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The Passion of a Labor Movement Replaced by a Business Union Model In the Trades –

What drives a MOVEMENT defines its success. For many centuries, that very purpose and passion has been reflected in working people’s songs. In times of strife and secured justice in the workplace, the music has provided the anthem that advanced a MOVEMENT!

Where can we find the songs of the trades? Thankfully, labor writers like Brother Joseph DeFilippo & a small band of like-minded social justice singers and performers maintain a link to the historical songs of labor – mostly on the CIO/Professional Unions side of the ledger.

We know the music of many of these artist – Pete SeegerSolidarity Forever; Sweet Honey in the Rock, More Than a Paycheck; The Clash, Career Opportunities; Tennessee Ernie Ford, Sixteen Tons; Judy Collins, Bread and Roses; Dolly Parton, 9 to 5; Woody Guthrie, Union Burying Ground; Phil Ochs, The Ballad of Joe Hill; Hazel Dickens, Fire in the Hole; Gil Scott-Heron, Three Miles Down; and The Kinks, Get Back in Line – just a sampling.

Listen to the stories and lives of those who GAVE us the conditions we take for granted today. Here is a link to just one of many labor stories performed by Brother Joe:

Company Town

For the trades, justice for workers started to come to an end in 1973. Appeasement and alliance building with the very Task Master of Business (whom our AFL Founders fought tooth and nail with) began and has NOT ceased to this day. Business unionism was put on a strategic path and had form and story starting in approximately ‘95. However, with the election of Hill’s administration and other unions in 2001, alliance building was put on steroids, and it was “Katie bar the door” for membership. The approaching threat of becoming a business union became big trouble for Rank & File of all trades. International-level agreements of every type have de-valued trades workers. Understand this is self-inflicted. Our own internationals compromise us in these deals – perhaps even more than management.

Our “Business Union” had a message to sell to its membership – SKILLS. Value on Display every day. Tradespersons of every trade believe that it is their skills that demand the wages & benefits they receive. Ask them. Read their posts on Facebook. In addition, since 1973 the form of collective actions taken by Rank & File in the field has almost ceased entirely. The few times any general president was ever on a picket line is pure hype to play us, to appease us into thinking we belong in the same breath as our Founders!

Decades of R&F have zero idea of what field activism looks like. They love to take credit with posts on what labor has done for North America. They/we are all posers – we have not earned anything on that list!

The songs derived from activism underpin justice of all types and the music anchors it. Worker justice, social justice, religion & even the military all derive the ability to sustain change or overcome because of the passion of the music!

When that music is window dressing or no longer heard it is because individuals, not members, rule. So, look at entities like business or politics. Very FEW true believers exist anymore – think John Lewis. Most on both the right and left are talking heads spinning a message, selling a brand similar to the “snake oil salesman” in our Founders’ time.

Alliance building is the highly individual action of 13 of the 14 International Presidents along with its puppet over at the NABTU. Not even one true believer from 1973 till now in our trades’ senior leaders, with one exception. Brother JC Turner, General President of the Operators, wrote the White Paper: “The Business Roundtable and American Labor in 1979”. He understood the alliance that was to come.!AmKOi71GyLcgqyK4It5U8aRX-AAu?e=GQQuST                  

So, who is #14? The Teamsters. It remains to be seen whether they will return to being a MOVEMENT under their new president.  

The R&F are at an inflection point in the trades. We can continue to play victims and be de-valued by the Internationals or we can become activists again. Having spent 12 years training at Labor Rising it is abundantly clear that our Internationals throttle any attempt to deliver true labor activism to the doorsteps of the end-user, developer & the construction manager. We’re not talking about BS soft balls of activism, but true WALLET grabbing, alliance breaking campaigns to force a return to collective bargaining.

Unfortunately, the memberships currently reflect leadership – it is a check to the membership, not much more! The membership WANTS to be activists but are controlled at every turn. Also, consider that the International leaders’ checks are approximately 10x that of members, guaranteed – with them comfortable in their own houses and beds and not having to reach into their respective pockets for anything. Their pensions are single payer and fully funded by members – benefits for life by-and-large.

The workers throughout North America are showing signs of wanting a union again – but not the trades unions. We have to give books away to keep bodies. Then many of those workers and existing union members put their cards in their boots by demand of the alliance to man the jobs. Working alongside of the non-union, along with the big uptick of double-breasted construction companies, ALL demanded by management alliances.

Many of our members are upset with the Fight for $15, one of the most successful organizing campaigns for workers recently. Fast food workers are getting close to being paid what tradespersons make in some areas. So, we blame them and not our Internationals for de-valuing us at every turn on most jobs.

Back on the trades side, we still make more on the checks; however, the non-union workers are increasingly getting a healthy per diem when we are losing it more and more.

Labor Rising has put out a 3-part program to address becoming a MOVEMENT again.

The 1st part is to throw the Carpenters out of the AFL and declare their jurisdiction vacant. Won’t happen. Why? Because the construction alliance will not let it – case closed. International Presidents are too impotent to do it and/or demand it. Come on – make me a liar – do it. Show the R&F you can.

The 2nd part is to become the Construction Manager in several specialty markets throughout North America. Be our own boss. Won’t happen. Why? Construction alliance will not let it – case closed.

The 3rd part is designed to give R&F control over their own and their trades’ destinies again. To band together over “bread & butter” issues of raising a family and securing a benefits package bargained for by direct influence over them. Absolutely can happen. Can bring together members of either party within our ranks.

It is a strategy that hides in plain site and can be readily adopted in real time. It is a tested weapon used by organizers primarily with non-union. It will require that you do your job that you agreed to do and to do it to the “letter”, not the “SPIRIT”, but the “LETTER”! It can be run simultaneously where both union and non-union work. Actually, it would be even better in that environment.

It is “good trouble” for R&F and if done properly, a nightmare for the alliance of Labor-Management. BTW, doing exactly what you agreed to in writing mitigates strongly against getting in ANY trouble!

Sounds too good to be true – it is not. A door swings both ways. It has been pounding the field workers for a few decades now along with our families. Time to push it back the other way – HARD!

Perhaps we can collectively regain respect with workers, ourselves and our Founders!

Next blog in 2022 will lay out the opening gambit of part 3. Suitable for all building trades workers, even the Carpenters.

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

(The above was not just a cool sounding quote chosen 12 years ago – it quite literally predicted knowing that this blog and the next several should and would be written.)

I wonder, what songs and music will be written about us?

In Solidarity,

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising

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