Unionized construction workers have published a study that they say "proves" they are more productive than the non-unionized workers to whom they have steadily lost ground in recent years.
The study was done for the Washington-based Center to Protect Workers' Rights by Steven G. Allen, an assistant professor of economics at North Carolina State University.
The center is headed by Robert A. Georgine, who also serves as president of the AFL-CIO's Building and Construction Trades Department.
The 17-page study contends that union workers' output in construction is 29 percent to 38 percent greater than that of their nonunion competitors because the union workers are better trained.
"There are relatively few nonunion apprenticeship programs; instead, most (non-union) training is done informally as the job is needed," the study said.
"While this is better than no training at all, there is little incentive for nonunion contractors to give their workers as broad a vocational education as they would require to become union members," the study said.
Allen's work is an econometric study based on an analysis of economic data in the construction industry.
However, the study's detractors contend that it "statistically misrepresents union productivity,"
"Nobody has yet been able to measure productivity in construction because the industry is so diverse," said W. Eugene Higgins, assistant executive vice president of the Associated Buildes and Contractors (ABC) Inc.
The Washington-based ABC represents some 14,000 open shop, building contractors, all of whom are non union.
"About the only real measure of construction productivity is the competitive marketplace," Higgins said. "Open shop builders have at least 60 percent of all the commercial and in dustrial projects and about 85 percent of all private home construction in this country."
Higgins said open shop builders control most of the construction market because they can avoid the "excessive wage requirements, restrictive work practices and jurisdictional squabbles" allegedly involved in unionized work.
Allen attempts to counter that argument in his study.
"Union and nonunion establishments can compete in the same product market despite the fact that the former pay their workers more because union establishments are more productive by a roughly offsetting amount," he said.