Building trades unions are striving to improve employment opportunities for all people in the trades. Increasing diversity in the trades is not a union or non-union issue. However union construction does provide workers with living wages and strong benefits. Union construction also ensures all workers receive equal pay to their co-workers. There is no gender pay gap or racial pay gap. Apprentices are all paid the same rates based on their time in and journey-level workers all earn the same rates.
Union construction workers receive free apprenticeship training and free journey-level upgrade trainings to make sure they are keeping up with the latest leading industry technology and products. These trainings benefits the workers and their employers and also ensures they know how to work safely and reduce construction site accidents. Union tradespeople receive health benefits for themselves and their families, and receive pensions and retirement annuities. Construction work is very physically demanding and years of working in construction can result in workers’ bodies breaking down more quickly than doing other work. Adequate health insurance and retirement benefits are essential.
Union construction workers also earn living wages enabling workers to support their families without taking on a second or third job. This enables them to spend more time with their families and volunteering in their communities.
The New England Council of Carpenters is working to aggressively increase the number of women and people of color in our membership and other building trades unions are making similar efforts. Currently in Massachusetts, 92.8% of women in apprenticeship programs are in unions and over 90% of the people of color in apprenticeship programs are in unions. The overall apprenticeship numbers have increased over the last five years, with women seeing an overall increase of 149% from 173 to 539 apprenticeships, and people of color increasing by 84% from 823 to 1889 apprenticeships. And yet there is tremendous room for growth and much to be done to overcome traditional structural disadvantages against women and people of color getting hired and staying employed in an industry that, for years, has employed almost exclusively white men.