The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, July 29, 2011

Union density in construction takes another hit

By The Building Tradesman

While the percentage of construction craft workers represented by a union declined modestly between 2008 and 2010, the number of such workers fell substantially, according to the Construction Labor Research Council’s (CLRC) latest Union/Non-Union Trends report released July 14.  CLRC reports that unions represented 18 percent of craft workers in 2010, a decline of two percent from 2008.
However, with an overall smaller construction workforce in the U.S. since then, the total number of union-represented craft workers declined by 31 percent – or 342,000 workers – during the two-year period.

“Both union and non-union craft workforces in construction have sustained substantial losses, with the union sector bearing the largest brunt of this decline,” CLRC concludes in its current report.

“Not only did union employment decline,” the CLRC added, “it declined at a faster rate than the total employment for every region except the Middle Atlantic.”  CLRC’s Middle Atlantic region covers the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.

The CLRC said that these figures reflect the recession that began in 2008 and the ensuing downturn in the construction industry.  When CLRC issued its last biennial report on union density in 2008, it found that the rate of unionization had increased in all regions over the prior two years, that the number of union workers had increased in all regions, and that total construction employment declined in all but one region.

According to the Associated General Contractors, CLRC derived its data in the report from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  While the data series presents a consistent means of measuring trends in unionization in the construction industry, the data do not measure the amount of construction performed union or non-union.  Likewise, they do not distinguish between residential and commercial construction, with the latter having a greater level of union representation.