Community Organizing for Real Economics

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In October 2013, IUPAT General President Kenneth Rigmaiden assembled 16 members from district councils throughout the United States with experience in successful organizing and political action for a planning session to implement a new initiative to engage community groups.   The initiative, Community Organizing for Real Economics (CORE), is designed to grow the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades through partnerships with local community groups, as well as bolster IUPAT market share and the impact of our political activism. Based on some of the successes with CORE around the country, the general president called the CORE committee back to the IUPAT Campus in Hanover, Maryland, for a follow up meeting in 2015. Those attending shared best practices and the complexities of some of the common obstacles they have experienced in the field while pushing the CORE mission forward.  They also identified five primary issues for the local CORE programs to focus on: OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 1) Battling the underground economy in construction:  Contractors are increasingly using unreported or misclassified labor throughout the country. This not only robs workers of their fair wages and benefits; it costs the local and national economies millions in revenue.  The savings in wages and benefits also gives the contractors who operate in the underground an unfair advantage because they can significantly low-ball their bids when up against legitimate companies.  Fueled by a long recession, the problem is rampant despite a recovering economy; in California alone, 1 in 6 workers is misclassified or off the books. 2) Fighting to maintain affordable housing in urban development: As companies plan to redevelop affordable housing buildings, at the expense of taxpayers in the form of tax incentives, into high-end residences in older downtown areas for a wealthy class of buyers, many times they “buy-out” the current low-income residents to move them to another more affordable part of town.  Typically, this excludes those residents from job and education opportunities in the neighborhoods they formerly lived in.  This gentrification further burdens an already hard-hit working class, and, in the end, all taxpayers in the local economy. The fight for Davis-Bacon and prevailing wage is a fight for the middle class. 3) Ending income inequality and its effect on our industries and the communities in which our members work and live:  Although IUPAT members work under collectively bargained rates and benefits; the majority of the working class relies upon employers to set the rate of compensation and benefits under the guidelines of state and federal law.  However, the minimum wage does not provide workers with a livable income. In fact, as corporate profits and executive compensation see massive growth, working families see no end in sight for their financial struggles, some even slipping into the poverty level.  This drags all workers down and the IUPAT is joining community groups and fellow labor activists to end income inequality. 4) Enacting corrosion control policies that are good for the environment and our communities:  The effects of corrosion on metal structures in our infrastructure cost our economy billions of dollars on an annual basis.  There is a human cost as well; in early 2014, the failure of a storage tank due to corrosion poured chemicals into the Elk River near Charleston, West Virginia.  The drinking water for nearly 300,000 residents was poisoned. The IUPAT has the training and the skilled workers to prevent this epidemic of corrosion and we are working every day to fight for better regulations to maintain these structures and protect them from catastrophic failure. PATCH5) Mitigating the negative effects of discrimination in civil and human rights:  The recent lessons learned in Ferguson and Baltimore have made it clear that there is much work to be done when it comes to social justice in our communities. The IUPAT is committed to partnering with local community groups to battle discrimination in our neighborhoods and workplaces by doing our part to provide opportunities for someone to build a career in the trades.  Our mission is to use the power of the labor movement to advocate for equal rights and a voice in the workplace, and in the communities in which we live. The IUPAT is already working on a number of these issues in several areas: District Council 14 (Chicago) and District Council 9 (New York City) are currently well under way in working with local groups to ensure that urban development is done in a manner to benefit the communities rather than only the developers (DC 9 and Build Up NYC). IUPAT District Council 5 (Washington, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah) is making great strides in combatting worker misclassification and wage theft by not only working with community leaders, but state and federal government agencies, as well.  District Councils 15 (Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming) and 88 (Texas, Oklahoma) are also working diligently on the same issues and gaining ground. In West Virginia, District Council 53 hosted over 200 experts, professionals and business leaders in the industrial coatings field at this year’s annual Coatings and Corrosion Expo.  There, the IUPAT featured technical presentations on the corrosion epidemic and hands-on demonstrations of IUPAT training in corrosion protection.  It is events such as these at DC 53, and in other district councils, that are quickly establishing the IUPAT as a leading authority on corrosion prevention.  Industry experts and, thanks to the CORE initiative, political leaders are seeing first-hand that the IUPAT is on the cutting edge when it comes to training and application in this field. One of the most notable areas where the IUPAT has advanced the CORE program is St. Louis.  Over the course of the last year-and-a-half, members and leaders of IUPAT District Council 58 have partnered with a local community group to operate a job training center, with youth mentoring in our trades, which has led to a greater standing in the hardest hit communities where Discrimination and Income Inequality is a way of life. (read more about CORE and St. Louis HERE). CORE is on its way to making even more progress in the months ahead thanks to the dedication of local members and leaders of the IUPAT.  Contact your district council or local union today to join the movement! Do you have a story about the work you are doing in your community under the CORE initiative?  Let us know at CORE@IUPAT.org.

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