Unions Lead to Lower Construction Fatality Rates; Anti-Union Laws Increase Them

This should qualify as required reading for all federal, state and local lawmakers…not to mention owners and contractors in the U.S. construction industry.

A new study from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Research on Labor, Employment, and the Economy concludes that unionization in the construction industry lowers fatality rates, while so-called right-to-work (RTW) anti-union laws have the opposite effect, resulting in higher fatality rates.

The study compared industry (which can include people on job sites who are not building trades workers, such as drivers), and occupational (people in the building trades) fatality rates in RTW and non-RTW (or unionized) states, and found the rate of industry fatalities is 40 percent higher in RTW states, and the occupational fatality rate is 34 percent higher in RTW states.

The study also noted the millions of dollars spent annually by unions on safety training and accident prevention, and found that even within RTW and non-RTW states, the fatality rate decreased as the percentage of union workers increased.

The study concluded: “Construction unionization is associated with lower industry and occupation fatality rates. Moreover, the positive effect that unions have on reducing fatalities appears to be stronger in states without RTW laws.”

The study’s message to policy makers was: “States attempting to reduce construction-related fatalities should consider encouraging trade union growth and repealing RTW laws.”