You’ve likely heard someone say something like, “There’s a lot of opportunity in the building trades right now” (there is, by the way!) or, “She works in the building trades.” If you’ve scratched your head wondering what exactly the building trades are, if and how building trades jobs are different from “construction jobs,” or if the trades and the building trades mean the same thing, you’re certainly not alone!
When it comes to planning our future careers, it's essential to choose paths that not only align with our interests and offer stability, but also promise growth. But in a world that’s constantly changing, it can feel difficult to pinpoint what the “good” options are.
When people think of construction, images of hard hats and heavy machinery often come to mind. However, the world of construction is far more diverse and adventurous than many might imagine.
Labor Day, a widely celebrated holiday in the United States, holds a rich history that goes beyond just marking the end of summer. It’s more than just a reason for a day off or a reason to fire up the grill — Labor Day is a tribute to the hard work, dedication, and struggles of workers throughout American history.
In America, we enjoy many freedoms. We are lucky to have the freedom to think, act, speak, gather, and pursue our passions, not only personally, but in our careers as well.
As summer rolls around, many of us can't help but feel that familiar itch to explore new places, soak up the sun, and make unforgettable memories. But have you ever stopped to think about all that goes into making those incredible destinations, travel, and experiences possible?
Constructing the future is more than choosing a trade, learning a craft, and building a career. Today, anyone has the opportunity to have a career in the construction trades with safe working conditions, benefits, and good pay, but that hasn’t always been the case.
In honor of Black History Month, this post is about how the construction trades, especially the union construction trades, grappled with how to bring Black workers into their ranks, integrate them, and ultimately give them a big role and a big voice in the trades.
For many years, the trades excluded Black workers, just like they were excluded from public transport, schools, stores, and other public institutions. Progress and inclusion came slowly for the trades labor unions, pushed forward by changes both within and without.
In Chicago, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 134 was one of the first to support Black electrical workers. In 1919, Samuel Taylor joined the IBEW and in 1922, he founded Taylor Electric, the first Black-owned union electrical company as an IBEW member. The company is still operating today. In 1943, Local 134 also had the first Black business representative and was one of the first local trade unions to include Black members in leadership.
Not every trades group and local union was so supportive. After being excluded, many Black workers refused to give up, and they continued to organize for better pay and better working conditions. On top of that, they also shouldered the burden of fighting for integration and equality. Organizations like the Negro American Labor Council (NALC) were founded to support Black workers. They organized major events like the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom that helped push forward the Civil Rights Movement and Black workers’ acceptance into the building trades.
These efforts helped bring us to a better future for all workers. Black tradespeople are an integral part of the building trades today, serving in positions of leadership, reflecting the lasting influence of these early members and organizers. African Americans have risen to the highest ranks in the trades. For example, Kenneth Rigmaiden, the immediate past General President of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT), was the first African American elected president of a building trades union. As GP, he fought passionately to advance workers’ rights and immigrant rights and was a leading advocate for racial and economic justice.
Because of our African American tradespeople’s dedication and commitment to building a better and more inclusive tomorrow, all the trades workers now enjoy better pay, safe working conditions, and long-term benefits. During Black History Month we look back and recognize the contributions of our Black members who created these opportunities for all of us.
Have you ever wondered what Labor Day is all about? Is it merely a day dedicated to resting from our labor, firing up the grill, and celebrating the unofficial end of summer? Or is there something more to it?
While Labor Day is a day marked for celebration, camaraderie, and rest, the observance of the holiday is a hallowed one for those in the building trades.
During the height of the industrial revolution in the late 1800s, American workers were subject to horrific and unsafe working conditions. They worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, only to earn a very meager wage. Over time, these hard-working men, women, and even children began to band together to demand safer working conditions, better pay, and reasonable hours. This was the start of the labor movement.
As the movement progressed, Labor Unions started to form across the country, and protests, strikes, and rallies became common occurrences. On Tuesday, September 5, 1882, led by the Central Union, over 10,000 American workers took unpaid leave to march the streets of New York City in protest. This is hailed as the first-ever Labor Day parade and quickly became a tradition not only in New York City but in cities across the country. It was a self-appointed “holiday in honor of workmen” everywhere.
While the labor movement grew stronger and stronger, there was still much progress to be made. Courageous men and women continued to make a stand for what was rightfully theirs: fair compensation for their hard work, safer working environments, reasonable hours, and, ultimately, respect. But it was a battle.
Finally, 12 years later on June 28, 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed the Labor Day holiday into law as a peace offering to American workers after several protests and strikes turned into deadly riots. Ever since then, Labor Day has been nationally celebrated on the first Monday of September to honor the contributions American workers - and more specifically trades workers - have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. Labor Day is a day of great pride for the men and women in the trades.
This Labor Day, as you’re cracking a cold one, enjoying your local parade, or throwing a burger on the grill, take a moment to remember and honor the hard-working women and men who came before you. Without them, we wouldn’t have the country that we have today, with the great infrastructure and prosperity that we enjoy, nor the rights that we have in our work.
Interested in joining the ranks of the men and women that continue to build our great nation? Learn more about a rich and rewarding career in the trades.
Construction trades have always been essential, long before the words pandemic, COVID, quarantine, and coronavirus were part of everyday life. Construction is the lifeblood of our nation’s progress and welfare, providing infrastructure and services that are critical to all aspects of our everyday lives. So when asked “Are Construction Workers Essential Workers?” the answer is a resounding and multifaceted YES!
A recently published by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated a massive need for construction workers in the months of May and June.
According to the BLS report, in June, there were over 225,000 jobs available in the construction industry throughout the United States.
This data confirms a number of recent media reports claiming the construction industry has a need for highly-skilled and highly-trained workers.