why going union will help you during labor shortages


In 2023, the construction workforce shortage topped half a million, according to Associated Builders and Contractors. The number of unfilled labor jobs is only expected to increase as older generations of workers retire. This issue poses significant challenges for project timelines and quality, but studies show that tapping into unions provides quality, reliable talent with less likelihood of labor shortage.
Unions like Steamfitters Local 601 provide many advantages to companies who worry that a lack of qualified workers could derail their project. Partner with one of our mechanical contractors for your next project, and rest easy that a shortage of workers won’t affect your timeline or bottom line.
Here are three reasons unions like Steamfitters Local 601 have an advantage for employers during periods of worker shortages:

Apprenticeship & Training

In the face of a tight labor market, apprenticeships have become a lifesaver for the trades. Overall, these training programs have grown 64% in the last decade, and they have become more crucial in the past few years. Steamfitters Local 601 is known for its robust apprenticeship program and commitment to continuous skill development. The apprenticeship pipeline provides a steady pool of skilled talent and helps ensure workers continue to join the trade as more senior workers retire. Studies suggest that unions are more effective than open shop sources in providing skilled labor that goes above and beyond training requirements.
Michael Unger, a journeyman at Helm Mechanical notes that customers can expect that if they hire a union-trained journeyperson, they will complete the job with a higher level of quality. “There’s a measurable standard,” said Unger.
Make sure that the mechanical contractor you work with has a workforce that is consistently trained and equipped with the latest industry standards.

Better Pay, Benefits and a Voice

Union workers are less likely to quit their jobs, and this is largely because they receive better pay and benefits than open shop labor. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, union skilled labor earns 18% more than their non-union counterparts. Today’s labor shortage and the Great Resignation has been attributed in part to workers’ quest for better compensation, benefits and employer treatment. However, unions like Local 601 make sure pay and benefits are competitive and that employees are respected. This keeps workers satisfied and more motivated than non-union workers. In fact, a recent report found labor turnover one-third less likely with unions than with open shop labor.
Unions also provide mental health support and drug and alcohol counseling to members, which can help workers stay clean and productive. According to the American Addiction Center, 15% of construction workers have a substance abuse disorder. Steamfitters Local 601 has its own mental health clinic and runs an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that is accessible to all members. Participants know they need to remain 100% compliant with drug testing to stay in the union and have access to mental health support that makes them more likely to remain healthy and safe.

A Bigger Network

The Steamfitters Local 601 Union is a network of 2,800 members across Southeast Wisconsin, and it’s also closely connected with the United Association, which spans the U.S. and Canada. A vast network is a valuable resource, allowing employers to mobilize workers quickly and efficiently. A recent study found that union-sourced projects are 40% less likely to experience a labor shortage than open-shop-sourced projects. This is likely because mechanical contractors can access the UA’s referral system.
Industry-wide labor shortages can delay projects and raise costs, but the power of unions can help keep your job fully staffed with quality workers and your project on time.
If you’re considering working with a mechanical contractor, here are questions you should ask to make sure your project needs are met. Contact us about hiring the right 601 signatory contractor.

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