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Trades Founders Must be Turning Over in Their Graves –

Under the premise that we must “organize or die,” our Building Trades unions have invested heavily for the last 30 years in the following efforts (note that I am not calling these initiatives strategies, because they have proven that they are not):

  • Market as a brand
  • Sell a product, placing control of the Building Trades’ future in the hands of businesses and politicians
  • Refer to the construction community as our customers
  • Abandon all economic pressure on anti-union entities (i.e., end-users, developers, construction managers and GC’s), including strikes, controlling the means of production, legal civil disobedience and other forms of legal labor unrest
  • Negotiate with emphasis on concession after concession – “being competitive”
  • Operate as a business organization (e.g., TEMP agency), de-emphasizing the trades as UNIONS and in many cases, quite literally running away from the U word

But the ironies are striking – we’re not talking about recruit or die, top-down or die, collaborate or die, or marketing development or die, or even business unionism or die! We’re talking about our unions NOT ORGANIZING, so we are dying!

Organizing is putting the non/anti-union companies under a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), regardless of whether they want to be a party to it or not. It is also granting the anti-union construction entities their wish – which is to go out of business rather than sign with the union. Organizing the company and their workers adds market share and DENSITY (a far greater measure), as all jobs going forward will be done with union trades, and the companies necessary to achieve that goal.

Recruiting is not organizing, it is adding more workers to the rolls without the corresponding increase in contractors in the market. Recruitment is selling out union principals on the cheap. It betrays the ultimate union value of making workers’ lives and conditions better. If workers want to yell and protest, sue, call OSHA and engage in more passive activities, anti/non-union can easily handle this. It is no more than a cost of doing business. Until and unless the trades have the ability (when needed) to IMPOSE a CBA on a contractor – our Founders will continue to roll over in their graves! Quit selling – impose workers’ rights!

A CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) is earned by controlling businesses’ bottom-line –  Organizing! Organizing pays big time attention to the end-users, developers, CMs’ and GCs’ clients, credit and social perception – those who ultimately sign the checks. Their wallets need to be grabbed and grabbed hard economically via their revenue – not that hard to do in the 21st century if a union concentrates on the betterment of workers’ lives, union or not!

As our Founders learned – it’s all about how the money gets divided. If we continue with the passive “please see our value” approach, plead with politicians to “please help out a brother”, and do the inane passive Facebook postings about all the benefits labor has provided when the modern generation of senior leadership has transformed the trades into a temp agency – then the non-union workers are just going to take a flyer, and sit tight for the time being.

When the non-union currently has 91% of “all” work (especially when you look at DENSITY), and that number is growing, it’s not hard to understand that the non-union doesn’t want to jump on the Titanic. This isn’t bashing our International President Brothers. It’s the reality that has confronted the Building Trades now for at least 3 decades. It is why no senior leader has EVER confronted Labor Rising’s BLOGS and facts. Because they are exactly that – FACTS – all garnered from the trades’ own filing and internal documents. It is why no one will go one on one with Labor Rising in union forums – we’d eat them up with facts and figures, along with the BS structure of leadership’s decisions that got us to this point. After several years of working directly with hundreds of agents and organizers, we feel strongly we have pieced together this business unionism puzzle.

As the Titanic sinks, we will all be asking ourselves in the years to come: “What role did I play?” Just because you got in a lifeboat, that doesn’t obscure the fact that on your watch we hit multiple icebergs and went down. So, to our leadership we say, “Enjoy your awards as ‘man of the whatever year,’ but know that history is going to judge us very precisely and harshly. The senior leadership for the past 30 plus years have nothing in common with our Founders! ZIP!

Maybe in future writings, I’ll begin to lay out a map of where all the “dead bodies” are buried should we continue to see market share, density and pensions fail in the upcoming years!

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo
Labor Rising/Labor Combat

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