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Published: Summer, 2004; Vol 6, Num 3

 

Health and Safety Messages that Work:

Selling Union Labor to Construction Contractors

"We're here to help Laborers and union contractors build market share through improved, on-the-job health and safety," says LHSFNA Executive Director Joe Fowler, "but what we do depends on the particular needs of various contractors."

Fowler addressed his remarks to a recent Pacific Southwest Regional Conference of LIUNA business managers and agents. "You are responsible for marketing a product to two audiences: one, nonunion contractors who are or may be open to signing a union contact; and, two, established union contractors who, nevertheless, may not fully appreciate the value of working union."

Fowler stressed a theme that is gaining currency since the LIUNA Tri-Fund Conference last winter: successful marketing requires knowledge both of the product (LIUNA services) and the needs of the customers (construction contractors).

While the LIUNA services side of the equation begins with the union workforce, itself, the Tri-Funds weigh in with additional services. LECET helps contractors follow the market and win contracts while Laborers-AGC ensures that Laborers are the best-trained workforce available in the industry.

The LHSFNA offers its own package of services, most related to on-the-job safety and health and others related to health promotion and health care cost control. When talking to individual contractors about working union, however, business managers and agents need to zero in on each company's specific situation, matching LHSFNA's services to the company's needs. The more sharply LIUNA's salesmen can address these specific needs, the better their message will resonate.

However, with some 60,000 signatory employers and a vast number of others as yet unsigned, developing effective, targeted sales pitches can be difficult. The first cut is signed or unsigned. The issues for unsigned contractors generally are more related to the quality of union labor and the nature of the relationship with the union, though health and safety also plays a role. For signed contractors, the services of the Tri-Funds take on more relevance.

To facilitate the marketing of health and safety services to signatory employers, Fowler segmented construction contractors into five general categories and sketched the LHSFNA health and safety services that the LIUNA business managers and agents can pitch to each group (see chart).

The Fund also publishes a four-page brochure - What Can You Do to Improve Your Profits? - that demonstrates the impact on the bottom line of a good health and safety program. For more help in developing a safety and health marketing message aimed at contactors in your area, contact the OSH Division.

 

Addressing Different Construction Contractor Segments

Characteristics What we offer How we approach them
The Best
Believe in safety as a core value; excellent, world-class safety programs; full-time safety director. They often have problems getting the message out to the individual jobsites and supervisors; we can be a second set of eyes to review their program; we also can provide supervisor S&H training to get all their supervisors on the same page and into the program. We are interested in learning about their successes and how we can help other achieve success; we can help them as an outside party and liaison to LIUNA members to strive for zero injuries.
Safe Contractors
Understand the value of safety, but may not have figured everything out; have good safety programs; think about how to protect workers. They already care about safety and do not have to be convinced; we may be able to give them pointers or a new perspective on their program and how it can be improved; we can share information on what works for contractors around the country. A good safety program just isn't good enough; a world-class program will give them a competitive edge and lower their workers' compensation claims; safety is a leading indicator of a great company.
Needy Contractors
Trying to do the right thing, but it's not on the top of their list; safety personnel also wear other hats. They need easy tools they can adapt for their use; we have model programs to adapt, health alerts for toolbox talks, etc. A lot of easy things can be done (like regular audits) that will make tremendous improvements in safety.
Uninformed Contractors (including some who are newly signed)
Don't want to hurt anyone, but just don't know what they should be doing. We offer a number of programs to get them started on the right path (e.g., safety officer training). We can help them start step-by-step down the path to a comprehensive program that will make their jobsites safer, lower their workers' compensation costs and make them more competitive.
The Worst (primarily nonunion)
Don't really care about safety; only pay attention to it when cited by OSHA or when someone get seriously hurt. We need to educate them on the value of safety, primarily, to their bottom lines; we may be able to help them with workers' compensation discount programs if they are willing to shape up. They might be cited by OSHA and hit with some serious fines, or they could have a serious injury or fatality that will hurt their reputations and may keep them from getting contracts in the future.

[Steve Clark]