It what has to be the most innovative, progressive and tech savvy new program to help building trades unions organize non-union contractors was outlined at the monthly meeting of the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council.
“Let’s get back in the war of winning market share,” was the impetus for the presentation by Danny Caliendo, senior instruction/founder of a hard-nosed new organizing group – the Labor Combat Organizing College (LCOC).
Caliendo, a veteran ironworker and union organizer for 11 years, minced no words when he pointed out that organizing in the construction field has failed to bring any real results, that building trades union across America are losing market share.
As building trades union lose market share, it has a direct impact of their members’ wages and benefits, which continue to erode as non-union grows in a market. Pointing out that the St. Louis region is still one of the most highly unionized, it’s a target for non-union firms “because that’s where the money is.”
LOSING THE WAR
“We’re at war with the non-union, and we’re losing it,” he stressed, adding, “The current ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up’ organizing approaches are simply not working.”
To make his point, Caliendo used some hard-hitting statistics compiled by graduate business students he has used to research the statistics he is using to determine organizing success:
• Bottom Up: One in seven organizing efforts result in a victory; and for that one victory, actually being able to negotiate a first contract is worse than one in seven. “And after a year, 45 percent of those ‘victories’ are decertified because the union couldn’t produce a contract.”
• Top Down: Companies tell you “come on in, we’ll cooperate with you if you want to organize us” but then statistics show that 77 percent of those “invitations” are phony and that the companies actually work against the union. “It’s the ‘keep your enemies close to you’ approach and then they kill us,” he said.
The answer to winning market share by organizing the unorganized construction companies is not necessarily cooperation, but to “hit ‘em in the pocket book.”
And the way to do it: using today’s technology; the Internet, search engines, search engine optimization and extensive research on potential target companies the union wants to organize.
“We’ve never used a business approach to winning at organizing. Now, through the training programs in the Labor Combat Organizing College, we show union organizers how to find and use data because information is actionable,” he stressed.
Following the comprehensive market strategy the College program outlines, and employing a high level of commitment and patience, a building trades can increase their local market share by 55 to 70 percent, Caliendo said.
THE ‘OLD WAY’
The real problem he told the Labor Tribune is that most of the older leadership is just not tech savvy, and as a result continues to do things the “old way. What’s the definition of insanity; continuing to do the same thing over and over to expect a different outcome?”
Leadership needs to understand the overall concepts of this new approach so they can encourage its use, but it’s the younger members within the union that can implement this tech approach to organizing in this new technology age. It might also require possibly hiring young, tech savvy people to help service the broad array of technology available: blogging, face book, twitter, etc.
“Those people could be in the union already, or you can hire them from the outside just as companies do.”
LEVELS OF TRAINING
Caliendo pointed out that there are four levels of training offered by the Organizing College:
• Skirmish: For organizers that have less than a year experience and/or do not have a working knowledge of using such things as SIC/NAICS Codes, Advanced Business and Credit Reports, Power Mapping, Internet Research, SEO, Keywords, SERPs, Smart Phones, Twitter and Facebook as aggressive organizing tools not taught in any other program.
• Special Ops: Two and a half days session for proactive, experienced field organizers learning new techniques to sign non/anti-union contractors. The secondary mission of Special Ops is to directly impact the end users of non/anti-union contractors.
• TechCombat™: Leverages the power of a union’s members to get signatory contractors more business while displacing non/anti-union competitors’ position in the marketplace. Ultimately it delivers more business to signatory contractors, which means happier contractors, more member hours, and an added value proposition to remain in for new members to join the union.
• Building Trade/Union organizing: A comprehensive training program for an entire building trades council.
There is a negotiable cost involved for the training.
The effort started some years ago when Caliendo and a number of other organizers put their heads together to learn from each another. By picking up tips from one another, they began to formulate a more organized approach.
What became clear was that there was a lot of information about target companies available to them, they just didn’t know how to access, or use it.
Caliendo then began talking with graduate business school students to gather real statistics as to just how the “old” organizing efforts were working. To his dismay, they weren’t! Thus he and several others created the Labor Combat Organizing College to teach organizers a more precise, tactical, strategic approach to successful organizing.
Today, there have been six training sessions completed with energetic response. Additionally, two building trades councils have sponsored the College’s program for their affiliates.
For more information, unions can contact Danny Caliendo at 1-800-976-9661 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The College is not a program of the national Building Trades Department but rather a private effort by Caliendo and a group of experienced organizers who were simply tired of losing campaigns.
Seasoned organizers compliment ‘Combat’
“I would highly recommend ‘Labor Combat’ to any new or experienced organizers in the unionized construction industry. The research methods and techniques taught … are indispensable in today’s environment. Gone are the days of traditional force on force methods such as ‘turn or burn’ or ‘card check recognition.’ In today’s market, we must use a more asymmetrical and research based approach to help make our contractors more competitive and marketable by using some or all of the techniques and methods taught by Mr. Caliendo and his group.”
Business Manager/Financial Secretary
IBEW Local 364
“…Over the last 12 years, I have attended several different organizing classes… I personally would not have an organizer in the field without having gone through this training.”
-Kraig R. Lee
IBEW Local 131
“I … think the class is a great asset for rookie or veteran organizers. I highly recommend the class.”
Roofers Local 70
“Solid organizing class with veteran organizers working with us on our own markets. #TechCombat shows the power of the Internet to get our contractors and unions more work! I recommend this class to serious organizers and agents.”
Sheet Metal Workers Local 20