October 2015

It’s a New Day

It’s a new day in the Iron Workers Shop Department. We’re experiencing a rebirth that is sure to lead us into the future with a union that is strong and endures. Our organizers are hard at work, using strategies that are tried and true, while incorporating new tactics to keep us at the forefront of the organizing game among our fellow building trades unionists.

Organizing shop workers is a little different than organizing outside workers, and it presents its own set of challenges and barriers. Shop organizing efforts are done through recognition campaigns that rely, almost exclusively, on building solid, unwavering support with each individual worker. That’s tough because organizers are almost always banned from accessing workers in their workplace. Further, shop workers have a greater, and more realized, fear and anxiety about organizing due to increasingly aggressive union-busting tactics and the drastic decline of North American manufacturing jobs over the past four decades. 

But with income inequality at its highest and working conditions regressing to near-Industrial Revolution conditions, organizers are capitalizing on the opportunity to agitate, educate and organize. And the public supports these efforts; a Pew poll conducted in March of this year found that public support for workers’ ability to form a union is highest for manufacturing and factory workers, with 82 percent favoring unions for these workers. Using the ACES model, shop organizers are leveraging community support by developing new community coalitions to broaden and strengthen organizing efforts that are focused on worker issues. 

One factor boosting organizing strength in the Shop Department is the Initial Organizing Contract Fund (IOCF), which has been accountable for 35 percent of the new membership brought in through organizing efforts. The IOCF assists with subsidizing shop local organizers, which helps bolster organizing efforts by affording us the resources and capacity to put more boots on the ground.

The Shop Steward Training Program has already begun paying off in Canada and the U.S. Members are enrolling to learn how to most effectively represent other members as stewards. Increased member participation is leading to greater activism and interest in internal/external organizing. Shopmen locals are beginning to develop volunteer organizing committees made up of member activists committed to growing market share and bringing in unorganized fellow workers.

In further commitment to reaching out to unorganized shop workers, we have launched the first Shop Jobline to provide signatory employers the ability to post job opportunities and pull from a skilled, qualified work force, as well as to give members the flexibility to seek union work in other areas when their shop is slow or experiencing lay-offs.

Finally, in the true spirit of One Union, One Ironworkers, we have renewed our commitment to working together with Bernie Evers and the Organizing Department on joint organizing efforts, important both strategically and in terms of building solidarity among our shop and outside workers. 

General President Eric Dean wrote, “It is this simple: If we have the workforce, we then are able to demand better wages and working conditions. Period. We must strive for more workers and work opportunities for our union.” We are demonstrably committed to fulfilling this clear directive to organize and build power. Each and every ironworker is urged to join us in leading the International movement to represent all workers in our industry. We believe in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s decree to go not where the path may lead, but instead to go where there is no path and leave a trail, and we resolve to strive on blazing trails into the future.