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The Building Trades International Presidents are Hiding in the Back Row –

Just like when we come in late to work, church or any event we duck into the back row, our Building Trades International Presidents continue to hide in the back row of workers’ lives in North American. They “hope and pray” for infrastructure legislation, pension bailouts, a retreat in RTW laws, along with a host of other substantial issues facing workers today and in the years to come.

We are weeks away from potentially an historic election and Supreme Court Rulings; and, past an endorsement and electioneering (which are important), what the hell are the IP’s doing about where labor is positioned? If the past is a prologue for these IP’s – NOTHING more! What our senior leaders define as BOLD INITIATIVES are just hollow words used to sound tough and forward thinking. They are not!

The IP’s put window dressing around racial issues. They fire off a circular letter and run some boilerplate racial equity BS in the trades’ respective magazines. Past that, can anyone please let Labor Rising know of ANY pro-active, in-the-trenches actions of our senior leaders? Pictures would help – be it of a strike (economic or social), a legal and lawful protest on the streets, opinion pieces of substance in print taking a definitive position that addresses workers’ economic inequity for decades. And then, backing it up with sustainable actions – which BTW requires a PLAN!

The death of the Building Trades MOVEMENT happened decades ago, relieving our senior leaders of any commitment to economic and social justice. And not so coincidentally – within the exact time frame that Value on Display has been the STRATEGY of the trades. 

Can even one International President claim a life dedicated to the mission of labor as measured by any of our Founders? Outside of the trades, great people continue to lead with lifetime commitments of action. RIP RBG, John Lewis, Delores Huerta, Robert White (Canada) and many others (outside of the trades) doing the work of advancing workers, WITHOUT any help from the trades! 

The Trades’ senior leaders just do not want to fight. “Good Trouble” is so foreign to them – they will hide in the back row and see how it all turns out.

Recruiting a non-union worker is OK, although not much more than a short-term band-aid. The trades are rift with band-aids. Contrast that with the underlying ability for workers to join a union and imposing a CBA on their employers. Earning that right is the “gold ring” of trade activism. The first gets the trades nowhere, hence why retention in the trades is at and under 1:1. And, the latter requires actions far beyond what those in leadership have been doing. No heart – that is what we call that in the field. Rationalization at its most pronounced level with every reason to fail. Hiding from the oath and commitment taken as an apprentice right up thru their swearing-in as senior leaders.

When Roosevelt passed the Wagner Act in 1935 the trades senior leadership were ready to push union organizing. They hit the ground running and made substantial gains. How substantial? The result is what we call the middle class. Even if Biden wins and he can get legislative HELP for organizing, the trades are going nowhere. The trades cannot react and start anew then and there. Well they could, but they will not be effective. The organizers in the field who know how to correctly format the market for organizing (not selling) likely came thru the Labor Rising training, and if given the chance, will be effective in winning market share! It is a “night & day” difference today from how the trades were poised in the 30’s to leverage pro-labor legislation!

If Trump wins, labor will be classed as terrorist organizations if they do not conform to his vision. The Patriot Act of 2001 and modified in 2015 has key provisions remaining that can be and/or are hostile to labor. Labor Rising wrote about the Patriot Act three times in the last 8 years in our blogs. Labor has been in this position before in North American history – being treated as enemies of the state. Leaders back then fought thru those days and propelled labor to even higher levels. Our leaders today are not those leaders! Not even close.

With such a complete lack of leadership, the trades will be in the potential position of being controlled or put out of “BUSINESS”. Right now, the betting money is the senior leaders will be collaborative (capitulate) partners to business and an authoritarian style of government or even worse. Trump will also sink the pensions, sign a national RTW law, finish restructuring the NLRB and take many more actions to eliminate free, organized, and independent labor unions. Yet the trades’ senior leaders keep selling training. Boy does this feel like the Titanic as the ship sinks, and the band keeps playing. SNAP THE HELL OUT OF IT!

In most Labor Rising organizing trainings we teach the organizers that they HAVE TO run over existing senior leaders. Challenge them at every turn. RESIST and do not wait on the convention which has been scripted! The International Presidents will not change – so force it! The biggest obstacle to the trades winning is the senior leaders!

Vernon Johns’ version of “good trouble” is…

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

In Solidarity,

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising/Labor Combat

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