TRICON is Cooperation


Part of the series: What is a TRICON?

For anyone who has questioned just how much of the construction work in central Illinois can be directly tied to efforts by labor and management working together, the simple answer is all of it. Without cooperation between building trades, contractors, architects, engineers, and end-users, union construction projects wouldn’t be built to the highest quality, on time and within budget. Without cooperation between labor and management, central Illinois might not enjoy its strong union construction market share. Cooperation, fostered by members of Tri-County Construction Labor-Management Council (TRICON) since the 80’s, is an important key to the success of the local union construction industry.

TRICON began as a handful of labor and management representatives getting to know each other, building relationships. Those relationships have made it possible the last 25 or so years for unions and contractors to address issues of mutual concern, especially before they become problems, and create innovative programs that address industry needs. Labor-management cooperation is not foolproof; sometimes, issues are difficult to resolve without mediation. But, generally speaking, central Illinois has done a pretty good job using cooperation and collaboration to the benefit of the entire construction industry and the community.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe we are that well off in central Illinois, but you need not travel far to feel the effects of no or little labor-management cooperation. It’s no coincidence that areas across the country that did not form labor-management councils in the 80’s or formed them and have since dissolved, are experiencing difficult labor-management environments, rapidly declining union construction market share, and/or a complete destruction of union construction all together.

TRICON’s ongoing role, then, is to encourage cooperation in the local union construction industry. That may be through regular board meetings and “discussion” meetings where union building trades and contractor members get to know each other by talking about issues of interest. That may be by participating together in community events, organizations, and charitable activities, like the Homeland Assistance Project or Easter Seals. That may be through social events, like the TRICON Annual Awards Dinner and Golf Outing, or through trainings and workshops hosted by TRICON, like those related to collaboration/collective bargaining, safety and green building. And it may be through the development and implementation of award-winning workforce development programs, like the High School Construction Industry Work-Based Learning Program or Construction Industry Educator Job Shadow.

Importantly, TRICON encourages labor-management cooperation through the collective marketing of the union construction industry. It was a team of 12 union building trades and contractor representatives, for example, that developed the branded Better Built business development initiative that now includes a comprehensive website, searchable member directory, e-news, career resources, a Facebook page, YouTube Channel and marketing materials. A few years ago teams of labor and management visited with area developers, realtors and lenders to showcase what the industry can do.At TRICON meetings, labor and management discuss issues that impact directly the ability to provide clients the best construction experience possible, including costs, training, safety, green building, healthcare, workforce recruitment, diversity and how the industry is perceived in the community.

Cooperation has allowed TRICON to apply for and receive grants to fund various programs or provide training for local workers. Cooperation between labor and management has helped prevent work stoppages, strikes, and grievances. It plays a vital role in contract negotiations, which for the most part, have been successful the last 25 years. Cooperation spills over into West Central Illinois Building & Construction Trades Council (WCIBCTC), one of the strongest and most successful of its kind in the country. Greater Peoria Contractors & Suppliers Association (GPCSA) and other contractor associations rely on cooperation among their members to address issues specific to their needs. Cooperation has put the Peoria area on the map; TRICON has received awards or has been asked to present at national labor-management conferences on accomplishments here.

It is a tough time in the construction industry. The economy is slow. Work has been down. It’s hard to remember the good the industry has accomplished and envision what can still be accomplished together. This is the time when cooperation is most critical. Labor and management MUST work together. Members of the construction industry as well as other industries should keep this notion at the forefront. Older generations, those who know what it was like to have poor labor-management in central Illinois, need to share their experience with younger generations. Co-workers on the job site or in the office should encourage each other to solve problems in a cooperative manner. Labor and management both should share with potential clients the successes and virtues of union construction—something TRICON will continue as well.

TRICON is cooperation. It was formed on the foundation of cooperation by leaders in the industry. It encourages cooperation among members in order to maintain market share and provide clients with the best construction experience possible. It leverages cooperation to address important issues in the industry and community. It is through cooperation that TRICON seeks to strengthen the union construction industry in central Illinois.

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