New study: Non-union construction apprentices, women fare badly


Washington — New survey data collected by Central Florida Jobs with Justice, in partnership with the national Jobs with Justice Education Fund, confirms what Labor leaders have known for decades: Non-union training and apprenticeship programs within the construction trades leads to workers – especially women and workers of color – being underpaid, unprotected and underrepresented.

The survey data comes from Florida, a state that has used taxpayer money to invest heavily in non-union apprenticeship programs. Some key findings coming out of Florida:

  • 19 percent of graduates of non-union apprenticeships go on to make less than $15 an hour or less, compared to only 2.7 percent of union-trained construction workers.
  • Graduating from a union apprenticeship program is associated with a 17 percent increase in wages.
  • 38 percent of non-union apprenticeship graduates have no benefits, including health insurance and paid time off, while 85 percent of union-trained construction workers report having full benefits.
  • Almost half of all non-union trained construction workers worry that their wages will not cover their personal finances and 42 percent worry about getting injured on the job.

“This survey affirms what we’ve known for years — graduating from a union apprenticeship program greatly improves wages, benefits and working conditions,” said Jobs with Justice Research Director Erin Johansson.

“But we were surprised at how poorly workers fared in terms of wages and benefits after graduating from non-union apprenticeship and training programs. It confirms that public investment in infrastructure would be safer with unions.”

The survey also illuminates the gender and racial disparities within the construction trades. Thirty-nine percent of all respondents say women and people of color are treated differently on the job site, and 23 percent of women and people of color respondents say they worry about harassment and discrimination at work. Rampant harassment has likely kept many women, especially women of color, from keeping jobs in this space, as 61 percent of all respondents say they observe fewer than six women on their job site, while nearly one fifth say they observe zero women.

“The study demonstrates that there’s much to improve on as it relates both to recruiting and retaining women and workers of color within the construction trades,” said Denise Diaz, Central Florida Jobs with Justice Co-Director. “Compared to other industries, the percentage of women in the workforce is exceptionally low. Additionally, the number of women and workers of color experiencing harassment and discrimination implies that these issues are systemic. Any public investment into construction must take these issues into account – and must work to dismantle them.”


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