Union Construction Is Safer and Better For Workers

By Lou Coletti | February 18, 2021

In a recent piece by Brian Sampson of the Associated Builders and Contractors, the writer shows a complete lack of respect for the truth.

So, here are some facts. A report by the NY Building Congress shows 45.8% of NYC construction workers reported incomes of less than $50,000. Since most union workers make more than $100,000 a year, according to BTEA data, the conclusion is that those making less than $50,000 are likely nonunion. How could anyone live in New York City and support a family on $50,000? It’s wrong.

With respect to benefits, union packages are far more comprehensive than those of the few nonunion workers who are lucky enough to have them. In a pandemic, these benefits are critical. So when Mr. Sampson says he does not want to “exclude” nonunion workers, he should ask himself why the ABC excludes their workers from the benefits they deserve.

He goes on by quoting the Journal of the American Medical Association which found COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted minority and underserved communities.  He’s right, but what has the ABC done to help its members, who, as Mr. Sampson says, are 90% “minority”? Perhaps he could learn from BTEA contractors, who partnered with the NYC Building and Construction Trades Council and Real Estate Board of New York to implement strict COVID-19 protocols even before the state required them for all sites.

Mr. Sampson positions the ABC as fighting for people of color. That’s rich. If he thinks paying subpar wages and maintaining unsafe work conditions amounts to fighting for people of color, he is badly mistaken.

The NYC building trade unions are comprised of 50% people of color and 9% women. We have come a long way and are committed to growing the diversity of our workforce.  Of our newly trained workers, 8,583 apprentices are 68% minority and 11% women with 67% being NYC residents.  BTEA contractors pay an average of $50,000 per apprentice to train its workforce with several trades now paying for their apprentices to pursue Associate Degrees.  What kind of training and how much does the ABC invest in training their workforce?

While BTEA contractors are building the physical and social infrastructure to grow New York’s middle class—it seems the only thing the ABC is interested in is perpetuating a pathway to poverty. The least Mr. Sampson could do is acknowledge the truth.

Mr. Coletti is President and CEO of the Building Trades Employers Association.