Your Letters to Us Reveal New York's Union Bias
We've received letters from many different trades, and most tell the same story: Unions rule. Send us your own thoughts.
We’ve received lots of letters from readers of this website, and many of them have focused on this particular question: Is there a big difference between union and non-union construction? We have heard from union workers, non-union, people who have spent time in both, and from project managers. Their responses are all surprisingly similar in their conclusions.
Here's what we’ve heard. You can jump to a section by click/tapping any of these anchor tags.
We’ve heard from many union members who weighed in to praise their colleagues and unions.
Damn straight, proud union welder here. I’ve been on multiple jobs where we finished before expected. We’ve had our boys beat out non-union contractors and we pride ourselves in the fact that we are properly educated, trained and qualified for the tasks we are doing. United we stand, divided we fall🤙🏻
NYC Union member. Never worked non-Union, but I couldn’t speak more highly of my experience thus far being 9 years in. I had a certain stigma in my head regarding unions prior to joining as many do. Lot of folks from my area are in the trades, once I seen what it actually is there’s nothing like it. Shame more industries in the US don’t unionize.
I am a union apprentice who comes from non-union experience. I remember my first real impression of union guys was being seriously impressed by the knowledge and skill of the union apprentices, some with less time in the trade than me. As far as pay and benefits go there is no comparison but the importance of the education and training we get can not be understated.
I completed over 4,000 hours in an apprenticeship before I got my union card. That was before I could call myself a legitimate journeyman New York City laborer. Along that way I met many great people – they’re my brothers and sisters. We look out for each other. We make each other better. That’s union strong.
OK, you might have expected those opinions from union members. But even non-union people agree that unions offer more.
I am a non-union super doing large multi family residential. I spend a lot of time worrying and enforcing and educating safety to our carpenters, concrete, and drywallers…. Often times they don’t know better and nobody ever bothered to educate them (union schooling preps workers better).
14-Year Non-Union Carpenter
I recently left carpentry, and the trades entirely, after 14 years. My takeaways from working as a non-union employee for those years are; there are far too many greedy contractors/GC’s/business owners out there paying their employees as little as possible and offering almost nothing for benefits, they don’t [care] about employees.
I was on a job in the financial district. [The non-union contractor] I was working for had these fly-by-night guys come in and build forms for the stairwells and flooring. You could tell they didn’t have training because they worked disorganized and the finished job looked sloppy. Anyway, we poured the concrete in those forms and a bunch of them blew out. We spent the next bunch of days cleaning that mess. The [subcontractor] I was with got fired for those blow outs. I’m pretty sure they brought in union guys to do it after us.
Lot of folks from my area are in the trades, once I seen what it actually is there’s nothing like it. Shame more industries in the US don’t unionize.
So what about the people who worked both for non-union and then within a construction union? Their experience would be valuable, yes? Well, they agree with the above takes.
I am currently a PM for a large general contractor. I have worked with union and non-union trades. In my experience, union employees perform better. They receive better training, typically have better safety records and have less absenteeism. Union workers will outperform. Union labor may be more expensive, but in my experience it’s worth it. Project durations are shorter, and turning the project over to owners closer to the schedule is worth the cost of union labor. If I have a project over $5M you can bet that I’m looking at the union to succeed.
15-Years Non-Union, 5-Years Union
I worked fifteen years non-union as a pipefitter and the last five in the union. Union is by far better at getting the job done. This is, in my belief, due to a vast labor pool and great training.
Been a non-union electrician all my life before I switched over to the union side for better pay/benefits. Union is the way to go. Training is better. Pay is better. Benefits are better. The overall costs are better.
Union operating engineer. I have been on both side of this. I was non-union for 3 years and have been union for 8. In my experience union is better in virtually every aspect. Union is always higher wage than non-union. And it's kind of like sports. The talent goes where the money is at. And there [are] just so many reasons why union is better. The benefits, resources we have including the training centers, and all the perks the union offers just to name a few.
I came here [to New York City] from Ecuador where I was a carpenter. I worked for non-union on big buildings here for 5 years. The work was dangerous. It seemed like every day the bosses had me do something different, something I wasn’t trained to do. They say “do this or no job tomorrow.” My last two years of this I was talking in secret with a union recruiter, who helped me get my papers in order so I could join the union. Now I’m in the union and I do only carpentry, and I am well-trained for that. I am safe. I have benefits, sick pay. I have a life I was never going to have working in non-union.
And what about the people who eventually manage the contractor crews on projects? Do they prefer to have union or non-union crews on the job? I think you know the answer.
Union all the way for me. I spent 13 years as a commercial/industrial superintendent. The union guys are just so much more educated with their craft than non-union.
Structural Steel Fabricator
I am a PM for a structural steel fabricator and gladly take any project with union iron workers. There’s a few non union erectors in our area that are solid but overall the best are union.
I don't think a non-union outfit could ever put up a concrete building on a 2-day cycle, they're only pouring like 5 floors/month
Here is the simple, short, sage advice from one writer who sums up everything said above.
Union Construction Worker
Unionize every single job. There is no argument for anti-union workplaces other than corporate greed.
How important is it to you that the buildings you live, work, shop and recreate in are built by New York's best-in-class construction unions? Do you have an opinion? We want to hear it.
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