BIZNow Article: As Construction Picks Up Again, Union Masons Can Get The Industry Back On Track

Industry Updates

August 10, 2020

The coronavirus has created unprecedented delays in construction projects. Even as projects slowly start to rev back up, the continued construction labor shortage may make it difficult for developers to find the skilled workers they need to get things back on track.  To keep already delayed projects from falling further behind, and inject some certainty into these uncertain times, developers are turning to a source of labor that is sometimes overlooked: union masonry.

The Employing Bricklayers Association is a group of mason contractors that partners with Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Local 1 — or BAC Local 1 — who have the most experienced union masons in the industry. EBA contractors use union labor, which provides flexible man-hours for projects of various sizes. This partnership allows EBA contractors to get their jobs done quickly, safely and right the first time.

Amy Hennessey, executive director of the EBA, said hiring experienced professionals like union masons is an especially smart move right now. With many Americans out of work, contractors are expecting an influx of new laborers. But there is no guarantee that those new hires are qualified to do the job.

“A lot of people are currently unemployed because of the coronavirus,” Hennessey said. “Some of those people may apply for masonry jobs to [tide] them over, but who’s to say if they have any real experience? There’s a lot that goes into working with these materials, and if you don’t have the experience, project schedules and budgets are going to run into problems.”

All union bricklayers are pre-screened and go through a three- to four-year apprentice program at the BAC Local 1 training center, where they receive on-the-job training, classroom training and continuous training throughout their time in the union.

Hennessey’s organization helps developers, engineers, architects, GC/CM’s and contractors be more cost-effective by offering resources that advise on how to construct better buildings for less money. These resources include structural engineers who will consult with developers free of charge and software that will allow them to manage their materials in a more cost-effective way. The EBA also offers industry codes and trade information for engineers and architects, along with industry continuing education credits.

“When the pandemic hit, unions stepped up to the plate and immediately began training their workers on the CDC guidelines for how to stay safe on the job site,” Hennessey said. “We join in on weekly industry calls to review best practices and stay up to date, and this is on par with the high level of training all union masonry workers receive.”  When developers choose masonry over other construction methods, they are not just getting more experienced workers, she said. They get the peace of mind and cost savings that come with working with these materials. Using a masonry system allows developers to save on insurance costs since bricklayers work with fire-proof, weather-resistant material that can increase the structural integrity of a building and lower their premiums. Also, masonry walls boast thermal mass characteristics that can help better insulate buildings, keeping them cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter — enabling property owners to save on energy costs.

She added that working with inexperienced or undertrained construction teams can lead to costly and possibly catastrophic errors, while EBA resources and union labor can help ensure better outcomes.

Along with gaining the confidence that comes with working with skilled craftsmen, developers who work with union bricklayers from BAC Local 1 know that the men and women they employ are being paid competitive wages with benefits, and work in a safe environment, Hennessey said.

“Many developers say they are investing in communities by flipping properties or beautifying buildings,” she said. “To me, the best way they can truly invest in communities is to build with brick and hire local union masons. The real investment is in the people who take pride in their work, their family and who support the businesses in their own neighborhoods.”

Photo Courtesy of the International Masonry Institute the BAC/IMI International Training Center

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