Union construction projects take off in post-pandemic Tennessee

Construction tradesmen and tradeswomen working in Tennessee are busy, as the state has seen an uptick in construction projects since COVID-19 pandemic restrictions were lifted.

Despite the high volume of ongoing work, the organized labor community is speaking out against contractors hiring unskilled, untrained labor, who are paid under the table. Tennessee AFL-CIO President Billy Dycus talked about connecting with workers, the progress of the construction industry and more on America’s Work Force Union Podcast.

Connecting with workers

When talking with workers face-to-face, Union leaders can generally find some common ground. While social media and other technology have allowed them to spread their message online, it eliminated the personal connection.

The COVID-19 pandemic made the situation worse, according to Dycus. Meetings were cancelled and union organizers had to get creative to recruit new members. Although social media changed the way people interact, he was glad the technology was available when workers were isolated.

With pandemic restrictions lifted, Dycus is excited to once again interact with workers. His goal is to ultimately restore the face-to-face interaction that was lost.

Tennessee construction

The construction industry in Tennessee is booming, just as it is in many other states. Despite Tennessee’s So-Called “Right to Work” laws, union contractors have no trouble securing work.

Dycus said the state is facing an issue with unskilled workers on jobsites. Non-union contractors are paying workers under the table to avoid hiring employees. These workers create a dangerous situation on the jobsite due to their lack of training.

The union building trades require their members to undergo mandatory OSHA safety training. According to Dycus, one of the best ways to improve working conditions is to organize the non-union, unskilled workers and get them trained.


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