Unions on the Wane In New York City
In the 1970s, union members were a monopoly in the New York City construction labor market. At the time, card-carrying union workers made up a stunning 90 percent of the city’s construction workforce.
Not surprisingly, due to cost-cutting, that number is down significantly today. The latest stats peg the non-union market share at 40 percent.
As the city continues to see a building boom, non-union contractors have gained an important stronghold, especially in 20-to-25-story residential projects. A majority of residential construction in NYC is open shop — meaning it’s not exclusively union — and experts say the trend won’t stop there if unions cannot keep up with the financial perks offered to developers by their non-union rivals.
A big source of the non-union edge is, of course, cost: Non-union construction is 20 to 25 percent cheaper than union labor, said Louis Colletti, CEO of the Building Trades Employers’ Association, which represents union contractors citywide.
“Our ability to get the business model of building with 100 percent building trade members has been shattered, and it isn’t going to go back,” Colletti said. “Unless the business model can affect those cost reductions across the board to get that differential to 10 to 12 percent, then I think the open-shop model is here to stay.”
Bravo to that.