Unions Better at Recruiting Women, Minorities

Staff | September 28, 2010

A new study released by the Labor Resource Center at UMASS Boston shows that the unionized sector of the construction industry provides a higher number of skilled workers through apprenticeship programs, and that these programs are more successful at recruiting ethnic minorities and women than non-union programs. The study compared union and non-union building trade apprenticeship programs registered with the Massachusetts Division of Apprenticeship over a 10-year period from 1997 — 2007. The new study discovered the following significant findings on Building Trades Apprentice Training in Massachusetts: Of the 6,433 apprentices actively enrolled as of October 1, 2007, 82 percent (5,274) were enrolled in union apprenticeship programs and 19 percent (1,159) were enrolled in non-union programs. Apprentices in union apprenticeship programs complete their apprenticeships and attain journeyperson status at higher rates. 81 percent (6,142) completed union apprenticeship programs and 19 percent (1,419) completed non-union programs. The majority of union apprenticeship programs successfully produced skilled journey-level workers. Of the 87 union programs, 89 percent produced at least one journey-worker. Of the 1,198 non-union programs, only 32 percent successfully produced at least one journey-worker. Union programs recruited racial/ethnic minorities at higher rates than non-union programs, and women at over twice the rate of the non-union programs. The completion rates for women, veterans and apprentices with disabilities from union programs were double those from non-union programs. Union programs have higher sustainability. The union programs had a cancellation rate of 11 percent, while the non-union programs had a cancellation rate of 59 percent during the 10-year period of the study. The average years of operation of union programs is over 21 years, while that of non-union programs is just over six years.