Labor Rising Logo
Call (630) 373-0774

Hey International Vice-Presidents – Time to Fall Out of Line –

Note: this blog may be disjointed to many and covers a huge amount of info in 1,500 words. Our blogs are for hard core organizers and activists’ members.

The future of the trades, by and large, rests with you. The General Executive Councils (GEC) of the respective trades have the power to change the trajectory of the 14 Internationals. Of course, those breaking with the IP’s will be banished off to Siberia (think Trump and how he handles disloyalty); however, you may have gotten yourself into this position by being a “YES” person over the decades in order to get where you are!

The GEC is “charged” with formulating organizing plans and policies – “charged”, mind you. So that being the case, why are we losing? A big reason for losing is that many (all?) Executive VPs spend a career working on how to get into the leadership hierarchy and then cementing where they fall in that hierarchy. That leaves next to zero time to organize in the field. When has anyone seen an EVP or general officer on a picket? Loyalty is a solid character trait; however, loyalty to a fault, and more specifically to a person, makes you blind to the shortcomings of that person. Welcome to the cult of trades leadership for over 5 decades. The economic harm done as a result to mindset based on loyalty-to-a-fault to “a” specific General President is measurable and sustained!

Labor Rising got into a lot of trouble using Winston Churchill as an example in our last blog. But we view the response as “good trouble” because Churchill was a POS right up until the time, he stood up to world fascism.

While our 14 trade IPs are not that bad, using the failed strategy of Value on Display (VOD) for decades has undermined workers throughout all of North America and beyond.

My point in this blog is that events can take us all in many different directions. Circumstances change. In the trades, we can continue to choose to fail with VOD. Conversely, we can lay down a modern foundation for a reinterpretation of the trades labor MOVEMENT!

VOD has replaced a once vibrant middle-class tradesperson with a working-class tradesperson. It has politically polarized members through division into those with a philosophy of skills-based individual tradespersons vs. a collective greater good MOVEMENT of workers.

The trades are no longer each other’s keeper – we are “individuals on a job selling skills to a customer.”

With the trades’ senior leadership dedicated to that end alone, any talk (and that is what it is) of unionism and activism in the streets is, and has been for decades, pure BS!

The trades have always been the “red-headed stepchild” of labor. We are typically more centralist than our more progressive and liberal wings.

The trades are known to involve extensive travel to all parts of North America to secure work. Mark Twain’s famous adage of “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness” has been turned upside down because of Value on Display.

“IF” the trades were a MOVEMENT of worker activism, then travel would foster what Brother Twain said! However, because VOD sells skills to customers competing for dwindling crumbs and jobs from management with an individual tradesperson mindset of “I” have got to get mine – many issues have taken hold, e.g., intertrades jurisdictional issues, extensive non-union issues, immigration issues, women in the trades & people of color in the trade’s issues!

VOD has taken everyone of those issues above into the political & individual realm. So, workers’ justification is, “I am SKILLED so look at me. The ‘union’ – ‘my union’ keeps giving all that supports the middle class away, but management wants ME! I am saving the trades.”

As a result, bread & butter, equity, equality, racial & gender issues and more, have gone backwards with the strategy of VOD, which sells skills of an individual akin to a temp agency to customers!

How do we know this? Well the first 9 organizers who started Labor Combat/Labor Rising researched the trades’ strategies and inner decisions from 1969 on. That work was done from 2007 thru 2012. We are confident we have most of the confidential internal documents of consultants, internationals and many affiliates used from then till now. The research of Labor Rising produced a 474-page single spaced White Paper in 2012. And we have built upon it with 822 trained organizers to date from 378 locals/DCs across all of North America. We have a small stadium of bodies from whom we learn. We also know where the “bodies are buried” related to political advancement.

From 1990 till 1999, when I and others taught in apprenticeship programs, few trades had a labor history component in those classes, so we had to build one from scratch. Even fewer trades unions have one today.

Of course, labor history is not enough. Every member needs to have a connection to field organizing and street theater. We know that disenfranchised members, and even worse those that who work 2,000+ hours seldom – if ever – go to a union meeting. Not being connected to how you put food on the table is central to our losing.

The workers’ MOVEMENT of our Founders took every type of worker that was delivered to America’s doorstep from across the world and created the middle class. Our trades’ Founders took on the worse that corporations could throw at them and did not just survive – they advanced workers, non-union and union alike.

With the epic failure of trades’ business unionism and Value on Display, the trades have continually gone backwards. At the core is tradespersons who think they are the center of the trades’ universe. Just look at Facebook for example. Huge numbers of predominantly union tradesMEN hate people of color, women in the trades, non-union workers, immigrants, vote against union interest and even hate their own union! Value on Display at its worst has helped fostered this hate.

I specifically remember the Fight for $15 minimum wage in Chicago in 2012. Members of my local and I joined several protests. Back then, and still today, union tradespersons beat down workers they believe are not skilled, so not deserving of that kind of money. WOW! Talk about entitled.

Value on Display has created the deep divisions between workers in the trades & outside of the trades.

President Elect Biden will perhaps get Bernie Sanders and/or Sara Nelson as Labor Secretary. CIO and professional unions will improve numbers with a friendly Labor Secretary. Why? Because they know how to organize and how to adapt to the changing nature of working with workers. They have activists that pull in the same direction.

The trades have long abandoned organizing workers in the trenches. The little that is done is top-down – a loser by the numbers, and even worse is bottom-up. Bottom-up does not work in enough number to raise market share in the trades because of several major factors. The top factor is the ever-changing dynamics of the make up of the work force, employees, independent contractors, temp employees, part-time & cash to name a few. Bottom-up is for fixed populations – not transient groups.

The average otherwise solid organizer we encounter in training has little understanding of market formatting, SIC/NAICS codes, Excel, cloud sharing, credit reports, what a salt vs. pepper is, labor law as it relates to recognition & secondary law, hiring law and how to handle an underfunded pension discussion – just to name a few important considerations.

It is not the member organizers that fail – it is the BS and diluted training they receive. They are recruiters by design. Even if the internationals just concentrated on top-down, those “marketers” would have to know most of the above skill sets. They DO NOT by design!

Organizers in the trades must know how to go after the “wallet” of the senior most decision makers with regards to construction – senior most, not the sub. They have to understand a Compression Zone, which considers contraction & consolidation of the industry due to technology, along with the sheer number of roll-ups taking place. Without knowing the items in the last 2 paragraphs, the trades’ organizers, and the trades themselves will keep losing – even with friendly help in legislation.

Our Founders NEVER waited on friendly and/or unfriendly legislation. They never blamed anyone and knew it was on them to organize workers and impose a Collective Bargaining Agreement on the owners, regardless if they wanted one or not!  

EVERYONE knows the trades and its members are fractured along political and skill lines – management, government, politicians, AFL-CIO and our own senior leaders. We have zero power to deliver on any promise and/or threat.

It appears that the 14 International Presidents think they have a pro-labor friend entering the White House. What we feel is they clearly DO NOT have the infrastructure to improve market share without a wholesale change in strategy. With time being short, it is on the General Executive Councils to “man up” and kick start this puppy! Circumstances are changing – are you going to step into battle or drift into obscurity?

Labor Rising has told the NABTU several times in private to put Labor Rising anywhere in North America and WE will organize it – anywhere. Come on, make us put up or shut up! You have a few hundred true organizers that are ready – cut them loose!

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising

This entry was posted in Labor Rising and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.