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Construction Unions: Treading Water in a Shrinking Pool

Bennett Baumer Sep 25

Just like subway delays and traffic jams, construction is one of the many certainties of daily life for New Yorkers. The industry rakes in between $20 billion to $30 billion each year, but the 40 percent of the 171,000 (mostly male) workers that belong to building unions are seeing an increasingly smaller slice of this pie. For many years, at least 85 percent of construction jobs were held by union members. But with many developers pushing to cut labor costs, unionized construction companies claim that two out of five construction jobs in the city are now nonunion. Eroding density means that unions have less bargaining power and are more likely to be forced to make wage and benefit concessions. Further, the fact that many construction unions do not have clear plans to organize the largely immigrant nonunion workforce means that unions’ struggle to regain their foothold in the construction industry will be an uphill battle.