Union FAQ for Contractors & Employees
How will I be able to make a profit or stay competitive after my employees become union?
You will be able to continue making a good profit because you will have more predictable costs; fewer unknown, hidden costs; and you will be on a level playing field with all other union contractors. You will have a pool of highly trained workers from which to draw and therefore can compete for larger jobs in larger markets. The union and the contractor's association work very hard to improve the productivity of member companies.
Will I lose control over my business?
No. You will still be the deciding factor in the workings of your business. The union only strives to obtain more work for you and assists in the training of your employees to give you the best opportunities for new work.
How will you help me get work?
We will give general contractors your name when they request subcontractors. We will help you in locating work, advertising, and do other things to assist you.
Will my client base increase?
Once you have become a union contractor you will have access to more clients, many of which hire for very large jobs. The opportunities are much greater with your hard work and our help and assistance!
Can you show me existing, successful union contractors?
Yes, we have many contractors that are very successful in their business. Please feel free to contact the local union or contractor association in your area.
Will I be able to compete with the non-union contractors?
You will be able to compete because you have highly-trained workers whose education is #1 in the country! The United Association spends in excess of $100,000,000 each year on educating our members - more than any other trade union.
Am I going to lose customers?
You will gain customers, as you will be entering a new job market.
Am I going to lose employees?
No. You will be able to keep all of your current employees and will have access to all other available union members as well.
What are the consequences if I don't sign?
You will continue to work, but without training and benefits for your workers or help in getting more work from the union. The union will contact and speak to your employees and offer their services to them. We will keep our doors open at all times.
What is the union's accountability?
You have our word that we will live up to our commitment to you and assist you in any way that we can. We will give you only the best qualified employees and promise that if someone does not perform well we will assist you in finding the right person for the job.
How can I trust you?
As well as being under a signed contract we are also accountable for maintaining fair business practices.
Why should I trust you?
Ask our current contractors about our reputation and business practices. We are here after 100 years because we live up to our word.
Is the union good or bad?
We, the union, have suffered from negative publicity and stereotyping. We are not corrupt and we are not thugs. We are professionals and strive to do well, not only for the union members, but for our contractors as well.
Once I join, am I in the union for life?
No. You are only in the union for as long as the contract you have signed. Once the contract is expired you must decide whether or not to re-sign.
How long is a contract for?
Most contracts are bargained for (3) three years. Bargaining is done between the contractor's association and the union. During the bargaining you and the employees will come to a mutual agreement in regards to the length and language of the contract.
Will I have a voice in labor contracts?
Yes, you will help directly in determining the conditions of the contract. It is your decision whether to accept or reject any offers the bargaining team presents.
What is “total package”?
“ Total package” consists of employee wages, pension fund contribution, health and welfare contribution, apprentice fund contribution, working wage assessments, along with various other items and contributions, depending on the union.
How will becoming union benefit my employees?
Your employees will have insurance, a pension, job security, better training, and safer working conditions.
Can I be a member?
Yes, you can.
When does insurance coverage start?
You should speak to the fringe benefits person in the local you will be signing with to get these details as they may vary.
What are the insurance costs to me?
The Contractor's Association and the Union negotiate these costs at contract time.
What are the overtime costs?
Overtime through the week and on Saturday is usually time and one-half after eight (8) hours. Sundays and holidays are double time.
Who will do all the paperwork?
The union will do the majority of the paperwork. Many locals are set up to have only one or two checks per month that need to be written. The union will assist in any way to make the paperwork smoother.
Do you have qualified employees to send me?
Yes! By utilizing a hiring hall you may ask for and receive journeypersons that have successfully completed a five-year apprenticeship program or have been accredited by the Examining Board. Many of these journeypersons continue to train and keep up-to-date with the latest and most advanced skills in their field.
Can I hire the employees that I want?
There are different types of hiring halls. Some halls will allow you to select your employees, while some rules state that you must hire the first qualified person available. Most contracts give the owner the right to hire special skilled people off the list to ensure they are getting the appropriate person for the job. Many contracts also allow the owner to hire a foreman, supervisors or persons with special skills to meet their needs.
Can I hire off the street?
Yes and no. Once you are a union employer you must first hire from the existing group of members available. However, if there are none available to meet your requirements then you have the right to hire whomever you want and have them sign up at the local. You may also talk to an organizer regarding someone you would like to hire and they will have that person complete the proper paperwork to get started.
Who chooses the supervisor?
You decide who you want to be supervisor.
What training programs do you offer?
We have a wide variety of training, but it is always the most up to date methods! . Most locals will adapt their training to meet the owner's needs. In addition to our apprenticeship program, we offer several continuing education classes for our journeypersons such as computer aided drafting, long distance learning, special welding programs, refrigeration and air conditioning, sprinkler installation, plumbing, heating (steam or hot water), blueprint reading, foreman supervisor classes, OSHA courses and much more.
Who funds the training programs?
A joint committee, formed from the union and the contractor’s association, is responsible for determining the variety of classes and obtaining the training funds. When the contract is negotiated, the committee includes training costs in the package. Many locals apply for and receive special training grants from the UA International Training Fund.
Who funds traveling expenses?
The owner pays for an employee to travel outside of their work jurisdiction. Traveling inside the jurisdiction is the responsibility of the employee, unless the owner has provided a vehicle or has made an agreement to pay more than the negotiated amount.
How do you deal with work jurisdiction?
We have current by-laws with other unions that outlines jurisdictional specifics. If we need assistance, we contact our International Representative to resolve the issue quickly and efficiently.
Can we work anywhere?
You can work anywhere you have a collective bargaining agreement. The United Association covers all of the United States and Canada.
Will you shut me down?
The last thing we want to do is shut you down! We want you to continue to make money for you and your employees.
What happens in a strike?
The union will work to settle any strike as quickly as possible – usually within a few hours. Most UA locals have not been on strike in many, many years. This is not something that is as prevalent now as it was in the early 1960's and before.