Across the country, successful unionization drives at high-profile companies like Amazon, Starbucks and others are making headlines. These labor movement victories are even more significant because they’re happening at companies with a history of anti-union attitudes and actions. Now, workers are still demanding a voice – and winning. At a time when many corporations are reporting record profits, stagnant worker wages are often a driver for change. Yet in many cases, safety and fair conditions on the job have become an even bigger focus.
Eighty percent of workers say they’re more concerned than ever about their safety and well-being at work, yet surveys show that only about half of workers believe their safety is extremely important to their employer. Workplace safety does more than prevent injuries and save lives. It’s also a powerful motivator and a direct influence on workers’ morale and employers’ ability to attract and retain talent long-term. When employers aren’t committed to safety and health, workers can still turn to unions to achieve the working conditions they demand and deserve. Workers at Amazon, Starbucks and other companies are proving this truth and showing their belief that joining a union is the best way to have their voice heard.
Within the construction industry, the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) continues to fight every day for workers to get their fair share. LIUNA proudly supports the Department of Labor’s proposal to update Davis-Bacon prevailing wage rules. In addition to protecting workers’ wages, this proposal seeks to increase enforcement on contractors that break wage and hour laws, stop wage theft and worker misclassification and strengthen anti-retaliation protections.
With the construction industry booming, protecting workers’ wages and ensuring fair and safe conditions on the job has never been more important. The construction industry was already growing rapidly even before the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) delivered a generational investment in our nation’s roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure. Between 2011 and 2019, the industry grew by 26 percent – more than double the 12 percent growth rate of other industries in the U.S. Despite that, current projections show there will be nearly 1.5 million openings for construction laborers alone by 2030.
Accomplishing the massive infrastructure revitalization made possible by funding from the BIL will require many more construction laborers to join the industry. That means recruiting workers from every walk of life, especially those groups who are underrepresented in today’s construction industry like women and workers from communities of color. There’s been some progress in welcoming more members from these groups to the industry over the last decade, but it’s time to double down on those efforts. Growing the ranks of the union construction workforce is about more than completing projects. It’s about more than creating safer roads and bridges for our families and communities. It’s about building a broader, more equitable middle class where strong wages and job opportunities give everyone a chance to succeed. It’s about making sure that a fair share of the coming investment in our nation’s infrastructure also flows to our nation’s workers in the form of wages and access to health care and retirement benefits. That’s been a pillar of the labor movement since the beginning, and to meet that promise, we can’t leave any workers on the sidelines.
Growing the union construction workforce is also about making sure these projects are built safely and that workers are protected from the immediate hazards that can cut a career or a life short and the long-term hazards that can affect quality of life in retirement. Every year, we recognize Workers’ Memorial Day in the U.S. and the National Day of Mourning in Canada in April as a way to acknowledge every worker who has been killed, injured or sickened on the job. At the Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America (LHSFNA), we remember those workers every day, and their loss inspires us to always keep striving to improve workplace safety and health. The LHSFNA is proud to have the support of LIUNA District Councils, Local Unions, signatory contractors and all LIUNA affiliates in fighting for LIUNA members on a daily basis.