In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic upended everyday life as we knew it and thrust us into the middle of a public health crisis, construction contractors and many other employers across the U.S. and Canada were facing a very different kind of crisis – a shortage of workers. For a variety of reasons, a booming construction sector was only one of many industries where it was becoming increasingly difficult to find skilled, qualified workers.
Now, as our economy rebounds and we start looking forward to 2022 and beyond, worker shortages are once again making headlines. “Help Wanted” signs are on display at restaurants, hotels and many other businesses. Where did all the workers go? The truth is that today’s labor crisis is a myth, or at least a misnomer, because there is no labor shortage. What we’re short on isn’t workers – we’re short on jobs that workers want.
Millions of Americans are making the choice to wait to re-enter the labor force because they are looking for something better. Workers are sending a message that they are tired of low-wage jobs that barely let them pay their bills. They are tired of jobs that don’t offer access to quality health care for them and their family or a chance to save for retirement. They are tired of jobs with no path to advance or grow their skills. They are tired of continually being asked to do more and get less in return.
The Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) fights every day to make sure there is no shortage of opportunities for LIUNA members to earn strong, family-supporting wages for signatory employers that provide health care and retirement benefits and a career members can be proud to call their own. The Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America (LHSFNA) recognizes that protecting workers’ physical safety and mental well-being is just as critical to creating jobs that will be in high demand and allow workers to thrive.
And at no time in our recent history has worker health and safety been more of a front-and-center issue than it has during the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers that acted quickly to implement strong, effective COVID-19 safety protocols on the job earned the trust of their workforce and their customers. Employers that didn’t take these steps sent the message to their workforce that health and safety wasn’t very high on the priority list. Now that those workers have an opportunity to go elsewhere, they’re showing us that they remembered and that those decisions mattered.
From their beginnings, labor unions have always understood that workers are what drive companies and our economy forward. When workers join unions, they gain a voice in the workplace and a way to shape their careers. And as 2021 draws to a close, workers in the U.S. and Canada have more power and more choices than they have in years. In too many cases, today’s “Help Wanted” signs represent jobs that don’t meet the needs of workers in those communities – jobs that don’t offer safe and healthy working conditions, don’t pay wages that match what workers are worth and don’t offer health benefits that can help raise a family.
Now is the time to talk openly about all the benefits of being in a union, especially to all the workers out there who are looking for something better. There are no shortage of opportunities at LIUNA, and there is plenty of work ahead.
As we close out 2021 and begin to look forward to 2022, on behalf of the entire team here at the LHSFNA, we wish you and your family a safe, healthy and happy holiday season.