David Bensman


[Excerpt] The Bricklayers' and Allied Craftsmen's International Union (BAC) typifies the contemporary crisis of the building trades. Membership plunged from a high of 160,000 in 1970 to just over 100,000 in 1986. As a result, the International Union ran a budget deficit five years in a row. Fewer than half the craftsmen in BAC's jurisdiction now belong to the union, and many BAC members can be found working on nonunion projects. Even where union contracts prevail, wage and work-rule concessions have become standard fare.

But BAC is not taking its decline lying down. Over the past five years, the International Union has embarked on an imaginative process of renewal, one which combines efforts to revive the masonry industry with programs to strengthen the union through education, organizing, and structural reform. While it is too early to tell whether BAC's campaign will succeed, it is already clear that the effort has brought new hope and determination to a union that desperately needed them.