Rebuilding Our Union
As noted in the BAC History section, we are the proud legacy of our founders who met on October 16, 1865 to form what is now the longest continuous union in North America. We have a long and storied history. Back in 1955, George Meany, the longtime President of the AFL-CIO, and a union plumber, described this in the forward to our own Harry Bates' history of BAC. There, Meany wrote:
"This union grew from the spontaneous rebellion of workers against inadequate wages and intolerable working conditions. Once formed, it grew. Yet time and again it came close to ruin, and had to be patiently rebuilt."
Brother Meany wasn't wrong. We have come close to ruin in the past, and we have rebuilt. Now, I wouldn't say that the union necessarily came "close to ruin" during the last recession – but it was a hard, trying time; we lost a lot of work, and a lot of members; and we have a responsibility to our members, and to the institution of the Union itself, to rebuild with a new sense of urgency and commitment. And in order to accomplish that goal in a sustainable way, we must develop the capacity of each Local/ADC to meaningfully organize and grow.
It may seem like the dark days of the Great Recession were just a few months ago. Yet the truth is, no matter how you define that Recession, it ended in early 2013, at the latest. In fact, US construction spending began increasing in 2011. The U.S. GDP has grown steadily over the past six years, and unemployment has fallen. The current bull market has been one of the longest and strongest in history, and most analysts seem to believe that it's still going. Construction spending has trended steadily up, including in our core sectors. Most of our members are working at or above our historical average hours per member.
We can't count on these boom times forever. 2018 must be a year of real and sustainable growth.
That's why I am proud to report that each and every Local/ADC submitted an organizing plan. Now is the time to transform the plans into mature organizing campaigns.
The process of building our capacity to become skillful organizers will likely be a little like our experience as apprentices. We may not always get it right the first time, but with hard work and experience we will gain the expertise we need to excel.
We all know that plans are only as good as the follow-through, and working together, we'll figure out what works and what doesn't, and we'll adapt and change, so that we can build BAC into an even stronger force for trowel trades craftworkers across the continent.
Already, we're seeing successes. First, it's refreshing to see the revitalization of COMET training across the union (see page 9). I have signed hundreds of COMET completion certificates in the past two months, and I look forward to signing many more. In addition, we are seeing many organizing victories (see page 8).
Organizing is probably the hardest work that any of us do, and there's always a temptation to allow other, easier tasks to take the place of organizing. But we can't let our attention slip. If we don't organize now, none of the other things we do will matter.