ILR School

Construction Industry Program

Permanent URI for this collection

The Construction Industry Program provides training and education programs as well as research and technical assistance to building and construction trades unionists throughout North America. The focus is on internal membership education and mobilization, external organizing, and strategies to build union market share. Programs have reached over 300,000 construction unionists in the last twenty years.

The Construction Industry Program is now part of The Worker Institute.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 9 of 9
  • Item
    Steward Training in the Construction Industry: The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America Faces the Challenge
    Grabelsky, Jeffrey (1993-01-01)
    [Excerpt] This article examines the development and delivery of the Carpenters union national construction steward training program. It describes the collaboration of the union and Cornell University in the design of the curriculum and the use of a train-the-trainer model in the delivery of the steward program in construction locals throughout the United States and Canada. Finally, it evaluates the effectiveness of the program in relation to the transfer of knowledge to participating stewards.
  • Item
    Standing at a Crossroads: The Building Trades in the Twenty-First Century
    Erlich, Mark; Grabelsky, Jeffrey (2005-09-01)
    American building trades unions have historically played a critical and stabilizing role in the nation’s construction industry, establishing uniform standards and leveling the competitive playing field. Union members have enjoyed better than average wages and benefits, excellent training opportunities, and decent jobsite conditions. But in the last thirty years the industry has undergone a dramatic transformation. This article describes the decline in union density, the drop in construction wages, the growth of anti-union forces, the changes in labor force demographics, the shift toward construction management, and the emergence of an underground economy. It also analyzes how building trades unions have responded to these changes, identifies structural impediments to union renewal, and proposes strategies for building trades unions to reassert their presence and power.
  • Item
    Serving the Public Interest: Preventing Double-Breasting in the Construction Industry
    Grabelsky, Jeffrey (2007-10-17)
    Excerpt] But the immediate question I am addressing is how the practice of double-breasting undermines the stability of collective bargaining in the construction industry. The simple answer is that it is not exceedingly difficult for a unionized contractor to operate a double-breasted nonunion firm and, given the increasingly intense competitive pressures to cut labor costs (given rising land and material costs), employers have a strong incentive to double-breast. To the extent unionized contractors have pursued that business strategy, how has it impacted the system of collective bargaining in the construction industry?
  • Item
    Psychosocial Capacity Building in New York: Building Resiliency with Construction Workers Assigned to Ground Zero after 9/11
    Miller, Joshua; Grabelsky, Jeffrey; Wagner, KC (2010-01-01)
    [Excerpt] Psychosocial capacity building, which is a more common approach in response to disasters outside of Western Europe and the U.S., was, in part, a reaction against the perceived “traumatization” and pathologizing of disaster survivors, as well as the over-emphasis on the individual at the expense of the collectivity and community (Ager, 1997; IASC, 2007; Kleinman & Cohen, 1997; Miller, in press; Mollica, 2006; Strang & Ager, 2003; Summerfield 1995; 2000; Wessels, 1999; Wessels & Monteiro, 2006). The accent with psychosocial capacity building is equally on the social as well as the psychological. Some of the tenets of this approach are: an emphasis on families, groups and communities; focusing on strengths, capacities and sources of resiliency; a wariness of the medicalization of social reactions to abnormal situations; centralizing culture and its impact on meaning making after a disaster, expression of affect and its implications for healing; using local, indigenous, often non-professional people as the designers and implementers of projects; supporting and reconstructing mutual aid and self-help groups; taking into account socio-cultural variables such as race, class, and gender when considering the impact of a disaster and how to respond to it. Although there are clearly different points of emphasis, a mental health approach and psychosocial capacity building approach are not mutually exclusive and can be combined for effective, multi-systemic interventions to respond to disasters. There were elements of both approaches in the project described in this paper.
  • Item
    Lighting the Spark: COMET Program Mobilizes the Ranks for Construction Organizing
    Grabelsky, Jeffrey (1995-01-01)
    This article describes the COMET (Construction Organizing Membership Education Training) program. Faced with declining membership and market share and an erosion of bargaining strength and political influence, building trades unions have undertaken a number of Initiatives to reverse their fortunes. COMET, an educational program that generates membership support and participation in organizing, has emerged as one of the most noteworthy of these new initiatives. Before COMET, organizing efforts were stymied by the reluctance of many union members and leaders to recruit into membership the large nonunion workforce. COMET appears to have transformed the political culture within those local unions that have utilized it by placing organizing on the top of their agendas. Although organizing activity and effectiveness are growing, it may be too soon to tell if construction unions can use COMET to successfully re-unionize the industry.
  • Item
    Construction Organizing: A Case Study of Success
    Condit, Brian; Davis, Tom; Grabelsky, Jeffrey; Kotler, Fred (1998-01-01)
    [Excerpt] This chapter examines how IBEW Local 611, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, reversed its decline and between 1988 and 1994 reemerged as a dominant force in its jurisdiction. What the local did, how it did it, and what other building trade unions can learn from 611's success are the central points of the discussion.
  • Item
    Construction or De-construction? The Road to Revival in the Building Trades
    Grabelsky, Jeffrey (2007-04-01)
    [Excerpt] The building and construction trades have historically been one of the most stable and secure sectors of the American labor movement. In the period immediately after World War II, their power in the construction industry was legendary, controlling over 80 percent of the work and setting standards that were the envy of workers everywhere. How did the building trades' position devolve so dramatically that it is now commonly described as a crisis of survival? How has the construction industry evolved in ways that have undermined the strength and vitality of building trades unions? How have construction unionists responded to the changed circumstances of their industry and their weakened position in it? How has the larger context of a labor movement in crisis influenced the strategic options of building trades leaders on both sides of the national split?
  • Item
    Building and Construction Trades Unions: Are They Built to Win?
    Grabelsky, Jeff (2004-12-01)
    [Excerpt] The evidence of labor's declining power in the economic and political arenas is increasingly clear. Despite the tenacious efforts of talented leaders over the past ten years, the labor movement has still failed to turn the proverbial cornet. Some labor leaders now believe that a dramatic change in strategic direction may be necessary to revitalize labor's fortunes. The emerging debate about labor's future touches every sector of the movement. The building and construction trades are no exception.
  • Item
    Bottom-Up Organizing in the Trades: An Interview with Mike Lucas, IBEW Director of Organizing
    Grabelsky, Jeff (1988-09-01)
    [Excerpt] Like the bottom-up organizers who built the IBEW 100 years ago by traveling from city to city, working at their trade and preaching the union creed, Lucas has been around the block. From Florida to Oklahoma, Indiana to Tennessee, he worked from 1954 to 1959 as a member of the Laborers and Teamsters unions. He began his organizing career in the utility construction industry, and first volunteered his talents to the IBEW in 1960 by organizing the manufacturing workers at a new Studebaker plant in Bloomington, Indiana, which he had recently helped build as a union electrician. He served as a shop steward, local officer and international rep, before becoming IBEW Local 429 in Nashville, Tennessee.