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Abstract

[Excerpt] A "piss-ant" IBEW local in Illinois is the last place you'd expect to find an innovative program designed to combat the open shop.

Most national scorecards estimate that unions now do only about 30% of construction work, with the IBEW doing somewhat better at about 40%. In Illinois about half the industry is union, and the IBEW represents more than 80% of the electrical workers, far and away the best organized state in the country.

Don Mahoney, international representative for IBEW District 6 covering Illinois and 4 other Midwestern states, elaborates: "If they don't keep they're hands on it, the same thing's going to happen to them that's happened down the street. I just saw some statistics that in Hannibal, Missouri, union work went from 85% to 10% in just 5 years. Hell, in Portland [Oregon], before they started targetting, they went from 80% to 20% in six months! When it comes, it comes fast."

IBEW Local 117, representing some 200 electricians in and around Elgin, Illinois, hasn't been as active in its use of target programs as some other building trades locals around the country. It hasn't had to be. But Smith has worked to establish legal precedents for developing this tactic beyond its original form, and Mahoney has been gathering information on targetting from around the country and spreading it to the locals in his district. With more than a little local pride, they describe funded targetting as evolving from "the Kansas City Plan" to "Elgin I" and "Elgin II."

The Elgin Plan has a number of tactical advantages over earlier forms of target programs in the building trades. But it also strengthens important union principles that a beleaguered labor movement has been having difficulty defending in the 1980s— internal solidarity and the inviolability of the contract.

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