Mixing union and non-union workers on a jobsite

I don’t know much about unions, having never been a part of one. I have a question about the scenario below:

The property/business owner has hired 1) Company A, who is the general contractor and 2) Company B, who is contracted to do a specific aspect of the project.

The GC is not a union shop. Company B is not a union shop.

Company B needed more carpenters, so they got some carpenters from the local Carpenters’ Union.

What’s confusing to me is that I am not familiar enough with union stuff to understand how that happens, or the ramifications of non-union Company B hiring union workers. Or how that affects Company B’s employees, if at all. Or Company A’s, for that matter. Or the entire jobsite.

Any insight would be appreciated.

ETA: this is in a ‘right to work’ state.

I don’t think there is a factual answer to this.

I can tell you I am not a big union guy but I never relinquished my membership when my state went to a right to work law.

What bugs me is the union has to represent nonmembers (except part-timers) and then can legally bill them for past dues but never does. I’ve won a couple of grievances that also benefitted nonmembers and they can suck my dick. Them and the union for not making them pay for past dues for representing the grievance they signed on with me.

On the other hand a part-timer, who cannot be a union member, fought his own case against the payroll and HR department and won. Then the union took that decision and forced the municipality to apply it to full timers as well. The part time guy is like, hey, your welcome, fuckers.

It’s a weird position for myself because most of the time I don’t back the unions decisions and actions.

If Company B hired workers through the union hall, they’re paying them union wages (and probably payments for health insurance, the pension fund, etc.) If they’re not paying their own employees a similar wage and benefits, too bad for the employee. Of course the workers hired from outside will be the first ones laid off as the work gets completed, while Company B’s own carpenters will be there through the end, and presumably move on to their next assignment. The carpenters hired through the union hall may be stuck without a job until another contractor needs additional help.

If the entire job is under a federal contract, everyone is required to pay their workers the “prevailing wage,” which usually turns out to be the union wage.

If a company hires non-union workers they can find they have problems doing business. Maybe truckers will not deliver to them or waste removal will not remove garbage or suppliers will not sell your products. If you had non-union workers do your plumbing (as an example) and have a problem later you may find no union worker is willing to fix your problem.

I seem to recall some hotel in New York or Boston (I forget…been a long time) refusing to hire union workers. All of a sudden the garbage collectors stopped collecting their garbage. Five days of that with garbage piled around their hotel they relented.

Why would B hire from the union hall? They advertise for, say, carpenters and people apply, they pick who they can. If they cannot hire carpenters by advertising, then either the union is intimidating the general worker, or (more likely) they don’t pay enough.

Or at least, that’s how I see it playing out in Canada.

Usually A would have a contract with their union saying “here is the scope of our union jobs, and anyone who does that must be a part of the union.” Failure results in a grievance, which goes to arbitration, and then the company ends up paying the union for work that was taken away from union members. Most provinces in Canada have exemptions for those who do not believe in unions, the union collects their dues to pay to a charity of the worker’s choice, but is still obliged to protect the worker’s rights - i.e. you can’t be exempted from a union just to get out of paying dues. And the trick to not having a union is typically to pay about the same or better than with a union.

But then, Canada believes in worker rights.

I will say, in my experience, the unions enforce a high level of competence among their workers. They may cost a lot but they know their business and work to code requirements and, while expensive, are pretty efficient at what they do.

The guy you hire in the Home Depot parking lot…eh…you never know.

That said, the guys at Home Depot can be good too. You just have no way of telling.

I used to work as a freelance RF tech at a local performing arts center. Their in-house tech people were all IATSE. I wasn’t a member since I never saw the benefit for my situation as an RF tech. It’s a very specialized niche where one can pretty much call their own shots.

FOH audio guy for this venue was also the union steward. The show we were doing was very challenging. Trying to keep track of 30+ wireless mics is not easy but managable especially with programmable scenes on digital mixers.

He crashed and burned the first two of runs of the show, messed up his scene mute groups. I talked to the producer and tried to get him fired off the show. Found out that wouldn’t happen, due to union rules. He was guaranteed employment for the run of the show.

BUT I could mix the show myself as long as he got paid to sit there watch me. Union rules! So I mixed. The remaining shows went fine tho things were kinda sketchy because I wasn’t back stage in RF world where I was hired to be.

He wasn’t at all antagonistic toward me, in fact he helped me quite a bit even though he wasn’t supposed to do that.

Then the producer got the bill and wondered why he was getting charged for two audio engineers…

Not since Janus they can’t.

I am confused about what exactly you mean by the GC and Company B are not union shops. Do the GC and Company B have any actual employees? By that I mean employees who work for those companies steadily - because if Company B does, I’m not sure why Company B went to the union hall to hire carpenters. Typically, that happens in the sort of situations where a contractor needs a certain number of electricians for a particular job , hires them through the union hall and pays them union wages and benefits. When that job is over, they wait to get hired for another one. But I’d be really surprised if the union allowed itself to be used by a non-union company to hire additional workers, so I wonder if Company B either

  1. doesn’t actually employ any carpenters and pus a crew together for each job ( sort of the original gig work) or

  2. is co-owned by a few carpenters who normally do all the work but need to hire more people for a big project

IN some unions if a member takes a job with a employer that is nonunion the union will suspend membership to the worker. In other unions it may not be a problem.

When I worked for Macy’s in California most of their elevator mechanics were members of the elevator mechanic’s union, but they were not working under a union contract. But they were being paid the union rate. Their benefits were also the company benefits not the union benefits. For a while some of the elevator mechanics were classified as Stationary Engineers/ elevator mechanics and were members of the Stationary Engineers union.

And when The Emporium Stores were still around 3 of 4 crews were union with the Stationary Engineers and worked under a contract. The 4th crew was nonunion, but they received the same pay rate without some of the benefits of the union Engineers.

I worked for a while once upon a time for a unionized industrial site. The rule was simple - the (non-union) bosses, shift supervisor and up, could not do union work. They could, however, instruct the union guys on the fine points of the trade. So when there was a pressing urgent task that had to be done right, they’d tell the worker “Stand back and watch how it’s done” then jump in and do the important part quickly and properly. The guy who got paid to stand and watch never complained. Even if he had, the union had no grounds for a grievance. But naturally, it wasn’t cost effective to do this very often - which was the purpose of the union rules.

Unions make deals with non-union shops. They want to keep their members employed. They also aren’t trying to shut down all small non-union shops. They want their industry to grow and small shops to turn to big ones that will unionize.

So sorry for taking a few days to reply. I’ve been following though I haven’t found the time to sit down and reply.

Company B has a lot of employees, it’s just that most of them aren’t carpenters. In fact (showing my hand in this conversation) I’m the only “carpenter”, as in someone who has been employed full time as a carpenter for a significant amount of time. So yes, it is gig work in that sense. As far as going to the Union, I don’t know why they chose that, specifically. They could have gone to somewhere like Tradesmen International, and I’m glad they didn’t because I’ve heard plenty of stories about the people they send out. Likewise, they could have posted an ad on a hiring site, but that’s probably even more risky with regards to the people you get.

OK, if you are the only person employed full-time as a carpenter at Company B , that explains why the union doesn’t have a problem with it - the various trade unions don’t really care if (for example) an apartment complex hires a single full-time electrician, painter or plumber outside of the union. In fact, the concept of a single employee belonging to a union doesn’t really make sense.

Company B hiring carpenters for short-term work through the union isn’t going to affect anyone else.

I think the sudden addition of the union people is due to the fact that there is getting to be a time crunch, (not due to our work; outside forces) and me plus no-matter-how-many-semi-carpenters wouldn’t be enough to get it done in a reasonable time.

I will say that the carpenters I was sent have been great. Obviously skilled and conscientious about their work. I’m glad to have them.

Another post that pretty much nailed it. Talking with the guys they provided, I was actually pretty surprised at the amount of time they’re out of work. They’re glad to be here.

Two of their reps came out to see the site and talk with me on Monday. That’s pretty much their take as well; they want to find jobs for their workers. They don’t want to just send them to some shithole for the sake of work, which is obviously reasonable, but I think they had an opportunity to get some carpenters some work and took it.

Another interesting take.

When I was talking to the reps, they explained that they are fine with the situation.


They said were screening who they sent, because as one said “There are some guys, if they showed up and saw you wearing those (gesturing to my tool bags), they’d walk out because you’re not union.”