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Mc G and the Building Trades Internationals Presidents Continue to Lose Market Share in 2023

The report just released from BLS (Bureau of Labor Statics) for 2023 has the Building Trades at 10.7% of total market in 2023, down from 11.7% in 2022.

The private sector DID improve marginally – but none of that improvement was due to the Building Trades. We continue to lose! So, the continued rah-rah BS on FB & other media is a pathic attempt by the trades to jump on the bandwagon, claiming organizing success that hasn’t been realized.  

Instead, we’ve witnessed a nearly uninterrupted loss of market share since Robert Georgine (1973) straight thru the Mc G era.

But hold on now for a minute. Tommy K. of the NABTU (North American Building Trades Union) complains that the BLS uses data that are typically NOT unionized members. However, that data represents less than .4% of total data for unionized construction and has been calculated consistently that way for many years for both union & non-union with this format.

Mc G also chimed in adding that the trades reported record “growth”. Now that is spinning. When the entire North American Building Trades is under 1 million field members and is losing “NET” per the Internationals’ own LM-2s, then growth is relative to existing membership size at that point in time.

The retention ratio of the trade members is underwater of 1:1. Anything over 1:1 is growth. Increased numbers of members retiring will continue thru 2030, the remaining baby boomers. This will drag the retention ratio down more. Turnover is another membership equation addressed later in this blog.

Mc G also had what he thought was an ACE up his sleeve – let’s see. He cited the research from ICERES (Institute for Construction Employment Research). ICERES’ Annual Report that 18% of construction workers are union members and 30% when residential work has been removed for 2023.

ICERES claims to fill in the “GAP” between 2 heavy hitters, which calculate huge amounts of fact-based data and are the bedrock for reports used throughout all of construction: the BLS and, which uses the CPS (Current Population Survey), another gold standard for union membership. charts and graphs have union construction membership at 10.7% in 2022. I did not find 2023, as they have not reported those numbers yet.

So BLS has 10.7% INCLUDING 2023 and has 10.7% thru 2022 with huge amounts of data and solid industry accepted methodology. And ICERES has a gap filling 18% with zero data? ICERES looks more like a Joker than an ACE, Mc G! And ICERES overlaps with the School of Human Resources and Labor Relations at Michigan State University and the Building and Construction Trades Academy. Maybe a little bias and playing way out of their weight class?

The Michigan State Building Trades Academy and all Internationals’ training directors do nothing but lose. Numbers speak for themselves everywhere that organizing is taught in the trades by the trades. Those entities could go out of existence tomorrow and that alone would raise market share.

The BT has polls showing workers favor unions, Infrastructure work is off the charts, the NLRB and other workers legislation is leaning pro-worker and yet the trades lose – WHY?

The current 14 hypocrites (that is what our Founders would call them) to the workers’ cause, aka Internationals Presidents, and by and large their predecessors, ensured that organizing is weak and unstructured so we cannot win in the field and upset the deals made over decades with construction management – PERIOD!

Every measurable number in context, in conjunction with the combined infrastructure of our IP’s and construction management, marshal that fact.

Labor Rising has written 271 Blogs since our inaugural class of May 2012. In a nutshell, the trades WILL NOT go against management in the industries in which we work. PLA’s are replacing CBA’s over time and render CBA’s useless in many areas by design. There are several existing entities demonstrating that pattern. Some of the bigger ones are the NMAPC (National Maintenance Agreement Policy Committee), TAUC (The Association of Union Contractors) with a solid percentage of double breasted “UNION” contractors they represent. Another excellent example is the NMAPC Book of Decisions – where locals lose almost all grievances filed on a percentage basis. Wow, we are that inarticulate and lack the complete ability to make a case?

Our Internationals have changed our respective constitutions from the early 80’s thru today to consolidate power for the president of the union. The DOL has approved those changes because the delegates approve them. Do our Internationals do what weak leaders do? Yes! But very nuanced. Weak leaders fail to set goals, objectives, etc., which typically leads to confusion. Our IP’s DO set any number of goals, but NEVER achieve them and yes, by design! In short, they keep the members/locals and mid-ranking officers busy. They use the “loyal to a fault” officers to enforce and ensure compliance with what management demands.

Our IP’s are not leaders nor even representatives. They are authority – pure and simple. They use a mix of reward, fear, praise and more to keep unions and members in line. At the end of the day go ahead and cross one and see what happens, especially if the stakes are high!

Our IP’s are not about union labor activism – a real movement! Case in point – organizing. No amount of claiming that we are organizing has translated into actual increased numbers “NET.” It is in fact, a negative market share trending down – over 6 decades.

Another example is our pensions. We dodged a real bullet with $93 billion in grants from the tax paying public to shore up underfunded pensions across the trades – self-inflicted wounds by and large. And, by the way, that crisis is not over by any stretch of the imagination.

A contemporary example would be Women in the Trades. Measure it. 3% total women 15 years ago. 3% total women today. Historically and currently, women are the leaders and anchors that have driven organizing & social justice throughout all of labor – just not in the trades.

Listen to the messaging for Organizing & Tradeswomen Build Nations. Almost the exact rah-rah stuff down to the pictures. Go to any of the crafts’ conventions, agents’ meetings, etc., and you hear that we are kicking butt on every front. Where are the hard numbers in context that support that? Nowhere.

Our International Presidents are wholly owned subsidiaries of construction management – case closed.

Quite literally, annual construction forecasts, regardless of economy, can bank on the trades NOT ORGANIZING & NOT BEING ALL THAT DIVERSE AFTER ALL!

Some of the components of construction forecasting are Estimating, Backlog, Construction, Inflation, Labor, Indexing, Materials, Style & Type of Structure, Outlook, PPI, Starts, Volume, etc.

You need little in a formal forecasting ability to understand what an active, aggressive organizing and diverse work force working with the community would do to drastically alter the above business construction component. Through the 60’s the trades used labor & civil justice unrest, boycotts, strikes, marches, rallies, etc. which were germane to the organizing playbook of the trades. But in the 70’s the trades began establishing specialty agreements with management, and the PLA’s were born.

Each successive International President since the 80’s is nearly handpicked from within a tight circle. Has there been somewhat of a “wild card” from time to time? Sure, four by Labor Rising’s count. None have stepped out of line on the main issue of being a minion of management. We will see about the Teamster President. High hopes. Also, the Boilermakers have a new IP that bull-dogged their way in (kind of like the Elevator IP years ago). We will see if organizing is status quo, or they get after the wallets of the construction hierarchy.

Organizing IS NOT a “shame on you” sign (in the union avoidance classes I’ve attended – management knows the trades have nothing if they show up with these banners), not a rat, not a blitz, certainly not recruitment, not the lame- ass salting we do, not the limited knowledge & use of the NLRB, it is not a brand that has customers. Those are tactics and fairly weak ones at that which begs the larger question, what is your written and developed strategy for signing a CBA?

So, what IS organizing? It is an orderly structure to teach SIC/NAICS codes in depth, opposition research and how to maximize its use, market formatting in Excel, how to use and read various credit reports, strengths and weaknesses analyses, cyber-organizing, hiring law, exit interviews, strikes, liquidated damages, street theater, Compression Zone analysis of who we organize and WHY. It targets the clients, credit and social perception of the companies that hire the construction players along with the end-user, developer, CM, fabricator – none which the BT takes advantage of. ORGANIZING THE SUB IS A FOOL’S GAME TODAY, and that is what our organizers are taught.

The primary mission of our respective International Presidents is to adhere to management’s central demands, along with VERY predicable resolutions of all types of issues universally favoring management, not promulgating labor unrest of any type and at ANY time!

The current formula for construction management: 90% open shop bidding, 10% union which is negotiated – but on favorable PLA terms, flexible staffing favoring management, nearly zero labor issues, no organizing, diversity issues settled by endless meetings & person of the year awards, $500,000 salaries and perks to International Presidents = a couple of TRILLION dollars of work put in place per year for a handful of constructors.

Add in the huge value/profits to management’s bottom line by offloading the training to local labor/management groups for all of THEIR construction. There are more workers with formal apprenticeship training on the non-union side today than are on the union side. Look at the numbers. Construction employs approximately 5.25 million construction workers yearly. The NABTU has approx. 1 million field members per our Internationals’ LM-2s. Per the DOL, approximately 250,000 to 500,000 apprentices are in registered programs at any given point on an ongoing basis – aka building trades program.

When the trades recruit or strip we typically try to get back those who we trained in the first place and then leave the trades for a diverse set of reasons. Repeat and rinse like a washing machine.

Safety is another issue, that Labor Rising has written several blogs about. End-users, CURT, CM’s and others can make huge amounts of $$$ on OCIP & CCIP. The $$$ comes off the backs of workers and contractors doing the work.

Modularization is improving in the world of construction and management has a clear path forward using this technology of construction delivery. The trades, not so much. The trades are left holding the proverbial bag as skills & jobs are removed from construction.

Can the trades deal themselves in? NOT with the current loyal-to-a-fault players. They are cashing checks until they run out and will wax philosophical in retirement about how they fought the good fight and then die in a lie!

Work 2 Rule is for the handful of union activists who actually want to push workers’ rights into the next generation. If that number DOES NOT ramp up, then stick a fork in this version of the trades & pensions.

W2R, if ever practiced by the R&F, takes the control of members and locals out of the Internationals’ hands. The Rank & File sets the tune for those PLA jobs. It also restores the balance of labor/management on a job. A CBA can then take hold and management has to share the pie, forcing our Internationals to return once again to being democratic institutions – that would be unbelievable & in keeping with our Founders vision!

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising


Labor Rising by the numbers.

LR Danny Bio 1_2016 W LR Num.docx

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