The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, September 29, 2006

Three building trades unions beef up commitment to organizing

By The Building Tradesman



WASHINGTON (PAI) - Delegates to three building trades international unions, having returned from their general conventions, committed to making dramatic changes in organizing funding and strategies. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Iron Workers and the Laborers all took significant steps in changing the way they will go about organizing. Following is a roundup: International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers President Ed Hill, re-elected at the union's mid-September convention in Cleveland, says a new and innovative organizing drive in Florida will be a model for union-wide efforts. But to accomplish it, and to reverse a membership decline of 63,730 since July 1, 2001, and to hire and train new organizers, Hill asked delegates to raise the union's per capita tax three times in the next five years. "We all know dues i

WASHINGTON (PAI) - Delegates to three building trades international unions, having returned from their general conventions, committed to making dramatic changes in organizing funding and strategies.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Iron Workers and the Laborers all took significant steps in changing the way they will go about organizing. Following is a roundup:

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers President Ed Hill, re-elected at the union's mid-September convention in Cleveland, says a new and innovative organizing drive in Florida will be a model for union-wide efforts.

But to accomplish it, and to reverse a membership decline of 63,730 since July 1, 2001, and to hire and train new organizers, Hill asked delegates to raise the union's per capita tax three times in the next five years.

"We all know dues increases can be painful, but think about the consequences of maintaining the status quo. Without investment in our programs, our growth will be stunted. Without growth, our ability to represent and protect our current members and their families is jeopardized," he explained.

To add the new members, the union "expanded its small works agreement" in Florida and will carry that on to central Pennsylvania, then elsewhere, Hill said. The small works agreement lets IBEW's cooperating contractors and union members "compete for residential and other work we have long been shut out of" by creation of "new construction wireman and construction electrician classifications." The agreement has brought the union's share of the huge and growing Florida residential electrical contracting market rose from below 10 percent to 14 percent in one year, Hill said.

Hill said the IBEW wants to hire and train 100 new international organizers and assign them to start new geographically based regional organizing councils. "The idea is not to supplant local organizing efforts," but "to provide the kind of genuine, solid support… missing from our strategy - support that will encourage rank and file participation, identify winnable targets-of which there are literally thousands, and go after them in a coherent, well planned manner," he explained.

Delegates to the 23rd General Convention of the Laborers' International Union of North America earlier this month voted to increase funding for organizing to $140 million within three to four years.

The monetary commitment to organizing is more than any other construction workers' union and more than virtually any other union in North America. "The increased funding," a statement by the union said, "would be married to organizing strategies regionally and nationally to help organize hundreds of thousands of non-union workers in the union's core sectors of building and heavy and highway construction."

The union said it has also committed to a comprehensive organizing effort in residential construction, where workers are usually woefully under-represented by unions.

"We must become so strong that any employer who basks in the culture of greed shudders at our name. We must become so well-known that every laborer in need calls out our name," Laborers General President Terence M. O'Sullivan told the 1,700 convention delegates as he opened the convention.

At their general convention on Aug. 16, the Iron Workers International Union voted to double the amount of dollars that union devotes to organizing. The union will now allocate $4 per member per month to organizing, up from $2, delegates decided.

And the resolution lets the union's board raise the amount further, between conventions.

"A union that is willing to accept the status quo is a union that is doomed to failure," Ironworkers President Joe Hunt said in his keynote address. "Hanging our hats on our past accomplishments" and sustaining present activities "are the choices of a union that is slowly dying," he warned. Hunt backed the hike.

The extra money will go to local organizing, to creating a national marketing campaign showing the benefits of unionized Ironworkers, and to establish a special national organizing team to help locals, said Hunt and Organizing Director Bernie Evers.

ncreases can be painful, but think about the consequences of maintaining the status quo. Without investment in our programs, our growth will be stunted. Without growth, our ability to represent and protect our current members and their families is jeopardized," he explained. To add the new members, the union "expanded its small works agreement" in Florida and will carry that on to central Pennsylvania, then elsewhere, Hill said. The small works agreement lets IBEW's cooperating contractors and union members "compete for residential and other work we have long been shut out of" by creation of "new construction wireman and construction electrician classifications." The agreement has brought the union's share of the huge and growing Florida residential electrical contracting market rose from below 10 percent to 14 percent in one year, Hill said. Hill said the IBEW wants to hire and train 100 new international organizers and assign them to start new geographically based regional organizing councils. "The idea is not to supplant local organizing efforts," but "to provide the kind of genuine, solid support… missing from our strategy - support that will encourage rank and file participation, identify winnable targets-of which there are literally thousands, and go after them in a coherent, well planned manner," he explained. Delegates to the 23rd General Convention of the Laborers' International Union of North America earlier this month voted to increase funding for organizing to $140 million within three to four years. The monetary commitment to organizing is more than any other construction workers' union and more than virtually any other union in North America. "The increased funding," a statement by the union said, "would be married to organizing strategies regionally and nationally to help organize hundreds of thousands of non-union workers in the union's core sectors of building and heavy and highway construction." The union said it has also committed to a comprehensive organizing effort in residential construction, where workers are usually woefully under-represented by unions. "We must become so strong that any employer who basks in the culture of greed shudders at our name. We must become so well-known that every laborer in need calls out our name," Laborers General President Terence M. O'Sullivan told the 1,700 convention delegates as he opened the convention. At their general convention on Aug. 16, the Iron Workers International Union voted to double the amount of dollars that union devotes to organizing. The union will now allocate $4 per member per month to organizing, up from $2, delegates decided. And the resolution lets the union's board raise the amount further, between conventions. "A union that is willing to accept the status quo is a union that is doomed to failure," Ironworkers President Joe Hunt said in his keynote address. "Hanging our hats on our past accomplishments" and sustaining present activities "are the choices of a union that is slowly dying," he warned. Hunt backed the hike. The extra money will go to local organizing, to creating a national marketing campaign showing the benefits of unionized Ironworkers, and to establish a special national organizing team to help locals, said Hunt and Organizing Director Bernie Evers.