Union Versus Nonunion Construction in the U.S.

by Raymond E. Levitt, (A.M.ASCE), Assoc. Prof.; Massachusetts Inst. of Tech., Cambridge, Mass.,
Clinton C. Bourdon, Asst. Prof.; Harvard Univ., Grad. School of Business Administration, Boston, Mass.,

Serial Information: Journal of the Construction Division, 1979, Vol. 105, Issue 4, Pg. 289-303

Document Type: Journal Paper


A major study of the construction industry was conducted by MIT Department of Civil Engineering, to compare and contrast wages and labor management practices in union and nonunion construction. Union firms were found to be larger and primarily engaged in commercial, industrial, or heavy construction; nonunion firms are smaller and primarily engaged in light constructtion. Nonunion wages, are, on average, considerably lower than union wages; however, the distribution of nonunion wages for any trade is large, with the top 10% exceeding the union journeyman's rate for that trade. Occupational structure was found to be a key determinant of relative efficiency; union journeymen are too narrowly specialized for small-scale light construction and too broadly skilled for very large-scale industrial projects. Consequently, nonunion firms dominate light construction and are rapidly gaining ground, using new training approaches, on the superprojects. Nonunion firms are attempting to penetrate the middle-size range by developing common benefit plans and job-referral programs to compete with union firms.

Subject Headings: Employee compensation and benefits | Construction companies | Construction management | Construction industry | Comparative studies | Labor | Industrial facilities | Training

Services: Buy this book/Buy this article


Return to search