Recently, the Regional Plan Association published a report “Construction Labor Cost in New York City,” which highlighted how union construction firms continue to lose market share to merit based firms. A copy of this report is available for download here. The report comes on the heels of a recent New York Times article regarding the proliferation of high profile New York City construction projects being built with non-union labor. The problem according to both the report and the article is simple: union labor is too expensive and union work rules inefficient.
The trend towards more merit based construction jobs does not bode well for unions not only in New York City but nationwide. As more and more owners grow comfortable with using non-union labor, trade unions will continue to lose power. This trend could signal the tipping point in the battle between union and merit based construction. In the end, union firms could be relegated to government awarded projects steered towards union firms through project labor agreements – which themselves have come under increased fire.
One thing is certain, as their market share dwindles, trade unions will undoubtedly become more aggressive in their tactics to protect their turf. Therefore, merit firms and owners wanting to build non-union should be prepared to do battle where necessary.