The Arizona Building and Construction Trades Council represents construction unions in various trades. Member unions spend more than $6 million annually on apprenticeship training programs.

Buzz Murphy, president of the Arizona Building and Construction Trades Council and business manager of Ironworkers Local 75, talks about the role of construction trade unions on this Labor Day holiday:

Q. Are unions even necessary this day and age?

A: Yes. We’re still keeping a pulse on worker rights, but we’re also big players in workforce-skills development. In the case of construction, because of the growing gap between the demand and supply of highly skilled construction workers, the unions have never been more important. The reason: No other organizations do as fine a job of training the next generation of welders, pipefitters, sheet metal workers, ironworkers, painters, cement masons, electricians and other key construction trades.

Each of the trades has spent millions building and equipping state-of-the-art training facilities and developing experienced faculty for their apprenticeship programs. These programs provide a top-notch education at no expense to the taxpayer while delivering the skilled workers needed by the industry in the coming decades.

Q. How do you see the future of construction unions?

A: We see the union taking a big role in closing the gap between jobs in demand and supply of skilled workers. We know our contractors have jobs to fill that require training. We’re recruiting job seekers into the trade and training them to succeed in these high-demand jobs. We’re showing them there are opportunities in construction where workers can get good wages, along with health insurance and pension benefits. This is what’s going to help us fill jobs.

Q. There is a lot of discussion about union labor costing more, why is that?

A: When you hire members of a construction trade union local, you’re hiring highly trained pros who can do the job right the first time, safely and on time. These skills and ongoing training mean greater productivity and fewer lost workdays from accidents — these can more than compensate for the wage premium. As with many things, you do get what you’re paying for.

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