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Old 02-23-2012, 01:52 PM   #1
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Joining A Union


I went out looking for sub work the other day and I came across a company that only hires through the local electrical workers union. And even though the rep at the construction company really didn't make me any promises, the guy kind of hinted that if I was in a union, they would have work for me.

So my question is how easy is it to get into a union? Is it something that anyone can join or do you get in via referral from another member?

Also, how do they verify your skill sets or talents? I was looking through various opportunities where they had postings for people who had a particular union classification and I'd think that they don't just put you on the jobsite as a result of you simply saying that you can do something.

And lastly, if I were to join a union, what would my commitment level be other than just the dues? Does being in a union contractually disqualify me from doing other outside non-union work?
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Old 02-23-2012, 03:25 PM   #2
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Re: Joining A Union


In the MD carpenters local here, I had looked at joining as a company back when I was a division 9 contractor.

At that time, all I needed was at least one union employee on the payroll at all times, sign to only hire Unions and all the legal BS and be able to pay the corporate dues.

The local is so weak though, and even though at that time I was getting fairly large I could have benefited from the labor force, it wasn't worth all the downfalls that comes with being a union contractor.

When it comes to union, you either have that mentality or you don't.

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Old 02-23-2012, 05:34 PM   #3
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Re: Joining A Union


My area of michigan, guys go though the school for 4 years. When times were good if a union co. wanted to hire you, you bought your card for $500 or so. They were calle dthe back door carpenters. The union is weak here, last week they protested a non union auto parts store. Like a 2,000 sqft building. They had it built in 4 weeks, really how many union jobs is there for that box? Lame. Many GC union companies will hire non union subs to work on thier union projects, how does this work???? Pay off. I once worked in the Detroit area, and we got paid saginaw scale, which was at the time $9.80 less an hour. We called the BA and he said our GC signed a agreement for us to work at a lower wage. The union wants your money. You will make a good wage, but we also pay out $46 a week in working dues plus monthly dues. Maybe that is why so many union guys do side jobs.
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Old 02-24-2012, 09:08 AM   #4
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Re: Joining A Union


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When it comes to union, you either have that mentality or you don't.
Yeah, I see what you mean. I was on a gov't gig some time ago where there was another contractor doing the same thing I was doing in a different part of the building. They had 3 times as many guys as we did making more money than us and they accomplished LESS work in a day.

And that's the kind of thing that made me have my doubts. I don't want to be pressured into moving at a slower pace and milking the clock just because I am billing hourly and they want me to use up all of the budgeted hours.

We were installing flat panel screens throughout the facility. Our crew of 3 guys could install roughly 8 to 10 TV's in a day. The union crew of about 10 guys took the better part of 8 hours to get 3 TV's installed in a day. It was ridiculous. 10 guys walking through the building in a group. One holding the ladder, one holding the TV, one pushing the cart, one holding the tool bag, and everyone else watching.

And I'm sure that not all union workers operate that way but in this case, it really looked bad in my estimation.
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Old 02-24-2012, 09:22 AM   #5
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Re: Joining A Union


I rarely got on trim type jobs when I union carpenter. I excelled at concrete and forms and that is where I stayed. I wasn't smart enough to act dumb at it, the guys that did were put on hardware and trim. The hardest I have ever worked in my life was on concrete jobs, being union. If I would have stuck it out in there my body would have easily been in worse shape. Everthing is ball busting heavy, frost bite cold, just out of reach and covered with form oil. To this day the smell of fu8king form oil makes me want to throw up. So if you get on a good crew its a great time. It really boils down to the company, and the crew you have to work with.

The one major advantage I found working on my own or res. is that you can set your pace. Work hard and smart when it is needed and slow down and work smart when that job requires it.
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Old 02-24-2012, 04:13 PM   #6
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somebody has to pay for the annual conference at a nice resort for the executives.
Been there, done that, don't want to do it again.
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Old 02-24-2012, 04:56 PM   #7
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Re: Joining A Union


Just go to your local union hall, and ask.
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Old 02-24-2012, 09:18 PM   #8
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Re: Joining A Union


As a PM that works all over the country I can just say this, not a fan of anything union.
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Old 02-24-2012, 09:23 PM   #9
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Re: Joining A Union


Once Union always Union. All they are a big gang. All jobs are rightfully their's, and they will picket your site with a big rat if you are using non-union labor.

I pulled over and asked one time why they were picketing. Their signs said it was poor practices. They said it was because they were only paying their help $15 an hour with no benefits. I asked how did he know that for sure. He said, because they aren't union. I told him to get a real job. He pulled out his camera and took a picture of my van and LC plate. I asked why he did that. He didn't answer. So I got out and took pictures of all of their cars and them just in case something ever happened.

Can't stand Union BS.
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Old 02-24-2012, 09:52 PM   #10
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Re: Joining A Union


Well I'm not pro union or anti union. I think it depends.

In my area right now the going rate companies are paying carpenters is between $15 and $25 per hour.

I have a friend in the union, his package is $47/hr.

My opinion is that non union companies will take advantage of the tradesmen. They won't pay any more than they absolutely need to.

So you tell me........

Oh, and my friend works hard for his money. No cushy job there.
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Old 02-24-2012, 10:01 PM   #11
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Well I'm not pro union or anti union. I think it depends.

In my area right now the going rate companies are paying carpenters is between $15 and $25 per hour.

I have a friend in the union, his package is $47/hr.

My opinion is that non union companies will take advantage of the tradesmen. They won't pay any more than they absolutely need to.

So you tell me........

Oh, and my friend works hard for his money. No cushy job there.
What's so wrong about paying as little as you can? I just don't get that. If someone is willing to work for that pay, who is anyone to dictate otherwise? Do you go in to the lumber yard and ask to pay more for a 2x4? No, you try to get them as cheap as possible without sacrificing quality. That is how a free market works. Allow the market to dictate wage.

It's the same thing with minimum wage.

Why is it only $7.25? Why not $20, $30 or $40 an hour?

Unions are not free market compatible. They drive up costs and don't guarantee anything. They lobby for ridiculous building codes and do more harm for our industry than good.
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You ask for your money frequently, and you collect it quickly, else you stop working immediately.
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Old 02-24-2012, 10:14 PM   #12
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Re: Joining A Union


The problem is that all the companies are aware of how little they can get away with paying someone. So when you go looking for a job, all the rates are similar.

It's corporate greed once again. It's not really free market when all the companies are looking at what they are paying and keep the rates low.

How is the average tradesman supposed to raise a family on $20/hr ?
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Old 02-24-2012, 10:20 PM   #13
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The problem is that all the companies are aware of how little they can get away with paying someone. So when you go looking for a job, all the rates are similar.

It's corporate greed once again. It's not really free market when all the companies are looking at what they are paying and keep the rates low.

How is the average tradesman supposed to raise a family on $20/hr ?
I don't but that. There are too many companies out there. That would be a massive conspiracy.

How is a tradesman supposed to raise a family on $20 an hour? Live within his means. $20 an hour is over 40k a year. That's richer than 90% of the world. The problem with wage fixing is it just raises the rates the company charges and ends up as inflation. You end up making the same amount because everything increases in price.
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You ask for your money frequently, and you collect it quickly, else you stop working immediately.
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Old 02-24-2012, 10:23 PM   #14
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What's so wrong about paying as little as you can? I just don't get that. If someone is willing to work for that pay, who is anyone to dictate otherwise? Do you go in to the lumber yard and ask to pay more for a 2x4? No, you try to get them as cheap as possible without sacrificing quality. That is how a free market works. Allow the market to dictate wage.

It's the same thing with minimum wage.

Why is it only $7.25? Why not $20, $30 or $40 an hour?

Unions are not free market compatible. They drive up costs and don't guarantee anything. They lobby for ridiculous building codes and do more harm for our industry than good.
Exactly! If I had to pay our subs enough to make sure all their carpenters made 47ph on every job we woud have to bid our projects so high no one would ever work. So... 15-25ph with steady work or 47ph and no work? lol Not to mention even if eveyone was held to this standard the industry would slow down BIG time; because outside of fourtune 500, no companies could afford to build, renovate, or expand. I dont even want to think about how it would affect our booming market for home builders.

Unions were needed and they did help bring working standards up when companies could run operations without regulations our public scrutiny. Thats just not the case anymore and like anymore and like many organizations that start with good intentions they grew too big too fast and all of the sudden they became what they hated... A giant organization that feeds on the labor that are just trying to make the mortgage.
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Old 02-24-2012, 10:30 PM   #15
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Exactly! If I had to pay our subs enough to make sure all their carpenters made 47ph on every job we woud have to bid our projects so high no one would ever work. So... 15-25ph with steady work or 47ph and no work? lol Not to mention even if eveyone was held to this standard the industry would slow down BIG time; because outside of fourtune 500, no companies could afford to build, renovate, or expand. I dont even want to think about how it would affect our booming market for home builders.

Unions were needed and they did help bring working standards up when companies could run operations without regulations our public scrutiny. Thats just not the case anymore and like anymore and like many organizations that start with good intentions they grew too big too fast and all of the sudden they became what they hated... A giant organization that feeds on the labor that are just trying to make the mortgage.
But conditions was the excuse that the unions needed in order to sieze control. It was their intention all along to become a political force. It's just like health care reform. The gov't is hiding behind the fact that it "helps" those that can't help themselves, but it's really about $$$ and power.

Why are their gov't unions? Why do they need to be protected from the gov't?
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Old 02-24-2012, 10:34 PM   #16
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Ok, like I said I'm not pro union, I'm pro a man being able to make a decent wage.

Here let's say a guy apprentices in carpentry, or electrical, or plumbing. This takes about 4 years. Add another 4 years to that to get really good at his trade. Plus he has to buy a bunch of tools.

Now, all the companies in any given area know what everyone else is offering in wages. So they just offer the same amount. Like I said, in my area it's about $20/hr.

Well after 8 years of working my butt off to get good at my trade, I just laugh at that rate. Let's be real here, a truck alone costs about $7/hr. Add to that tool purchases and necessary tool replacement and there isn't much left to live on.

The companies rape the trades. Always been like that, always will be.

The only way out is to either join the union, or go it on your own. That's just the way it is.

At least the union gigs are paying a tradesman what he's worth.
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Old 02-24-2012, 10:43 PM   #17
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Ok, like I said I'm not pro union, I'm pro a man being able to make a decent wage.

Here let's say a guy apprentices in carpentry, or electrical, or plumbing. This takes about 4 years. Add another 4 years to that to get really good at his trade. Plus he has to buy a bunch of tools.

Now, all the companies in any given area know what everyone else is offering in wages. So they just offer the same amount. Like I said, in my area it's about $20/hr.

Well after 8 years of working my butt off to get good at my trade, I just laugh at that rate. Let's be real here, a truck alone costs about $7/hr. Add to that tool purchases and necessary tool replacement and there isn't much left to live on.

The companies rape the trades. Always been like that, always will be.

The only way out is to either join the union, or go it on your own. That's just the way it is.

At least the union gigs are paying a tradesman what he's worth.
I still say BS. There are plenty of smaller companies paying a decent wage. And I can't swallow it costing nearly 15k to have a truck.

I also can't see someone getting $20 an hour after nearly 10 years in the trades. At that point you should be running your own crew, not swinging a hammer. If you are just swinging a hammer, then $20 is all you get. Make something of yourself, don't stand around and wait for someone to take care of you. You can't sit and swing a hammer for 40 years, for someone else and expect to retire comfortably.

I cannot afford to pay someone $47 an hour, plus my side of the deal. I would have to charge over $100 an hour to just break even. Who is going to pay over $100 an hour per guy to frame a house? Not going to happen.
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Old 02-24-2012, 10:51 PM   #18
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Re: Joining A Union


I got a copy of the union agreement as I was considering making my company union, I'm not anymore.

I have 2 employees who were in the union, based on what they tell me and what I read in the agreement I pay about $1.00 less, my hourly rate to them is higher but I don't offer benefits.

But as the guys also put it, I give them 44 hours a week, each and every week, union was work a month and than off til they got another job
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Old 02-24-2012, 10:56 PM   #19
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My brother left working with me about 3 years ago. He wanted more benefits for him and his family. He new he couldnt get it working for me. So he joined iron workers union and is makein over 30 dollars an hour plus benefits and in 20 years he will be retired. Rebuilding ground zero



So sometimes i think im the dummie one with all the headaches of running a business with no benefits that union guys get when there done working. Because we have to pay and save for everthing . Plus im bidding against them on jobs that they try to do on the side anyway.
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Old 02-24-2012, 10:59 PM   #20
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Re: Joining A Union


Exactly, there in lies the problem. No one will pay the $100/hr. you would have to charge.

Not everyone is cut out to run their own company, as we know 80% fail within 10 years.

I've run the numbers many times, and yes, it costs about $7/hr for truck, insurance, repairs.

I don't have a solution to this problem. All I'm saying is that there are good men out there who are being forced to work for half of what they should be making.

If I was a young guy with my journeymans' ticket, I would join the union. Not for any political reasons, for the decent wages.

Let's be honest here, none of us who are self employed would work for those rates. But we can't pay more due to that the HO won't pay more.

Just because someone for many reasons, can't run their own company doesn't make him less of a tradesman. I know several top notch carpenters who just want to do their trade, not run a company.

Like I said, it's either join the union, or go out on your own.

And then we, as employers, complain there's no good people out there.

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