College of Architecture and Environmental Design
Construction Management Department
BS in Construction Management
Edward M. Boucher
Over the past fifty years, the United States has seen a tremendous decline in the amount of union members in the workforce. The trade unions in the construction industry have been no exception. Recently, the percentage of union members compared to the amount of employees have reached an all-time low. There has been a slight boost in members with the current climate of increased construction projects underway. But, unions still need to once again grow in strength to stay viable within the industry. Construction trade unions, especially the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and Iron Workers, have strived to recruit more members through a variety of means. Additionally, unions have set goals to control enough market share to compete against the growing number of nonunion construction workers. Research and interviews among a variety of sources and various union members in California has shown a strong belief in strengthening unions because of their desirable benefits, training programs, higher pay and collective strength. Each individual local union strives to increase membership and market share within their given jurisdictions and have been increasingly doing so with support of their greater organizations. However, it remains questionable if they will achieve these presented goals due to an increasingly growing number of government policies targeting their growth. These policies include right-to-work laws and in some states, lack of prevailing wage laws. These policies do not directly destroy unions. They do greatly deteriorate their bargaining power when negotiating contracts. This in turn, leads to less union jobs. In California, construction unions have been able to maintain a decent amount of the project market share, largely variant on each district. However, the question remains how the construction industry would change if the union presence shrinks compared to the nonunion workforce. The shrinking amount of construction workforce would continue and labor would shift farther from the desirable blue collar career it once was.