Done Playing Defense!

In the last few weeks my brothers and sisters and I have withstood a barrage of misguided and too often hateful attacks. I for one am tired of playing defense. So, where to begin… Let’s start with the racially charged, not to mention very angry, editorial by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). ABC should have no voice on the issue of apprenticeship. Period. He claimed that 86% of all construction is done by firms whose workers do not belong to a union. If that is so, why is it that as of June 6, 2017, they had only 618 apprentices registered in the entire state of Ohio?

By way of comparison, on that same date, with ABC reporting a mere 618 registered apprentices in its program, there were 9,044 in the Organized Labor, Union Joint Programs.  It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to know that the number of trained and workforce-ready resources we turn out dwarfs those of ABC. ABC has one priority…one goal – to lobby against and silence the voices of the dedicated, hard-working men and women of our building trades unions.

Here is another “inconvenient truth” for our friends at ABC… We have 82% of all apprentices registered with the State, and Joint Programs have 87.6% of minorities and 93% of women apprentices registered with the State. Those are genuine, hard-working, well trained men and women with kids and families. Men and women of all colors, faith, races, and sexual orientations….Your neighbors… People looking for a fair day’s wage for an honest day’s work. These are people who know that with a Joint Programs certification they are able to go anywhere in this nation, show their certificate and be instantly considered a valuable resource on any project. That is “Workforce Readiness!”

So enough! It’s time to stop casually tossing around old, tired, unsupported, unsubstantiated, worn-out misconceptions of how Unions are prejudice and don’t represent underserved populations. The facts are on our side. And with that, allow me to turn my attention to Cincinnati City Council. I attended both the Economic Growth Committee meeting, Tuesday March 6th and the City Council meeting the next afternoon. It was everything I could do to sit there quietly and politely as my good, honest, hard-working brothers and sisters were repeatedly attacked as racists… Shame on you!

Perhaps accusing us of institutional racism, plays well to your base… it must play well to someone’s base, because the term was allowed to be used throughout the meeting by a person who in no small part owes that chair to the very people that we being derided. To have allowed these false and defamatory allegations against a substantial number of your fellow citizens and constituents – the very people who fought for you and won with you – was shameful.

Do you really believe it is possible that that same merry band of brothers and sisters who stood with you last year in the week before the election could, in a mere four months, become the bigoted mob, bent on the decimation of the minority business community, you now seem to think we are? Such broad-brush accusations serve only to divide, foment anger and play on the uglier aspects of our nature.  Shame!

One Councilman even made reference to “the labor unions of the 1960s.” Talk about diversion, distraction, and desperation. Good sir, if you despise unions just come out and say it. Don’t lay some 58-year-old history on me… It serves only to demonstrate your ignorance of and inexperience with the proud men and women of today’s labor movement.

In summary, all I can be held accountable for is my attitude and my actions since the young man I was first embarked on my apprenticeship with the IBEW Local 212 in June of 1979. And if you take nothing else away from this missive, I want you to remember this — My wife, my three adult-children, and I owe everything we have to the IBEW. I could not be more proud to be a member of Local 212, the building trades as a whole and the broader Labor Community. No matter how aggressively or ignorantly we are attacked — even if by those we supported — we will continue to do the right thing. We will continue to provide a pathway to success…a way that change lives one good, honest, hard-working soul at a time. And that is through a career path in one of our trades.

Before I close, I want to thank all of our signatory partners in the construction industry. I did not want to send the message; organized labor takes all the credit. We have very dedicated contractors who do not consider it a burden to train and graduate apprentices because, like us, they also believe it is the right thing to do. Signatory contractors work diligently to secure employment for our members while paying our tradesmen and women a fair and living wage.  To my knowledge, they were not asked for input on subjects such as Responsible Bidder. Read into that whatever you may, but I see it as an insult. It would seem that there is little care for what effect any of this may have on our contractors. But we know — we are indeed, “Stronger together!”

Council, how about an even playing field and hold everyone to the same standards our friends abide by every day.

Frederick E. Lampe

Frederick E. Lampe is a 38 year member of the IBEW Local 212, the current Executive Secretary of Cincinnati Building Trades and a member of the Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council Executive Committee.