Life as a union laborer is tricky in Boston right now—but it’s better than it has been, and rosier times are on the horizon.
“There’s some confidence now in the marketplace and some comfort for the developers,” said State Rep. Marty Walsh, D-Dorchester. That comfort, he said, is getting investors off the sidelines and back into the building game—which creates jobs for iron workers, electricians and wire-strippers living across the city.
Right now, Walsh said some trades in Boston suffer unemployment rates as high as 30 percent. That’s an improvement, he said, from the 50 percent unemployment seen in some trades at the height of the recession.
“The numbers we were looking at were Great Depression numbers,” he said.
And that already-better number should improve as soon as next month, when a project at UMass Boston moves into its next phase and creates demand for workers in the mechanical trades.
Where is the work?
While non-union workers take up most of the city’s smaller jobs—the construction of a single home, say, or a bathroom renovation—Walsh said that unions perform most of the city’s work on a dollar-value basis.
Currently, the Boston Redevelopment Authority lists 45 large projects under construction in the city. Walsh said he sees another 60-70 in the pipeline, and all of the city’s biggest projects are 100 percent union staffed. It's also a goal that half the workers live in the city, a quarter be minorities and one in ten be women.
“That’s the goal that they try to reach on all the city jobs,” Walsh said.
Where are the workers?
Walsh said he couldn’t provide numbers; he deals with 16 trades, and some keep their data more tightly than others. But, he said, “I know for a fact that we have people living in every neighborhood in the city.”
How long will it last?
Walsh that he thinks the top of the current Boston building boom isn’t in sight yet.
“I don’t think we’ll see a peak until we see office space being built,” he said.