My story’s on the cover this week, so it won’t show up on the blog. But I wanted to add a little outtake about Southland Concrete, which added a bit to my understanding of the anti-union mentality. Southland president Randy Green, after all, could once have joined a union himself: He worked his way up from being a laborer, and his father was a union coal miner. But in the 1980s, when unions were well into their decline, he opted to not subject himself to the seniority-based hiring hall system that joining up would entail.
“A union, I felt, would restrict me,” Green says. “I just went out and out-worked everybody else.”
Same goes for Mackie Jenkins, one of Green’s supervisors, who’s worked at many different concrete companies in the D.C. area. His father was a union carpenter back in the union’s heyday, but by the time he started working, Jenkins didn’t feel like union benefits were generous enough to make him want to join.
“I chose to go non-union, and I’ve been very successful,” he said proudly. “A non-union outfit today is as good or better than what they had 50 years ago.”
The original idea of United Construction Workers, though, wasn’t to extend a hierarchical hiring hall structure into the concrete industry. Fundamentally, it was about giving workers a voice in their workplace that wouldn’t depend on the benevolence of a superintendent. Green may have resisted the idea of a union because he was operating on an outmoded conception of what it would mean for his workers. LiUNA, at the regional level, wasn’t sure it wanted to change.
Anyhow, there will be a Council Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary hearing on the progress of the Consolidated Forensics Laboratory—where UCW is targeting its complaints about Southland’s treatment of workers—at noon on Monday in room 120. Expect a large turnout.