Our Members Are Essential, Not Expendable by Paul Canning
With the unprecedented times we are now living in, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continues to climb around the country. However, here in the Northeast, we luckily seem to be seeing a decline in infections and deaths due to the virus.
When the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, soon thereafter, BMST Jeff Sullivan pulled ALL DC 35 members off their job sites due to the uncertainty of the safety of our members, and our members’ families.
Now is the time for construction, general contractors, project owners and government officials to be working together to find a clear solution, one which allows our members to continue not only to work, but to implement the maximum amount of safety procedures into place in order to protect workers from contracting and spreading the virus, because “OUR MEMBERS ARE ESSENTIAL NOT EXPENDABLE.”
Stay safe, sisters and brothers.
Accountability, Responsibility and the Union Difference
As 2020 begins a new decade for all of us at DC 35, it is time to focus on the opportunities ahead, not only to bring new opportunities to our trades, but also to look at what holds us back. We can look back over the years and see the accomplishments we have made together as one union, as well as the strategies and tactics that have brought us success. We can look back and see the policies we put in place which favor signatory contractors, and in turn, the thriving and welcoming environment we have created which provides our members with work opportunities.
Make no mistake, we did not get here on our own, and this success is not due to one solitary policy or politician. We enjoy an embarrassment of riches here in New England because of the solidarity of our union, our relationships in the trades, and the weight we hold with our elected officials.
The support you as members have shown when that call to action comes to bear is invaluable, and our continued success relies on it.
That being said, we must never take our eye off the ball and remember one word: accountability.
As we speak, this current administration, the Senate, and the Department of Labor are carefully tearing down all of the policies and institutions that built our unions. As they do this, they distract us with the day to day drama that fills the current news cycle and threatens our livelihoods.
We are seeing the Department of Labor (DOL) open the door of apprenticeship to the ABC. Many of the jobs our contractors win are due to the existence of regulations that require a true, registered apprenticeship. These apprenticeships have provided our industries with a skilled workforce for over one 100 years. The DOL recently pulled an exclusion for the building trades from its “Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Program,” potentially eliminating the dominance our unions hold over training for construction careers.
We must hold these politicians and ultimately, this president accountable for threatening the livelihoods of every brother and sister in the building trades.
Never mind the gains that have not been made due to the lack of a serious infrastructure plan, with a dominant voice in the workforce development world, our industries become susceptible to an accelerated race-to-the-bottom that we have feared for decades. We have become open to new age industry models, as apps like Uber have benefits that are on par with your average Walmart employees.
Speaking of the gig-economy, many of you have recently seen the developments regarding PPG Services (formerly Pittsburgh Paints). This company is moving forward with a new platform that connects retail and hospitality end-users to non-union contractors and workers. We have seen this movie before and how it plays DC 35 Summer Newsletter 9 Our members are Essential, Not Expendable out in the underground economy. No oversight, no accountability. We urge all of you to #boycottPPG products and services, and we hope you’ll help spread the word in your communities and over social media. We will keep you updated as this issue progresses.
This brings us back to how we can fight these efforts as organized labor, as trade unionists, and as individuals.
First, we have taken to both the streets and online to educate all members on the issues that affect their paychecks, their pensions, and their work opportunities. Some factors are not so cut and dry, and most of the favorable policies, rules, and regulations that we fight to keep are not so prominent. It is incumbent on us as union leaders and as rank-and-file members to educate each other on the challenges we face as a whole. That means on the job site, at our union meetings, and at the dinner table.
One policy we should all be talking about is the PRO-Act. Up until 2020, this country has not seen labor law reform for decades. The PRO-Act was recently passed with overwhelming support in the House of Representatives. It now sits on the floor of the Senate.
The PRO Act would:
• Penalize employers who violate workers’ right to organize.
• Help workers secure a first contract.
• Protect workers who go on strike.
• Close loopholes that allow companies to misclassify workers as independent contractors.
In other words, it would help us union members grow in power, clean up our industry, and make it harder for low-road contractors to remain competitive with our signatories. More work and better wages sound good to me!
Unfortunately, we may once again see a benefit to working people everywhere. Keep and eye out brothers and sisters, and above all, know your enemy!
Finally, I’d like to bring your attention to a new program we are building to keep our members informed, the IUPAT Rapid Action Network. On this network, we communicate through email, text, and social media in order to keep each other up to date and in the fight.
We all have a responsibility to maintain and grow our union throughout our careers. I encourage everyone to take the IUPAT Activist Pledge by signing up online and with our organizing department. Good luck out there, we need you! Now… on to 2020!