Arizona Building and Construction Trades Council


Aaron Butler
President, Arizona Building & Constrction Trades Council

When I talk with colleagues who are members of building and construction trades councils in union-friendly states, they ask me how we Arizona labor leaders make the argument that hiring union construction workers is a win-win-win for project owners, contractors, and in the case of public projects, taxpayers. I have to confess, it’s a challenge to make those arguments in a right-to-work state.

I can share anecdotal stories all day every day about our brothers and sisters demonstrating their mastery of their craft, the ways that union training provides the foundations for long-term rewarding careers, and the appreciation from project owners and contractors who know when they hire union labor, the job is going to be on time, on budget and done right the first time. I’m pretty confident that my fellow union leaders have endless stories about their members and the projects they’ve worked on, too. But now, there is data to back up what we know.

Unions bring value to construction projects.

A study published last fall by the Mechanical Industry Advancement Fund found that “union labor is more productive than open shop labor and projects that employed union labor cost less.” Those who oppose union labor, wage requirements, and other labor standards like to claim that prevailing wage increases costs and union labor is more expensive, and well, you’ve heard the claims. But, the study found the opposite and provided numbers to back it up.

  • Productivity for union labor is 14% higher versus open shop labor.
  • Union labor reduces the total cost of projects by an average of 4% versus open shop.
  • Projects are 40% less likely to experience a shortage of skilled labor when union labor is used versus open shop.
  • Turnover on labor projects was one-third less likely when union labor was employed versus open shop.

The need for skilled construction workers has been making headlines for a few years. We’ve long argued that our registered apprenticeship programs are the gold standard for training, and well-trained craftspersons keep projects on budget. Currently, there are thousands of apprentices enrolled in our programs where they spend hundreds of hours in classrooms and on job sites developing and mastering their skills. The study found that the higher skills gained through quality training programs contribute to significantly higher productivity of union labor that drives lower and more predictable project costs and lower risk of major cost and schedule deviations.

The facts are clear. Hiring union is the right business decision. And now that we’ve established that, let’s start to work together to create good-paying union jobs for Arizonans, who have the skill, training and experience to man the projects that keep Arizona one of the fastest growing states in the country. I’m ready to talk!