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Why are fewer New York construction workers in unions?

On Behalf of | Feb 22, 2024 | Construction Law

New York’s construction industry has long had robust union representation – but there’s been a notable decline in membership over recent years. Unions have clearly lost a lot of their luster over the years.

While construction unions still have a strong presence and are very vocal when it comes to advocating for policies and laws that benefit them, they no longer do most of the work. Roughly 80% of the construction work in New York City, for example, is now done by “open shop” workers, not union employees.

The decline is due to several intertwined factors

There’s no single answer for the declining membership in construction unions, but a large part of the decline is due to changing demographics in the workforce. Younger workers often have different perspectives on the value of union membership than their older peers and workers of color often perceive construction unions as being unwelcoming.

In addition, both companies and workers have come to view union membership as a potential cost burden. Non-unionized construction firms argue that without the financial obligations associated with union contracts, they can offer more competitive wages and benefits.

As an employer, you can’t stop your workers from discussing unionization or actually unionizing, but you can discourage it through:

  • Compensation packages that stay competitive with union wages and benefits
  • Career development programs that benefit long-term workers
  • Transparent employment and grievance policies to maintain employee satisfaction
  • The use of flexible work arrangements to attract a more diverse workforce

It’s always worth remembering that unions arose to combat deeply unfair employment practices and unsafe workplaces. By addressing the concerns that may lead employees toward unionization and emphasizing the advantages of non-unionized work environments, you may be able to keep unionization from happening without crossing any legal lines. Learning more about how to protect your interests when you start to hear talk about unionization can also help.