In a decision that will have profound, long-range impacts on all aspects of construction in the United States, LIUNA General President Terence M. O’Sullivan announced last month that the Laborers had withdrawn from the Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) of the AFL-CIO, effective May 2. Subsequently, the union also withdrew from the AFL-CIO.

LIUNA will now join the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) and the Carpenters in the creation of a new National Construction Alliance (NCA). According to O’Sullivan, “We now have an aggressive, responsive alliance that can fully represent the interests of the basic trades in the 21st Century. This fulfills our vision when we left the Building and Construction Trades Department.

“The construction industry has changed,” says O’Sullivan. “If our union is going to provide our members with good jobs, good wages, good training and safe workplaces, we must embrace change and opportunities. It is our obligation to stop decades of decline and begin a renaissance of unions in the construction industry.”

Union employers offer better wages and benefits, provide better training, have less turnover and have stronger safety programs than nonunion contractors. However, these better opportunities come with higher costs that can sometimes price union employers out of a competitive bid situation. One way to help union constructors is to streamline the negotiating process with unions in the workforce, especially in low market share areas. The NCA will do this.

Industry observers anticipate that the new alliance also may boost health and safety in the industry. For instance, the Engineering News-Record, responding to early discussion of the NCA last March, wrote in an online commentary, “As we have said many times before, the union sector serves a vital role in the industry. In collective bargaining, unions and contractors set the standard for what is considered appropriate wages, benefits, training and working conditions. It is a check and balance against unilateral action by nonunion employers.”