Labor Rising Logo
Call (630) 373-0774

Remove “THE” From Work to the Rule and You Have Work to Rule –

Haymarket Martyrs’ Monument – “The day will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you are throttling today.”

Labor Rising has many legit organizers and historians in our rank & file. I got beat on as the author of the last blog and appropriately so.

One organizer who we work with closely really questioned my use of Work to “the” Rule. He was right to do so. LR’s rationale is that we softened Work to Rule with “the” in order to educate and introduce a way for the membership to understand the effects Work to Rule would have should membership enmasse chose to stand up for their rights.

Work to Rule is a militant and forging action carried out by membership acting as one on the job regarding safety, and only safety in this instance. Work to Rule can be used in other ways very effectively, but we’ll stick with safety as an opening gambit.

At its core, Work to Rule reclaims the job, our actions and our rights. With WTR in place, management and the senior IPs no longer dictate what happens on the job or in our unions! We do!

We received a lot of commentary that we union members work safely and professionally. True right up until time of injury and we remain uneducated on that until it is too late.  

We see workers given drills/stuff and being awarded safety plaques on a regular basis. They are models of working to the spirit of safety. They provide a job that is on time and on budget for management and our IPs who are working with the respective alliances. The odds are excellent and strongly favor management that a journeyperson can do a job safely within the spirit of safety – again, until they are injured.

So, management wins regarding safety on a day-to-day basis as it relates to the production and profits because we work to the spirit. Think of all the tasks we do to the spirit of professionalism and then once we’re injured it is busted off in our respective backsides. They also win when our IPs cut a deal on the R&F backs especially with PLA’s. They win when per diems and travel reimbursements are reduced. They win when we provide many resources of value like tools, transportation, food, etc., on our dime. In most cases, they win because we are no longer compensated for testing for drugs, welding and job specific requirements, even when we pass. They win because they provide the medical care and staff that work to hedge their losses immediately after an accident. They win because most discipline issues on the job remove input by unions and our collective bargaining agreements by and large (that is part of the reason for the existence of Standards of Excellence). They win because they play to the pride of journeypersons creating quality circles. Journeypersons improve processes and outcomes in the field and the company makes huge $$$ and the journeyperson gets a pat on the back and an award (maybe). We can be pretty stupid sometimes.

If you have been a journeyperson for approximately 25 years, there is better than even odds that you are restricted from employment for some/many contractors – because the contractors want unilateral control over employment more and more.

If you have 25 years or more in the trades, you have seen and witnessed this erosion of union rights both inside our own halls and especially on jobs. Mostly you just want out and hope you have a pension.

Since the mid 70’s our collective International Presidents, one after another, have stripped any semblance of a “free and democratic trade union” inside the house and have given the house away brick by brick to management through these alliances on the job.

If you have 10 years or so in the trades, you have come to understand that the trades used to hold their own at the bargaining table on every subject listed above and far more. But you never witnessed it firsthand. Our IPs have played to our skills and professionalism as though they are the shiny objects that R&F tout, while the IPs and management strip away jobsite and union rights. It is very common for many journeypersons to think their skills are why they earn the wages they do. It is easy for them to believe this when the message from leadership reinforces that thinking.

The tension of R&F is very real, and solutions are needed to put the R&F back in charge of their working lives. Workers all over North America, except in the iron-handed trades, are taking action!

Without Work to Rule actions when union workers are injured, the letter of the safety plan is used to limit or deny claims for compensation in many states. There is zero “good faith” once injured. Some of us get played yet again when our company uses the theater of BS telling us they will take care of us. When we are desperate after an injury, we want to believe what we hear.

Without actions, pensions will continue to fail. If our intel is correct, this is high on the agenda of the alliances between the trades and management, which we’ll address in depth in a future blog soon.

We project that the final straw is the contribution on benefits to our funds. This is huge money to the contractors and management’s bottom line. Most think the contribution to a benefit fund is their money. NO – this is a NEGOIATED item.

Work to Rule is how R&F take back their working lives. Here are a couple of examples of a safety plan. One is for U of M and DOE. Go ahead and click on it – if you have the guts to learn how the deck is stacked against you. We can change our stars, but that requires solidarity and action. U of M

DOE’s National Renewable Energy Lab site (NREL).                            We find this template very interesting.

You likely signed a number of papers regarding safety that links you to similar safety templates. They will be used to the letter when there is an injury. Your health, your family and your livelihood is but one injury away.

I was an expert witness for several dozen workers comp cases in the past – mostly for the worker. Those same cases today in a Comparative Negligence state would take big hits to zero compensation in today’s environment. 

Remember that the next time you think “I’ll just climb up onto that rack and fix or replace something that’ll only take a few minutes.” Why would you work outside of the letter of the rules? Put the proper platform in place. Or the next time you’re hurried through a toolbox meeting and the tools are not tagged with the proper color, don’t change the tag and don’t use the tool.

When something has to get done, regardless of importance to management, get clear instructions from safety and have them sign off on them. Have them watch the job. The days of posting a lookout to keep production on time need to be over. BTW, have you noticed that the safety officer disappears many times by design? We take all the risks – they take all the money and kudos.

Badass workers today Work to Rule to show we value and have control of ourselves, our work, our health and our livelihood. If management and senior leadership is upset – well, the door swings both ways. But only if the R&F Work to Rule!

Should the last straws fall in place with the alliances, the trades are destined to be a temp agency.

We deserve what we get.

“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.