Union labor is a reality many small business owners aren't equipped to handle.
After working tirelessly to treat their employees fairly and to avoid unionization in their workplace, business owners sometimes find themselves faced with the unavoidable decision to hire contractors that have union labor.
Business owners typically view unionized contractors as high-priced providers who aren't motivated to go above and beyond the call of duty. The thought of hiring workers who are guaranteed the same wage, regardless of their performance, rankles employers, even though (for a variety of reasons) union labor may be the only option.
But hiring contractors with union labor isn't necessarily a bad business decision. Union contractors offer several advantages for businesses that lack the in-house labor resources to complete a project without outside assistance.
- Expertise. Union workers tend to be very skilled workers who have been trained to perform specific job functions. If you're looking for a generalist, a union contractor may not be the best person for the job. But if you're looking for workers with a depth of expertise in a specific field, union contractors can usually fit the bill.
- Experience. Along with expertise, union contractors are known for employing some of the industry's most experienced workers. Although not all of the contractor's workers will have the same level of experience, unions are meticulous about apprenticeship programs and other strategies that pair younger workers with experienced veterans.
- Safety. It's a misconception that unions are focused exclusively on securing wages and benefits for their members. Worker health and safety concerns have always been primary issues for unions and their members. When union contractors work on your site, you can be assured that they will maintain compliance with OSHA regulations and safety standards. If a dangerous situation arises, they will shut down work until it is resolved.
- Labor relations. Unions are structured and disciplined organizations. When problems arise with contracted workers, union leaders and management assets act as a buffer, eliminating the need to deal directly with problem workers.
- Public relations. A refusal to hire union contractors can result in negative PR for your company, especially if your company is a well-known name in the local community or if the job has been obtained through a government agency. In some cases, awarded contracts may even require you to hire union labor to complete the job.