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The Ranger Handbook vs Building Trades Academy & Organizing –

Delta Force, Seal Team 6 and MARSOC all have developed and structured battle plans for engagement. They ID friend from foe and understand that today’s ally may be tomorrow’s foe!

Contrast that with the Building Trades (BT), which have tools to sell Value on Display on one axis of market development and bottom-up on the other axis. Tools not strategies! Organizers have next to zero ability to ID the foes from friends on the battlefield of construction past the obvious. Hidden from an organizer’s education and training are the senior decision makers and the $$$ that bankroll the construction.

And then there is recruitment. The capitulation of senior BT leaders for hours. With retention in the trades running at or below 1:1 for the BT net, desperate leaders show how inept they are and wave the “white flag” by having great organizers waste valuable time and resources on yet another band aid approach to securing market share!

Both axes used now for decades are abject losers “NET” for winning market share. Labor Rising has found just 9 BT unions out of 317 trained to date that have developed structured and written organizing strategies – NINE!

The Ranger Handbook (et al) is the opposite of the historical losing streak of the North American Building Trades Union (NABTU). The first is the very definition of structure and discipline while the latter is not. Consider the NABTU website – Organizing per se is not even listed on the main menu. It is quasi-listed under Apprenticeship & Training as a bullet point – The Building Trades Academy (BTA).

Thousands have attended the BTA, which seldom changes or evolves. It offers the same losing classes, by and large, that are taught in an ever-changing environment/battlefield where the BT continues to lose market share. The fractured, splintered and incomplete tools provided lead to losing in the field. Numbers can be manipulated to lie; however, the numbers “NET” from the BT are rock solid losers over decades!

BTA classes knowingly (or unknowingly) foster losing, as it is built into the BTA classes. Few participants even know it until they go back into the field and have no idea what to do the day after BTA classes end. They lose far more times than they win, hence the continuous downward trajectory of market share and density, and yet the BTA continues to teach systemic losing.

The equation is simple and straight forward. Either every trade organizer/market rep across North America and across all trades are clueless in using the tools they’ve been taught at the BTA, or the classes are incomplete and ineffective due to the underlying strategy of Value on Display (VOD) that is interlaced throughout the training. In addition to the chronic losing perpetrated by the VOD tool is bottom-up training. Both are taught and tantamount to sending sheep to slaughter. The organizers/market reps are not the reason why we lose. We lose because of the incomplete tools we pass off as strategies that are core to losing!

NOTE: Please read the complete course descriptions provide on the website.

BTA 101: Strategic Planning –

“This course covers the developing and applying a full strategic plan. Specifically, participants will review basic concepts of research, analysis and strategic planning for construction organizing.”

Reality: The BTA does not cover 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, hiring law and more. Labor Rising has trained hundreds of participants who have been through the BTA organizing sessions. To a person, Labor Rising is asked why if we can teach it well enough for them to use it, why can’t the BTA?

BTA 102: Closing the Deal –

 “This course is intended to help union locals and building trades councils effectively manage their organizing activities and to efficiently use union resources. This course covers the developing and applying a full strategic plan.”

Reality: The BTA trains selling via Value on Display, aka top-down, to the exclusion of organizing with the exception of bottom-up.  VOD/top-down is a TOOL not a strategy.

BTA 103: Getting the Word Out

It is about social media and communications, but I am not even going to quote a section in the description because it is far to touchy feely.

Reality: Until the entire BT and affiliates have a text messaging/communications platform from our Internationals, down to our local unions, we are going nowhere! Developed membership lists need to be used so as not to spam the NABTU memberships. A message to apprentices or retirees is specific by its nature and should only be sent to those who need it. These tailored lists HAVE TO be crafted to be effective as an organization. It is why Ranger groups (et al) win – through effective communications, comprehensive intelligence, preparation & practice, and development of underlying written strategy!  

BTA 104: Campaign Organizing

“This course offers a comprehensive overview of organizing issues related to the construction industry, offering constructive ways to organize the industry, including the value proposition for members, contractors and construction owners.”

Reality: This is all BS. Comprehensive is a gross overstatement. And again, there is a disproportionate emphasis on VOD. See the word “constructive” above? It is the very word that makes VOD a losing program! IMPOSING a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) on the construction industry has NOT been viewed as CONSTRUCTIVE by our 14 International Presidents for decades now. If you reply that bottom-up imposes a CBA on management, you are technically correct. Good luck on that. Bottom-up was NOT designed for building trades unions, as it is far too transient with temp employees, 1099’s, cash and a mix of bogies that just keep moving. Additional hurdles include organizers who only last about 2 years in the position and an adversarial NLRB, just to name a few. There are a few locals that have game with bottom-up, but not enough to move the needle in the game of market share. Even they are NOT prevailing “NET”. Bottom-up was designed for fixed campaigns, e.g. a fab shop and the like.

BTA 105: Contract Negotiations

“This course is for union officers and staff members who negotiate labor agreements with their signatory contractors.”

Reality:  Not a bad course based on comments from those who have attended.

BTA 106: Labor Law for the Construction Industry

“Federal labor law provides special provisions applicable to the construction industry because of the unique nature of employment in construction.”

Reality:  Sections 7 & 8 can be effectively taught in about 3 hours. What is completely lacking is a thorough discussion of recognition and secondary boycotts, including what specifically they mean to winning in the field. Replace the losing instruction of how to run a bottom-up campaign with how to get to the wallets of the senior decision makers in construction and the trades will win again. Bottom-up is a tool – not a strategy. It has a place as a tool inside a strategy, but it cannot win in enough numbers as THE strategy. So, it begs the question – what is the written strategy of how to raise market share/density? Where are your locals’/DCs’ Ranger Handbook?

Long ago, a great organizer taught me a valuable lesson: “Put ‘puppet strings’ on the anti/non-union contractors’ hiring, and the trades win.” Yet, 99% of those attending Labor Rising do not have a clue how to use hiring law & the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). So, we recruit and then do nothing more. More would be securing an exit interview from every non-union worker. More would be learning about how the anti/non-union hires and their application process (and BTW, securing ALL relevant info on the anti/non-union employer). More would be attacking their hiring processes or lack thereof in a structured manner. More would be attacking anti/non-union employers and temp agencies both overtly and covertly. More would be to deny those contractors access to workers via the application process, websites, Craigs List, etc., or have them think that they may be hiring union field organizers. Teach this!

BTA 107: Multi-Craft Core Curriculum (MC3): Train-the-Trainer

“This course is required for apprentice instructors, representatives of Building Trades Councils and their affiliates, and/or Council partners who plan to implement the Multi-Craft Core Curriculum (MC3). Each prospective program must send at least one representative to this class.”

Reality:  Remember above when Labor Rising said that the trades have “Fractured, splintered and incomplete tools that lead to losing in the field?” This is part and parcel to that comment. There is some really good stuff in this class. However, it has the effect of sending an organizer/market rep in far too many directions. What is the underlying STRATEGY of this, and specifically, not conceptionally, how does it fit into winning?

BTA 108: Business Managers Training

“This class is a management and leadership course for Building Trades local union officers.”

For Labor Rising, this is the litmus test. If a new or old BM buys into the business side of unions after decades of losing, then Labor Rising is NOT for you or your local/DC. Can a movement and business exist side by side? Every single number since the early 70’s resoundingly says NO!! We only work with a union/DC that has a renegade style BM. One that hates losing and does not tolerate it or chalk it up to “it is what it is.”

The principle of Occam’s razor may apply to the BT! That is when all facts are accounted for regarding two explanations, the simpler explanation is more likely to be correct.

Explanation # 1: Perhaps the BT senior leaders alone want to strike deals with senior management in respective sectors of construction with PLAs and specialty agreements of every type as appeasement & concessions to management to keep enough hours coming in to keep their gig. Recruiting, top-down and spin your wheels on bottom-up fits well within that agenda.

Explanation #2: The BT is committed to a hard-core organizing effort to sign a CBA, regardless if contractors want one or not; and to empower organizers with the necessary tools and abilities to raise all workers up & in keeping with our Founders’ vision. In short to be a MOVEMENT of free and independent trade unions. One person one vote!  

What Labor Rising knows is that every time we train a winner to organize, they are thwarted, promoted, reassigned, fired, or told to put door hangers on the non-union workers’ doors to try and recruit them. Hence why Labor Rising only works with those leaders who reside in Explanation #2.

Occam’s razor – it’s a bitch!

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising

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