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Union Promises Carpenters as Market Rebounds
Teresa Burney / BUILDER / July 18, 2013
Unions promise trained carpenters when housing market rebounds.
When home builders need carpenters, union trained ones will be available in the markets where unions are active, says Douglas J. McCarron, general president of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters.
With 250 training centers, an extensive apprenticeship program, and recruiting programs at community colleges and high schools, the union has the infrastructure in place to gear up quickly to provide the next generation of carpenters, McCarron said.
And he’s not worried about lack of candidates — the organization’s training programs have waiting lists of interested candidates. But he adds: “What’s missing are the quality jobs that we need to support the highly skilled and stable construction workforce of the future.”
Like many union leaders, McCarron doesn’t think there is a shortage of construction workers. While construction employment numbers have fallen below 10%, they still are noticeably higher than the overall national unemployment rate by several percentage points.
Union leaders suggest that home builders are contending there are labor shortages to persuade Congress to allow more low-skilled immigrants into the country — people who will work for less than union employees. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ population survey reports that the average wage for a union-represented construction worker is $20.60, compared with $13.30 for a non-union worker.
“Builders just want cheap labor, “ says Frank Libby, president of Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters. He cited a local builder in the business for 54 years who told him that if he didn’t hire cheaper labor he would be out of business.