Notes about what I do
and what I would like to do
What almost everyone else does
There has always been two basic approaches to organizing within our organization "top down" and "bottom up".
Top down means visiting non-union contractors and selling them on the benefits of becoming a signatory employer. This approach is what most of our members and our international leadership see as the best way to organize our industry.
I personally have not found it to be very effective as a way to organize our industry, mostly because there is absolutely no incentive for a contractor to become signatory unless he needs something that we have i.e. access to some types of projects (union only) or manpower (only during boom economic times when it is hard to find journeymen).
However it does provide some benefit to visit these contractors so that if they do find themselves in one of those situations they may become interested in the possibility of becoming signatory. So for that reason we do need to keep in touch and try to form a relationship with them. I also think that it would be more effective for our signatory's would take on the task of trying to organize these contractors.
Bottom up means talking to individual workers and getting them to become members. This was the most common focus of our leadership prior to their almost (but not entire) swing towards top down. Our members hated it and still do, because they view it as just adding members in front of them on the book.
The only way any organization can recruit members is by talking to, and educating prospective members about the benefits of joining with you. We can do that and are successful at bringing in some but mostly when they have become unemployed, or when we have work. This is why our members say we should be organizing shops. This is why our members say we should be organizing shops, and why our leaders have turned their focus towards a top down approach also.
I personally think that it is far better than top down and would be the very best way to organize (if it worked the way it is supposed to).
How it is supposed to work is they want to become members because they believe in our purpose so strongly that they join and convince all of their fellow employees to join also. Then these new members collectively demand that their employer become signatory or they will all walk away (and be willing and able to do just that).
So the main problem with this approach is that we are recruiting people who are looking for a job, or a better job, rather than changing their current employer and jobs into union employers and jobs.
My view of all of this is that we have become stuck in the above circle of madness and need to do things differently. I believe that organizing is not and should not be focused only on "selling ourselves" to anyone.
Simply stated we are people who believe in justice in the workplace, at home, in our neighborhoods, our communities, state, country and beyond. Justice is not bought or sold, it is sought out and demanded, fought for, and defended. It is not a tool or commodity, an item on a shelf. It just is.
This is why I have always been puzzled why we have limited ourselves to discussing wage packages, legalities, and skills while recruiting members; all good things, but when our founders were laying the groundwork for our organization, wanting better pay and safer working conditions