Local unions evolving amid workforce shortage, getting creative on recruiting workers

Posted at 8:43 AM, Oct 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-04 08:43:03-04

AKRON, Ohio — A new report released earlier this month shows more people are part of unions than at any other point in the last five years. This is largely because fewer union jobs were lost during the pandemic.

Bricklayers Local 7 of Akron is one of the local unions evolving to keep employees and recruit news one as a workforce shortage continues to be a problem for many.

In Ohio, union members made up just over 13% of wage and salary workers in 2020, which is up nearly 12% compared to 2019, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Local unions like Bricklayers Local 7 in the Akron area are hoping the upward trend continues to better pay, benefits and working conditions amid an ongoing worker shortage.

“I’ve been very encouraged by the amount of younger folks that I talked to that are interested in being union members or talking about collective bargaining on job sites and things like that,” said Noah Carmichael, of Bricklayers Local 7.

The Bricklayers Local 7 group is focused on filling journeyman and apprentice positions. Those usually last anywhere from two to four years, depending on the program.

Like other industries, many workers still refuse to work and the union is struggling to recruit those willing to work.

Carmichael said the union is forced to negotiate with interested prospects online and are even pushing to TikTok to attract a young workforce.

“The thing that's working to our advantage is that bricklaying is kind of cool to watch, so you can translate that into a video,” he said.

Bricklayers Local 7 is among the few unions managing to stay afloat. The members are deemed essential workers with wages starting at $20 an hour plus benefits.

“The building trades is very it's a noble thing to do. It's hard work, it's good work. You develop a skill that you never lose,” Carmichael said.

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