Union workers vs. non-union workers: everyone has an opinion, but why are increasingly more employers reaching out to unions for employee training and for finding more skilled workers?
Let’s start with why job seekers are often drawn to unions:
Joining a union is so much more than the pay rate per hour.
With our union, you have great benefits, including
- – Good healthcare
- – A pension
- – An annuity
That’s life changing. Sometimes, access to yearly doctor’s visits can be the difference between life and death.
“The benefits are one of the biggest things we get from DC 57,” said Almega Company’s Nick Aspiotes. “We like to say that people that work for us are part of our extended family. We want to see them provide for their families and build themselves up with healthcare and pension. A lot of young people don’t pay attention to benefits, but at some point in time, everybody needs these benefits.”
Another benefit of being a union worker is higher pay.
A report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2019, union construction workers earned an average of $1,257 per week, whereas non-union workers earned only $868. That means that union construction workers make roughly 2x as much as their non-union counterparts.
Safety and Skills Training
Lastly, union members benefit from the training they receive. As a worker, you hear it all the time. Job site safety protocols and proper training are key to avoiding injuries at the workplace in any career – but in the construction industry, these injuries can be life or death.
A 2019 report by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health found that, “workers die as a result of employer’s disregard for workers’ health and safety and [the report] notes the difference between construction fatality numbers on union versus non-union job sites, proving that unionized construction jobs keep New York’s workers safer.”
That’s why potential contractors have so much to consider when hiring workers for any given construction job. Safety, proper training, and the reputation of their contracting company are among the front-runners.
“Hands-on training is provided every year [by DC 57],” said Nick Aspiotes. “That is not something that typically occurs with our non-union competition.”
Contractors like Nick sign with unions like DC 57 because they know the workers who come onto the job site each day are reliable. That encompasses everything from simply showing up on time to not putting one another in harm’s way, and will not put their company’s reputation at risk, either.
“Promises that are kept and safety are two things that can’t be passed up,” he said.
Why are more and more contractors turning to unions to find skilled tradespeople?
Union workers can be trusted.
During their apprenticeships, union members must complete proper safety training, as well as a number of training courses in their respective trades.
Dominique Bravo, director of Pathways 2 Apprenticeship, stated in a New York Times op-ed that nonunion contractors make up 90% of the construction companies listed in OSHA’s “Severe Violator Enforcement Program” for New York.
“Union workers are safer because they are better trained and know they will be protected if they refuse to work under dangerous conditions,” Bravo told New York Times.
In conjunction with unions like DC 57, safe, reliable workers can be the ones to change the reputation of the construction industry for the better.
“When I lay down my head at night, I want to know that I’m providing my people with the necessary equipment to work safely and the necessary knowledge to work safely,” Nick said. “I don’t want to make money at the expense of somebody’s health, or somebody’s welfare, going forward. FTI of WPA’s apprenticeship program is working very hard to supply us with people. The industry is having problems that we as corporations are collectively responsible for fixing.”