National Law Review Updates

It’s nice to see states catching up to where organized labor’s been for a long time: equal pay for equal work.  https://www.natlawreview.com/article/boli-issues-final-rules-oregon-s-equal-pay-law

Thinking of using job-site cameras with facial-recognition tech to track employees goofing off out back?  Or fingerprints to see who actually attends that all-important meeting that just happens to be in a very tempting Vegas casino?  There are laws about that:  https://www.natlawreview.com/article/illinois-supreme-court-to-decide-scope-bipa

More on the reasoning behind the Kentucky Supreme Court’s decision upholding right-to-work:  https://www.natlawreview.com/article/kentucky-supreme-court-dismisses-labor-unions-challenge-to-state-right-to-work-law

Yes, employers should consult unions before changing mandatory safety policies:  https://www.natlawreview.com/article/do-employee-safety-policies-require-negotiation-union

For those of you who are wondering (and of course you are), “OFCCP” stands for Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. And apparently it’s going great guns:  https://www.natlawreview.com/article/trump-administration-ofccp-continues-to-obtain-large-recoveries-contractors-fy18

Overheard at a Coffee Shop: A Realistic View of the Quality of Jobs Available in America

Today I was sitting at a coffee shop and sadly overheard this from a fellow coffee shop patron today: “I keep hearing on the news about all these new jobs that have been created. I know all about that. I have THREE of those jobs and need all three of them just to keep my apartment.” The middle aged man went on to discuss how difficult getting ahead is with the wages available to him and how he wishes he only had to have “one of those jobs.”

It is a sad testament to the fact that one job is not enough. It brings me back to a Belgian man studying at Columbia University who I met circa 2009. He asked what I could possibly mean when I referred to “the working poor” in my presentation. This was a foreign concept to him.

Understandably as, indeed, it is quite an oxymoron. If you work full time, it should be enough to feed, clothe and house your family.




The opinions and predictions about the future of labor unions are mixed in this recent Economist article. The final thoughts are what interest CDR and likely others who are working to help organized labor to innovate for continued success. Referring to both traditional and non-traditional labor groups, the take-away is “use the data!”

Often, the idea of using data in unions is focused upon knowing who your members are. Of course, this is quite integral to the process of increasing union membership and keeping current members engaged. Knowing members’ basic demographics is a great starting point. Beyond that the types of data that can be collected and, most importantly, ANALYZED and ACTED UPON, is almost endless and can be used to deepen union reach, opportunities and power.  

In the construction trades we recommend unions track things like:

  • Size, sector and contractors hired for area projects.
  • # of times a general contractor hires non-union vs. union.
  • Volume of jobs in your geographical area.
  • Volume of jobs in various sectors of your market.
  • Your overall market share.
  • Your market share in size and industry sectors.
  • Which competitors are new to your area.
  • Which contractors have recently stopped or decreased hiring union.
  • Which competitors are growing their volume.

There’s more, but we’ll stop there.

We expect that when organizing outside of construction, that there is a great number of parallels with this list as well as a lot of new ideas. Some may include:

  • Number of current members in various market sectors or companies.
  • Changes in membership over time.
  • Number of members in specific geographic areas.
  • Which companies frequently hire union or provide supportive environments for union members.
  • Pay rates and benefits of members based on area, sector, etc.

And a whole lot more, undoubtedly, (and we invite readers to share more ideas)!

But just KNOWING a lot of data doesn’t help anyone – whether we are talking unions in challenging economic times, scientists working in a lab or even your know-it-all cousin at Thanksgiving dinner.  What DOES help is creating a plan of action of how to act in response to the data. For unions, having designated staff who have the time to review the data, analyze it, make a plan then act accordingly makes all the difference.  

OUR take-away: Regardless of what type of union or union-type organization, you are working for there is so much data that can be tracked and if ANALYZED AND ACTED UPON can make all the difference.  

Big Data for Your Construction Market: It’s the Edge You Need Now

Imagine if you could simply use Google, DuckDuckGo, or any other good search engine to find out every detail about your construction market. What if tomorrow you drive by an unfamiliar construction site? What if use just such a search engine to definitively find out what is going on there AND even learn who is doing the job – without reviewing numerous reports or making tedious time consuming phone calls? What if you could discover every single new permit that was pulled today in your area just with the one click? And one last important one – what if you had someone to tell you – without emotion or bias or self interest – which market sector you should focus your efforts on for the greatest possible benefit?

Having access to a complete picture of your construction market can drive your actions, saving you time and money. CDR can do all of that and more. But the focus of this article is about why I know this is necessary – whatever way you choose to go about it.

Though we can certainly be cautiously optimistic about increases in union membership or support, about growth in specific union strongholds or within specific trades, the numbers haven’t been really great for some time.

Indications from our nation’s leaders and recent legislative actions are certainly less than encouraging. Regardless of any future legislation that may or may not occur – good or bad – organized labor and management needs to be as well armed as possible.

The movement toward big data – whether in education, healthcare, engineering or science – is one that organized labor is particularly well…ahem…ORGANIZED to take advantage of.

Lower membership means less funding, as unions well know. That means it is imperative to ensure that all activities of staff are strategically focused in exactly the areas that are needed. No one wants to waste time and energy.  And in these trying times, no one can afford to. Actions must be strategic, focused, and effective.

Knowing exactly what is going on in your market gives you a jumpstart in building relationships with contractors and owners and gives organized labor an inherent advantage over the competition.

By measuring exactly what is happening, then analyzing that data, you can create a clear plan of action. Making data-based decisions and continuing to analyze the feedback data allows you to find out what is working. And what is not.

Whether you choose to designate staff to collect, organize and analyze all the pertinent information on jobs in your area, or partner with a firm like ours to provide full analysis services and data-backed recommendations, using the data will help to strengthen locals and management alike. At CDR, we firmly believe this is one of the key tools that will help unions continue to make a comeback.


Income inequality has been making the headlines for a couple of years now, especially with the publication of Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” (I recommend listening to the ebook, by the way – don’t try to slog through the print version).

But the problem is not just income. Here are just a few (of the many more):
– Wealth inequality
– Race inequality
– Gender inequality
– Intelligence inequality
– Social competence inequality

Why have a strong unionized workforce?  So those of us who aren’t lucky enough to be on the up side of all of the above can live decently, too.  And afford all those products the top one-percenters have had made for us by the bottom ten-percenters.

National Law Review on Limits on Employers

Employers are not allowed to create the impression of surveillance of union organizing activities, even if such surveillance isn’t actually happening:

“One of the more nuanced, subtle violations occur when it comes to management surveillance of worker union activity. Aside from actual spying, many companies do not realize the NLRA also prohibits an employer from “creating the impression” it is surveilling employee unionizing efforts. For such a violation to occur, an employer need not actually spy (e.g., sit outside a union hall and monitor which of its employees attend a meeting). Rather, it is sufficient, for example, for a manager to make remarks to employees that would lead the workers to believe the employer is surveilling their activities (even if no spying in fact occurred).”


What’s our market share today, you ask?

Big Data: Get it and use it, too


This article discusses a 36% increase in the use of big data in just 3 years –  and that was nearly a year ago.

Coming across this old Forbes article reminded me of the direction the world is headed and why I am happy to be a part of an organization that is a part of this important movement. If you’re already a CDR client or using big data in other ways, you’ve got a jump on the competition.

The author of the Forbes article points out that the number of companies in various industries with plans to use big data in the next few years has been growing continuously. Construction is not one of the industries cited in this particular article, but there is no doubt that more companies are going beyond lead-generated lists and beginning to look at the big picture via consistent analysis of big data. But the way we see it is: an individual non-union contractor using data to analyze the market, just cannot compete with organized labor and management.  Doing so effectively and strategically using big data TOGETHER will increase market share, grow overall volume, capitalize on market trends and more.

Lately, there has also been a lot of news from the data and business community about companies jumping on the data bandwagon without an understanding of how to use data strategically (see this article from Harvard Business Review as just one example: https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/companies-love-big-data-but-lack-strategy-to-use-it-effectively).

At CDR, we help our clients to use data, to infuse it into their daily work in as many ways as they possibly can. We think this is crucial, particularly at a time when organized labor is under attack and when big data is proving to be an effective tool to help companies and organizations meet their goals.

by Amanda Keil, Project Manager

Good news (for now) for workers

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