Construction union agreements not a solution to higher labor costs: opinion

May 28, 2013 01:00PM

Labor costs for unionized construction workers continue to exceed those of their nonunionized counterparts, and project labor agreements — which some mayoral candidates have touted as a way to narrow the wage gap — are not the panacea they’re cracked up to be, Crain’s columnist Greg David wrote in an op-ed piece.

A few PLAs have shaved costs since the wage difference hit 30 percent back in 2011, he said, citing a study from the Regional Plan Association, a planning nonprofit. But union workers’ benefits more than double their hourly pay, and no PLA has removed the differential to account for the rise in that part of the compensation cost, David said.

Democratic candidates for mayor have endorsed a plan to use union labor to construct all affordable housing built with city help. But the measure, David said, will merely strengthen the disparity between the two types of labor.

“Once the city creates a union monopoly for affordable housing, the relatively small number of unionized subcontractors will be able to widen their margins by raising their prices,” David wrote. [Crain’s]Mark Maurer