Construction mason worker bricklayer

How Union Labor Changes A Construction Job In NYC

When it comes to unions, New York City is a world unto itself and separate from the rest of the country. While average union membership throughout the country runs at about six to seven percent, 24.6 percent of wage and salary workers were members of unions in NYC in 2014.

However, does the dominance of union labor in NYC indicate that unions are better than non-union labor? As with anything, there are pros and cons to union labor and there is also a cost involved.

Why Use Union Labor? Construction mason worker bricklayer

There was a time when people who wanted to get construction work had no choice but to use labor unions in NYC. As time has gone by, non-union labor has found its way into the work landscape and things are changing. According to, higher wages are a big reason why construction workers prefer to work for unions. There are more reasons for going union than just money.

Unions constantly address safety concerns that occur on NYC construction job sites. In 2014, construction accidents made up 85 percent of workplace fatalities in NYC, and that number has been steadily climbing. Unions must address safety issues, and it has been found that a majority of safety concerns on NYC construction sites come from non-union labor. The bottom line is that job owners who want a job done without the negative publicity that comes from construction accidents and workers who want safer working conditions generally choose union labor.

There Is A Cost On Both Sides

According to Crain’s New York Business, the use of union labor added 23 percent to the overall construction budgets for job owners in the first two months of 2016. With the city in the midst of one of its most ambitious building booms in decades, the need to keep costs down and quality up is strong. With the rise in NYC construction fatalities, there is also a need for contractors to focus on quality and for the city to raise extra money to hire more construction inspectors.

The use of union labor adds a significant cost to a job, but that cost may be worth it in the long run. Construction accidents, and especially fatalities, are significantly diminished when union labor is used on a NYC construction job. Union construction companies often employ their own job site inspectors to ensure that safety precautions are being taken, where most non-union companies do not. Job owners need to determine if the savings that come from utilizing non-union labor is worth the risk of a job getting shut down, or a property being tagged with a bad image because of a fatal worker accident.

Consider The Type Of ‘Bargain’

Many non-union laborers are starting to put an emphasis on safety, but this group remains relatively small. The truth is that union labor may cost a bit more, but the accountability offered by union laborers and union companies can help to complete a job ahead of schedule, and that can save a job owner money. The ability for unions to complete jobs without incidents can also mean tremendous savings for job owners as well.

Utilizing a union company is like buying a product from a store. You could save money on purchasing a product that is essentially the same but much cheaper. However, you are really not saving any money when you have to pay to have that product repaired. You can save money by using non-union labor, but the costs incurred from problems during non-union jobs can make hiring a union company look like a bargain.

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