On Sept. 25, the Kansas City, Mo.-based Labor-Management Council of Greater Kansas City (LMC) and its Construction Industry Steering Team, with sponsorship from the Power Partners, comprising the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA)-KC, and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 124, held the second Construction Industry Summit to address non-union competition and ways to increase market share.
Keynote speaker at the summit, Mark Breslin, San Ramon, Calif., presented “What's In It For Me? From Ideology to Economics,” a talk on the changing reputation of union shops and the course of action they should take in order to regain market share lost to non-union competitors. Breslin, a fourth-generation contractor and former negotiator, advised those in attendance to adapt a “can and will” response to the market, nurture cooperation among the trades, and challenge the status quo of union policy.
KC Borden, chapter manager of NECA-KC says that many of the trades already take some of these steps individually, but Breslin's message of cooperation is valuable — even going as far as proposing an integrated turnkey solution from the crafts that could possibly eliminate the role of the general contractor. “A few of those items that Breslin mentioned — jurisdictional issues, picketing policies, and drug testing — are already being addressed by the building trades themselves,” Borden notes. “We've been dealing with these things for probably more than a year. NECA and the IBEW took it upon themselves to try and find out what the market wants, but one of the recurring issues that comes up is, ‘We think you guys are on the right track and we applaud your efforts, but if you don't get everybody else involved it's really not going to be that effective.’”
Praising the unique partnership between labor and management that LMC fosters, Breslin urged members to create a strategic plan with a written timetable and goals for educating and marketing to end-users and owners. “Hopefully, we'll have some of those items addressed by the end of the year, and we'll have an industry-wide plan for moving forward on some of those issues,” Borden says.
As far as Breslin's marketing message, Borden says that NECA-KC has taken a market approach toward the way it conducts itself, and encourages its members to think in terms of marketing as well. “There are plenty of things that we can inform them of in terms of company policies that are more customer conscious, the way that they deal with individual employees in order to make them more productive, such as getting them training in areas that contractors might specialize in,” he says.
Finally, Breslin's strongest message is one of involvement of the rank and file. “We're actually working on getting the individual workers involved in the process as well,” Borden says. “Our hardest issue is getting them to buy into the concept.”