Get access

“ ‘WE'RE GETTING OUR COUNTRY BACK’: REFLECTIONS ON POLITICS, RACE, LABOR AND COMMUNITY IN THE AGE OF OBAMA”. A CONVERSATION WITH MARK AYERS, PRESIDENT, BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION TRADES DEPARTMENT (AFL-CIO)

Authors


  • Jeff Grabelsky is the Director of Cornell University's Construction Industry Program. He develops and delivers education and training programs and provides research and technical assistance in all aspects of union affairs. The programs he has worked on have reached over 300,000 unionists nationwide. Jeff began his career in the labor movement working and organizing in the steel industry in 1973, has been a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) for thirty years, and is the former national organizing director of the Building and Construction Trades Department (AFL-CIO).

  • Mark Ayers is President of the Building and Construction Trades Department (AFL-CIO), a coalition of thirteen unions that represent over two million workers in the construction industry. He became BCTD president in 2007 and played a central role in labor's campaign to help elect Barack Obama in 2008. Ayers is a long-time member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Jeff Grabelsky, Director, Construction Industry Program, Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, 4th Floor, 16 East 34th Street, New York, NY 10016, USA. Telephone: +011-212-340-2825. Fax: +011-340-2822. E-mail: jmg30@cornell.edu.

Abstract

This is an expansive and wide-ranging “conversation” with Mark Ayers, President of the Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD-AFL-CIO), a coalition of thirteen unions representing over two million workers in the construction industry. Edited from about one hundred pages of transcripts of interviews with Ayers conducted by Jeff Grabelsky, this conversation covers a variety of issues including: the implications for the labor movement of Obama's 2008 election; the opportunities arising during the Obama administration's first two years as well as the threats of the right wing backlash; the need for deeper and more authentic labor-community partnerships; the challenge of increasing the diversity of the unionized Building Trades; and, the dangers of global warming.

Before becoming BCTD president, Mark Ayers was a union electrician, a local union business manager, an international union representative, and the director of the IBEW's Construction and Maintenance Department. He shares his experiences, perspectives, and vision for revitalizing the unionized construction industry in a remarkably candid and bold way. His underlying message is that the Building Trades unions can not re-establish their power and influence in the construction industry unless and until their leaders break free of outdated strategies that will be increasingly ineffectual in a rapidly changing political, economic, and social landscape.

Ancillary