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The International Presidents of the Trades Have Given Themselves Up – Labor Leaders They Are Not – Not For a Long Time!

Labor Rising did not forget about part 3 on how the trades can quit losing market share & become a MOVEMENT again! However, we have been very busy these last few months with unions and Building Trades Councils around the U.S. Those leaders may take flack for working with Labor Rising, but they know the Internationals present no answers. These are our kind of leaders.

True activism is currently visible as we observe workers throughout North America striking at John Deere, taking on Amazon and in all points in between. President of the AFL-CIO, Liz Shuler, recently tweeted out “Kellogg is trying to replace 1400 striking workers. Millennials & Gen Z flooded the job postings with fake applications and crashed the system. This is what solidary looks like.”  Workers have signaled they want to be in a union as long as the union can earn their trust and execute on a strategy. Unions such as the Association of Flight Attendants, Nurses, Service Employees International and Teachers, which BTW are all run by women presidents, are kicking up their respective heels and making solid inroads in organizing.

Teamsters rejected the Hoffa-backed hack and went with Sean O’Brien – so a welcome change in the future of organizing for them. Several other unions are also getting past the BS of talking about organizing and taking it to management.

Energy is building everywhere except in the trades.

Measuring the trades’ market share is easy. It has been a loser for decades!

Check the stats for yourself – here are the statics from the BLS Bureau of Labor Statistics in context:

Currently the non/anti-union do 87.3% of all construction work in the U.S. Here’s an interesting twist to understanding these statistics: It appears that construction unions gained 0.1% of market share in 2020, meaning 12.7% as compared to 12.6% in 2019. But appearances can be deceptive. Don’t lose sight of the fact that the trades lost 62,000 actual tradespersons in 2020; and the non-union lost many more workers than the trades during this surge in unemployment, resulting in what appears to be a 0.1% increase in market share for the unions. This is not an effective organizing strategy.

For over a decade, Labor Rising’s training addresses organizing in a downturn can be very effective in raising market share. But downturn after downturn have come and gone and the trades IP’s continue to lose market share in this environment and for that matter ALL environments.

The Infrastructure Bill will put modularization & miniaturization on steroids and REDUCE overall field hours by the end of this decade. Every legit source (9) quantifies this in the universe of construction.

Today’s IP’s continue to lose as it seems losing is in their respective DNA. Losing for the trades IP’s started in the early 70’s under Georgine and has continued unabated until today! All the specialty and international type agreements and subsequent versions began then. The labor/management alliances of today have very deep roots.

Since Georgine right through to today, each generation of IP’s have continued those alliances with senior management. Every hand-picked IP from then until now has fallen in line with perpetuating these unholy alliances. The rank & file have long been betrayed by these alliances that have eroded the hard work of the AFL Founders begun in 1886.

These ONE-WAY alliances with construction management have continually de-valued the trades’ rank & file tradespersons to the point of being little more than a temp agency today.  

  • From what our wages could buy in the 70’s compared to today – huge reduction!
  • Rank & file wages heavily subsidize the use of contractors’ crack.
  • Rank & file contribute hourly to management associations to run their affairs.
  • Growing numbers of failing pensions and huge health & welfare costs. The management alliances will not pay directly into a defined benefit much longer.
  • The management alliance dictates the manner and type of agreement they may sign, whether that be a PLA, participation agreements, participation agreements where the staffing company (not a typo) is involved in the participation agreement and even cash that is part of the deal – and NOT cash paid by the non-union.
  • Work conditions imposed and not negotiated whatsoever. Take it or hit the road.
  • Working on sites along side of non- and even anti-union workers. Fixing non-union errors as a matter of course.
  • Mandated tests and personnel information of every type, from union tradespersons in excess of those needed and/or negotiated.
  • As close to zero as possible regarding any grievance procedures for the rank & file.
  • Per diem and overtime pay dictated to the rank & file and retreating to less and less.
  • Restrictions by the union in hiring and bringing in union workers.
  • Hands-off policies mandated by the inner circle of the construction alliance on potential organizing strategies.
  • Consider, why do we see huge increases in double-breasted non-union companies?  

ANYTHING that would threaten those senior alliances between the IP’s and construction management had to be addressed. The trades split organizing and marketing into 2 realms in the field. In most areas they cancel each other out and the budget and training for field personnel is incomplete by design. The NABTU (North American Building Trades Union) gummed up the works with Value on Display and Breslin’s BS – then they threw in the term “skilled workers” to play on our pride and left those in the field to fend for themselves and keeping them out of the way of the alliance-building.

Meanwhile, international-level marketing reps build alliances with management BEHIND the scenes to advance an IP’s alliance du jour. Some of those alliances today are hydrogen, wind generation, offsite prefabrication, etc. Reverse engineer these. Look at the initiatives around North America over time. Two steps forward, which serves management’s goals for a period of time (alliance du jour) and then 3 steps backward when management is done with the trades. REPEAT over a few decades and you understand losing IP style. Every single construction sector has LOST union market share over this time period, even accounting for technology in construction delivery.

Organizing, marketing, Value on Display – each in their own way needed to be throttled at the District Council and Building Trades level of local and state building trades. The “good cop/bad cop” of the Internationals and the NABTU is straight out of a movie!

How both Value on Display and bottom-up are used is a longstanding ruse perpetrated by the senior-most building trades officers.

Yes, a ruse, which is intended to deceive. For the “good ole boys” at the top it has always been about building alliances with construction management. Of course, they must have the rank & file organizers and marketers doing SOMETHING! So, field organizers run on the gerbil wheel until exhausted. Then the next gerbil is loaded up and the ruse continues.

Bottom-up was NOT designed for transient work forces – we need to get that thru our thick skulls. With 1099’s, temp workers, cash and borrowed workers, winning an election is very challenging. Add in that our field organizers are ineptly or barely trained (by design?) and the cake is baked. With the modularization and miniaturization era ramping up in field construction, by the time we see a “winning” (low percentage even in the hands of a tested organizer) RC petition fully processed and then “successful “negotiations with the employer, those worker groups will no longer exist.

 Labor Rising has trained hundreds of full-time organizers from the field and what they don’t know is staggering for 90% of them. Next to zero training in what & how to use SIC codes, credit reports, opposition research, cyber-organizing, what secondary and recognition are, HIRING law (a complete void in training), Gissel Order, 10(j), salts & peppers, how the NLRB works, building a war room and coordinating multiple campaigns, etc. – GET THE PICTURE? Not their fault – this is on the International.

Bannering, blow up rat, maybe some ULPs and some cards signed – that is the playbook! Organizers pursuing bottom-up are now recruiters, mostly by design & default. The Internationals see it as a way to strip non-union and then bring in those who say they wanted to be union and maybe even signed a card. Turnover in construction is second only to retail at 68.6% vs. 69.7% respectively. All the rah-rah BS at the organizing & marketing meetings is designed to keep an organizer RECRUITING! With retention slipping below 1:1 – bodies, any bodies, are needed. How do the trades win when 90% of well-intended passionate organizers are set up to fail by design? The training by the internationals leaves them unprepared to win and the window for the trades is closing for bottom-up. How would you like to be the Secretary of Labor (DOL)? The rest of labor will use the DOL & NLRB effectively for building worker energy & wins. The trades organizers, with their poor training, will fail time after time and may blame the NLRB! THE NLRB DOES NOT ORGANIZE –WE DO! Will the trades go thru another “turn & burn” phase of frustrated organizers throwing paper at the NLRB?

Our Founders used bottom-up in production and fabrication, seldom if ever in the field. They used strikes, sit ins, boycotts, rallies, etc. Our FOUNDERS went after the “wallet” of those to be unionized! Labor Rising is the 21st century version of our Founders’ mission. We train to go after the clients, credit and social/business perception of these companies. Inside of a developed Compression Zone are those non-/anti-union construction entities we want and those we do not want. Labor Rising seldom trains to go after the sub and even the general. We get after the senior most decision makers wallet until they make the changes we want.

THIS RUNS SMACK INTO THE IP’s ALLIANCE TERRITORY, hence why they have good reason to resent the Labor Rising training. We are built to win CONTRACTORS or get them replaced, signed and/or PUT OUT OF BUSINESS! Put enough pressure on the end-user, developer, construction manager and IT WILL happen – sometimes with a phone call/meeting from the above management.

As for Value on Display – if our organizers in the field are undertrained by design and merely try to sell the services of our trades, their talking points HAVE NOT changed since the late 90’s. 49 of Labor Rising’s 243 blogs are VOD-specific. We have zero need to restate what is apparent to non-union contractors. The trades only have to look at total market share since inception of VOD – it is a loser designed so it DOES NOT encroach on the alliances and those who maintain them. Marketers, while well-intentioned, have little to no understanding of business. The IP’s know this and do not change that dynamic, although surely they could IF they wanted to!

Labor Rising’s 3-part plan for the trades to move with the times and win again on behalf of working families:

Part 1 – Throw the Carpenters OUT!

Part 2 – Create several Construction Managements to operate in the world of modularization and miniaturization!

Part 3 – Marshall the rank & file in viable, direct ways to transfer the power of the alliance back to the workers. This will be the focus of the next blog.  It can be done – let’s see if the membership has the fortitude to do it!

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising

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