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Bigger Labor: A Crash Course for Construction Union Organizers

Bigger Labor: A Crash Course for Construction Union Organizers

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Bigger Labor: A Crash Course for Construction Union Organizers

210 pages
2 heures
Apr 26, 2016


Want to recruit more members and contractors? Learn the vital skills and nuts and bolts you need to produce explosive growth for your union's future. Bigger Labor is the ultimate resource for building a more powerful Labor movement. Bigger Labor examines the components of the current construction organizing model and offers a more innovative approach. This book has enabled organizers to take back their industry, and it will show you the way too.

You will discover how to:

Organize contractors
Recruit members
Maximize your time
Develop better listening skills
Avoid job burn-out
Apr 26, 2016

À propos de l'auteur

Bob Oedy is an American punk rock musician, singer and songwriter. He's the author of three books including The Punk Rock Las Vegas Survival Guide. Bob plays guitar for The Grim, sings for Glue Gun, published four studio albums, three seven-inches and his music appeared on numerous compilation records. Bob is a graduate of The National Labor College in Maryland where he earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Labor Studies. He also holds an Associate in Science Degree in Electronics from Pierce College. Bob is a proud parent and lives with his sixteen-year-old son in Los Angeles, California. His hobbies are music, Punk Rock Bowling, photography, public speaking, writing and camping.

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Bigger Labor - Bob Oedy



I wish to thank many people for encouraging me to write this book. Please accept my sincere apology if I have forgotten to include your name, because it was completely by mistake. Thanks to my family: Mom, Dad, Tom, Carol, Mary, John, Bella, Dean and Dylan for their encouragement. Sincere gratitude goes to Tony Romo, a trusted friend and talented listener. Very special thanks goes to business manager, Marvin P. Kropke, his family, and all the dedicated members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, especially Local 11 rank-and-file, staff, and secretarial personnel.

I wish to thank Chrysa Cullather for her patience in this process, as well as her editing expertise. Marketing Mentor Ilise Benun, for showing me the way, introducing me to the right people and keeping me on track; and the Communicatrix, Colleen Wainwright, for getting it from Day 1 and encouraging me to proceed. Thanks to my proofreader, Jon Richard Kaufmann, for his keen eye; Audra Keefe and Peleg Top of Top Design for their brilliant cover design; and Arthur B. Shostak for expanding my vision of the future of the labor movement. Kudos to Jackie Dixon for returning all my calls and e-mails, Dan Poynter, for showing me there was a book inside me, and Allison Tenzer, for correcting my papers.

Appreciation goes out to organizers Mark Meyer, Marc Greenfield, Gary Parker, Dianna Limon, Dick Reed, Kevin Norton, Larry Henderson, Eric Brown, Tommy Faavae, Eddie Gering, Max Carter and Al D. Davis for their insight. Thanks to Dave and Cyndi Klane, for their literary and artistic input and Steven Moncur, for his quick responses to my questions, and also to John Harriel, Mark Breslin, Daniel Villao, Rick Perna, Kate Bronfenbrenner, Kirk Brungard, Roy San Filippo, and Marty Cohen, as well as Matt Kolbinsky of Pro Union Consulting for reviewing my manuscript.

To Mom and Dad: For inspiring me to reach higher every day.


A revolutionary organizer must shake up the prevailing patterns of their lives—agitate, create disenchantment and discontent with the current values to produce, if not a passion for change, at least a passive, affirmative, non-challenging climate.

—Saul D. Alinsky, 1971

Right now, labor unions are poised to take advantage of the biggest growth opportunity in years. Employers are experiencing the beginning of a skilled labor shortage. The Baby Boomers are retiring, and younger workers are choosing to continue education past high school and seek other professional careers. Pick up any trade magazine or newspaper, and you will likely find an article about the coming demand for qualified construction workers. Construction industry insiders agree that apprenticeship programs could find themselves struggling to keep up with the demand. This situation will mean higher wages and increased benefits for union members. It will also provide needed capital for unions to invest in recruiting new members and training them.

It’s an exciting time to be a labor organizer. Individual labor organizers are experiencing amazing results. They are signing contractors, attracting members, and gaining market share for their unions. Organizers are out there on the front lines of what is sometimes perceived as a battle between the union and the not-yet-union construction industry. In spite of the tension and the naysayers, they are reaching out to the nonunion employers with an invitation to make their companies more profitable. The union offers a solution to the challenges of the nonunion employer, especially now during a labor shortage. Labor needs to recognize this opportunity. The time to act is now.

Whether you are a seasoned professional or volunteer organizer, I want to congratulate you and thank you for the work that you do on behalf of union men and women everywhere.

My Introduction to the Union

In 1986, before joining the union, I was employed at a nonunion rental house in Hollywood. The hours were long, and the pay was horrible. On this particular day, I attempted to deliver a truckload of equipment to Paramount Studios. When I was backing up a truck to the loading dock the workers shut the doors and put up a sign that read, Back in 30 minutes. I called my employer to explain the delay, and was told the workers were probably inside taking their union lunch break so don’t disturb them. I wanted to be able to take breaks like that. My boss made it very clear that if the customer needed anything during my break it was over. In fact, I might not be able to go back to finish a sandwich. There were many such days. I didn’t have a retirement plan or a real health plan, for that matter. That was the day it hit me. I had to get into the union.

In 1988, after a previously unsuccessful attempt, I was finally accepted into the electrical apprenticeship program, becoming a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local Union 11. Joining the union and learning a trade gave me opportunities that I never dreamed I would have. My life would never be the same. From that point on, I can honestly say I had a sense of hope that I never experienced in all my days working before that. There was a sense of security knowing that the union would back me up, that I was covered by medical insurance, that I was participating in a retirement plan, and, of course, that I would get to take my breaks.

Becoming a member opened doors that were previously closed, and instilled loyalty and commitment to grow within the organization. Becoming a member was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Leaving my previous job wasn’t easy; it was like taking a step off a diving board. I was comfortable in my job and felt I made an impact on the company for the better, but the union had so much more to offer.

Getting Involved With the Union

The apprenticeship was tough, but I got through it with the help of some classmates and co-workers who took an interest in helping me. I was elected class representative twice, mostly because no one else was interested. People told me the 4 years would go by fast, and they weren’t kidding. My mom later confided in me that she thought I would drop out and never complete the apprenticeship, but she never let me know that at the time.

A few years after becoming a journeyman, a friend informed me that the welfare committee wasn’t able to pay union dues for sick members because there weren’t even enough people to make a quorum at the meeting. They needed four members to show, and only three had shown up. The bylaws prohibited the meeting from being conducted. The next month I attended the meeting as a representative, and the committee was able to conduct business. The same members served on the executive committee whose meeting took place right after the welfare committee. Again, I was urged to stay so that they would have a quorum. I agreed, and so started my obsession with union activism.

My story is similar to the stories of many people with whom I’ve spoken. It starts with someone asking you to participate, and then at some point you realize if you don’t continue to be active, there may not be anyone else to take your place. In some ways this is indicative of the challenge we face in the labor movement, because there are so few people with a real interest in the day-to-day operation of a union.

I’ve had the pleasure of working on many great union construction projects, like the Metrorail subway in Los Angeles, the Hollywood/Highland Red Line subway stop of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Trillium Building in Warner Center, UCLA Co-gen Plant and Arco Refinery, Los Angeles International Airport, and NBC Studios. Many of the companies I’ve worked for have grown to be powerhouses. I’ve also seen Companies that were giants at one time go by the wayside. One such company had 250 electricians working in Los Angeles at the time. The shop was successful in every sense, and I’m sure many thought it would continue to be a leader and grow for years to come. The company was run on autopilot. I never understood how a company could be so wasteful and yet so successful. Unfortunately, this success didn’t last. Because of this mismanagement, they closed the Los Angeles office, and 250 employees were out of a job.

My point is this; it’s everyone’s duty to keep an eye out for the most effective way to solve problems and move an organization forward. Each person is obligated to share information that will help each other. Everyone needs to reassess his or her actions from time to time. Everyone needs to ask the question, Is this the best way to go about solving this challenge? Even more importantly, Will this action lead to the continued growth of the organization or to its demise?

To reach this goal of Bigger Labor, you cannot settle for business as usual. Every action you take needs to be scrutinized and improved on if possible. If you see a better way to do things, speak up. Don’t be afraid. You are probably not alone. If you don’t know what you are doing, stop! Ask for help. There should be no shame in asking for assistance. Find the person most knowledgeable in the area you are struggling in and ask for guidance.

Chapter One: Where We Are

Labor never quits. We never give up the fight—no matter how tough the odds, no matter how long it takes.

—George Meany

A friend forwarded an article about a drop in union membership in the private sector on January 23, 2010 (Kris Maher, Wall Street Journal Online.). According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of union workers dropped to the lowest level since the government started tracking them. That’s not surprising, I thought to myself. There’s really no reason to read it. It’s not news; union membership has been dropping for years. If union membership was to suddenly shoot back up to levels of the 1950s and 1960s, now that would be news, but that’s crazy; no one expects that to happen anytime soon.

No comprehensive plan is in place for an all out, wall-to-wall, nationwide union organizing drive. Of course, there are individual unions—and some construction unions are among them—who have embraced organizing and are reaping the rewards. It seems that what the labor movement really needs right now is solidarity. Labor cannot afford to fractionalize at a time when we have so much to gain and yet so much to lose. With the Baby Boomers nearing retirement and increased demand for skilled labor, it seems like the perfect opportunity for a cooperative of unions to achieve the goal of a revitalized labor movement. What seems more likely is that those unions that have already embraced organizing and are investing the most money in training and recruiting new organizers will grow while the others will fade into obscurity.

While studying for my bachelor’s degree in labor studies at the George Meany Center/National Labor College, the professor informed the class that union organizing wasn’t faith based, it was science based. She went on to say that faith and hope were great things, but they have no place in union organizing. According to the professor, every effort needs to be analyzed to see if it produced a clearly measured result. There need to be strict parameters and proven examples. She advocated comparative case studies to measure the outcome of scientific approaches to determine whether they support the hypothesis. If not, Labor needs to throw that organizing model out and try something entirely new.

While I agree that Labor needs to

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