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The Reality of the Carpenters and the Building Trades Today –

Labor Rising got sidetracked from our goal of producing solutions in these next successive blogs; however, with all the responses from all the trades we wanted to respond to those who commented.

The Labor Rising blog of 2 weeks ago, titled Bringing a Knife to a Gunfight, elicited many reactions – far more than we could respond to.

Overwhelmingly, carpenters’ responses (93 of them) gravitated along these lines:

  • We are the oldest of the trades.
  • We produce the highest number of superintendents.
  • No one can do our work without screwing it up.
  • Management always calls us to run the job.
  • Jesus was a member – just kidding.

That covers the gist of carpenters’ responses, with many variations of the same themes. Additionally, approximately 1/3 of their comments included a torrid number of expletives.

Labor Rising’s response got most of those commentators’ attention. It was simple, direct, respectful and will bear out in short order: “Who cares!?!”

In the era of industrial modularization, not one iota of the above comments and most other phrases, including skills and training, is relevant to the way we will build in the oh so near future.

Not to be out done, the comments from nearly all the other trades echoed the carpenters’ sentiment that only their own particular trade can singularly handle their work well.

Almost to a person, those to whom we responded believe that building in tomorrow’s world will remain the same as how things were done yesterday and continue to be done today! (As an example of how that mindset impedes preparation for change, think about when computers became an integral part of every business. Having basic skills to work with them counted for zero when the next generation came out without adaptation to the change).

It is clearly apparent that the Rank & File for all the trades are NOT ready for the train wreck that is headed their way – well within the end of this decade, and sooner in some cases.

Some trades had their respective conventions these last few months. Labor Rising did not see one committee charged with what an industrial level of modularization means to the Rank & File and our pensions. If we missed it, please let us know and be specific with details.

As we wrote just a few blogs ago, nothing changes for our senior leaders – NOTHING! Industrial modularization is the most significant change coming our way, and we are standing squarely on the tracks with not a clue of what to do.

Additionally, if the trades either organize and/or market (VOD) to increase their respective market share in the sectors of healthcare & senior housing, low-income housing, commercial office building to 30 floors, multi-floor residential condos to 30 floors, student housing, hotels and a few more types of buildings, they are digging an even deeper hole for themselves & their pensions by the end of this decade!

Think what that statement means, please. The more hours a local has in these sectors today translates into a commensurate sized hole in hours for the pension and jobs in the field. The 2 main drivers of the pensions are investment returns and hours. Nearly ¼ of all multi-employer funds today are taking hits in funding. Take those hours from the above sectors out of the equations and they fail – done deal! Even a high percentage of “green” funds will fail, depending on what percentage of total hours come from the above sectors.

Modularization of industries is also ramping up big time. This is a one/two punch, and we just go to convention and pursue the status quo. No politician, no NLRB changes can stop what is coming down the pike.

Infrastructure spending only speeds the impending change that much quicker. The sheer loss of jobs and skills as the decade unfolds puts the union trades behind the 8-ball.

Those sectors being modularized, along with some industries, will knock out approximately 60% to 80% of all trades needed in the field by end of decade and beyond. Workers will install a building, not build, or erect it. The rest is built on a factory floor or fab shop – get it?

The R&F cannot have the same arrogance that many have with the non-union workers – meaning the arrogance of “only we can build”. Almost 90% of ALL work done is non-union!

And now both non-union and union are out because technology will replace both of them.

Our senior leaders cannot and will not help us – no different than the last 50 years of “NET” market share loss. And yet the R&F will not demand a plan from any level leader!

They got theirs. The R&F is, as always, are on their own.

As we opened up with, those carpenters who had their pride challenged will come to find out that what has been done up to now counts for nothing. It is what are the carpenters and other trades are going to do – NOW that matters long-term.

Labor Rising would get rid of the entity called the carpenters. They do not fit into a solution going forward in our strategy – declare their jurisdiction vacant. Enforce it! The carpenter’s leadership put themselves into this position, not the R&F. The non/anti-union and double-breasted constructors are going to be hard enough to beat in an industrial modularization era. Having the carpenters in the mix is just digging our own graves.

Labor Rising will get back to solutions in our next blog.

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo


Labor Rising

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