Founders’ days. The tools and tactics are different today – BUT not the strategy of controlling the workers and by IMPOSING a CBA on the non/anti-union contractors, and those that hire them. Especially those that hire them.
  • Teaching real and hard-core use of SIC/NAICS codes and how to use them in an entire market.
  • Mandating the training of the technology of Excel, Cloud, Sharing, mass meeting and many other aspects of technology germane to organizing. Hundreds of “organizers” show up for Labor Rising classes with laptops that are old and not even kind of current, much less know how to use even basic applications. How in the hell do we expect to win? It is like showing up at a modern football game in a leather helmet!
  • Teaching our organizers how to control/severely impede the non-union hiring. #1 item unions can teach and will NOT! With the application process on nearly all non/anti-unions websites – why isn’t this priority number 1?
  • Cyber organizing – taking “old school” of bottom up into the 21st century. It can be adopted for worker outreach and yes, even recruitment. But many current organizers/market reps are hard pressed to do this because they lack understanding of technology.
  • Putting aside the limited playbook of Value on Display and the old worn and failed strategies now used! Can’t win without understanding opposition research, understanding real and comprehensive credit reports and how to read them, understanding basic business math, such as Workers Comp, cash flow, financing and more.
  • Maximizing use of structured social media, of which next to zero is in play in 2019 — unbelievable! We need a structured playbook of plays for promoting our union contractors and supported with social signals from our membership; apps to take on politics and link the entire membership to an International-wide communications platform for raw and real power. The lack of a complete game plan of contemporary use of social media in 2019 and beyond is astounding.  

Why the differences in what BLS reports as membership numbers and what is reported by our Internationals? It is all in how and WHO is counted. The BLS has historically been the trusted source, it still is. What has changed is the categories the Internationals have included in total membership numbers. Categories such as honorary, retired, early retired, agency fee payers, superannuated member, 40-year member, life member, disabled member, exempt, affiliate member, dropped member and contractor member to name actual categories on the various Internationals’ LM filing.

These categories infer that these are active members with tools in the field – they are not. So, for example, the Carpenters list 26,000 honorary members and the Ironworkers list 22,000 honorary members to infer that when they cite numbers, they and other BT organizations look bigger than they are with active field members at work!

Here is the link to the DOL search form:  

Put the File # of your International in the File box at the top of the form & hit search.

UA File # 000-111, IW File # 000-052, IBEW File # 000-116, SMART File # 000-073, OE File #  000-159, Laborers File # 000-131, Roofers File # 000-135, OPCMIA File # 000-132, BAC File # 000-034 , IUPAT File # 000-035, Boilermakers File # 000-074, Elevator File # 000-197, Insulators File # 000-090, Carpenters File # 000-085, UTU merged with Sheetmetal 2012 #000-314 approximately 60/65,000 approximately members in 2012.

What is also sad is that at any given point as many as 20% of active members are working non-union as they carry an active Book in their boot. It would be like a Super-Bowl quarter back playing for another team for a few games during the season. Labor Rising has listened carefully to the approximately 700 organizers/agents whom we have trained, which have always and repeatedly said that when they are out organizing, recruiting, blitzing they encounter member after member working non-union. What they also do is check Health & Welfare eligibility. Many find that otherwise dues paying members are out of hours – where do you think they are working?

So, the Building Trades keep losing and capitulating to management. An example of this unfortunately happened during the week of February 19th, 2019. The Ironworkers International took over a New York City local. From the reports – it was mostly because the local would not cross a picket line for arguably one of the worst developers in the city!

The Value on Display failed strategy and trend continues with BT Internationals shoving bad contracts with reduced pay and benefits down the throats of Locals/District Councils.    

The numbers over time show that a trade picks up hours in the short term and loses more market share in the intermediate and long term. Numbers can be measured, just not by our Internationals!

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising/Labor Combat

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