NEW IFCA President
Kim Clerkin, IFCA's Executive Director, asked me to speak at a function regarding "Why are you a Union Contractor?" This is what I said ...
A &J Builders has been an ongoing union commercial carpentry company for over 35 years.
My involvement started over 18 years ago. At the time, I had to make a choice between choosing to stay union or go open shop and I will never forget weighing the pros and cons between these two worlds. In addition, my friends and business associates thought I was nuts for getting involved with a construction company not to mention a union one at that. But among other things, my background was in real estate development, architecture and construction and I had this urge to dive in and make a go of it as a union contractor.
I have to say that everything everyone says about construction is true – it’s a tough business and it’s not for the feint of heart – but it has its rewards and that’s what I want to share with you today. Working in the building trades is hard work and it can be brutal on the body and soul. With that fact in mind, I went into this business not having to worry about my employees and their family’s health insurance or retirement. Also, working for a living wage brings great economic advantages to our community and neighborhoods. I know worker’s pay is always an issue and it should be linked to productivity gains, but a simple truth is if you want a repair done in your home, you’re going to pay $150.00 for the first hour.
Skilled labor is not a commodity. It is a resource that comes from years of training and as our Executive Director, Kim Clerkin, pointed out, the unions are at the forefront of providing an education for our young work force. Having the ability to outsource my human resource department is a tremendous advantage which allows me to really focus on operations. I know that owners invest a tremendous amount of capital for their facilities and real estate assets. It is my job to make sure that you, the end user, are getting the value that you demand by ensuring that my tradespeople are doing efficient quality work. When I show up at a job site to do a pre punch, that is what I’m thinking about. Substandard workmanship is absolutely unacceptable and it is my mission to communicate this to my employees. The fact is, the average hourly rate is not cheap. You desrve the best.
With respect to my union partners, we just concluded collective bargaining negotiations and I was pleasantly surprised to see a clear shift in attitude from the unions which are unmistakably due to the realities of competition we face in this economy. As a result, I’m optimistic that we as union contractors can compete in this environment as long as there is a clear understanding of what roles each of us bring to the table.
In conclusion, it is always the final product that you can see, feel and touch is what makes my business so worthwhile.
Thanks for reading!