Jim Ascione, Treasurer of the Delaware Building and Construction Trades Council, joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss the Delaware union construction industry, Prevailing Wage and how the federal infrastructure bill would fuel apprenticeship programs by supporting much needed union construction jobs.
Northern Delaware friendlier to union shops
The health of union construction in Delaware ultimately depends on what part of the state is being discussed, Ascione said. The state’s southern region is less friendly to unions and has a low density of union contractors.
However, in the northern region of the state, union contractors thrive. Contractors affiliated with the Delaware Building and Construction Trades Council recently secured two major highway projects and Amazon is building multiple distribution centers. Unfortunately not all the Amazon work goes union, as there are a number of out-of-state contractors who come in for work, putting local union contractors at a disadvantage, he said.
A large Amazon facility was recently built in New Castle on the site of an old General Motors plant. The use of union contractors was split depending on the trade — sheet metal workers might be union, while HVAC techs were not. It did feel that union contractors were being kept off the project, Ascione said.
Delaware seeks to extend Prevailing Wage for all University of Delaware construction projects
Ascione also discussed recent efforts to introduce So-Called “Right to Work” laws and Prevailing Wage laws in Delaware.
There have been significant battles over So-Called “Right to Work” in Delaware, but Ascione is confident the issue has been put to rest for the time being. Even some Republicans in the state support unions and want to see workers treated fairly, he added.
Last year, the Delaware House Labor Committee advanced legislation to expand Prevailing Wage at the University of Delaware. Currently, Prevailing Wage law applies to capital projects with state funding. The legislation seeks to extend the law to all projects on campus.
Apprenticeship programs strengthen as unions continue to grow
COVID-19 had a significant impact on Delaware apprenticeship programs, Ascione said. However, apprenticeship programs affiliated with the Delaware Building Trades are once again taking applications. Work has been plentiful to fuel the programs and keep apprentices busy.
If passed, the infrastructure bill would be a boon to apprenticeship programs by supporting high quality jobs, he said.
The Delaware Building Trades continues to do outreach programs by talking to workers on jobsites, Ascione said. Thanks to the current job market, organizing is as strong as it has ever been.