White-dominated construction unions are attempting to recruit more women and people of color to the industry, according to The Boston Globe.
Throughout the U.S., construction unions are making efforts to diversify as the workforce ages and more projects include goals to increase the number of women and people of color on worksites. The City of Boston recently raised its diversity benchmarks for public and large private developments: At least 51 percent of construction work-hours must go to city residents, 40 percent to people of color and 12 percent to women; however, many projects have not come close to reaching these numbers.
As with many other construction unions, the 7,500 members of Boston's IBEW Local 103 are largely white men. The union covers Eastern Massachusetts but is based in Boston, where people of color make up the majority of the population. To attract more young people of color to its apprenticeship program, Local 103 advertised on social media networks Pandora, Instagram and Snapchat, and targeted the neighborhoods of Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan. The union, which is part of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, also advertised on neighborhood billboards and aired ads during highly rated TV shows among people of color. Many of the ads also featured and targeted women.
As a result, of 687 applicants from Boston, 452 are people of color and 85 are women—most of them women of color—which Local 103 says is the highest number of minority and female applicants ever for a Boston construction apprentice program. Other local groups also are working to diversify the industry.
In recent years, construction unions have focused on recruiting women. Although 9 percent of jobs in the U.S. construction field are held by women, only 3 percent are in the trades rather than office positions. In Massachusetts, women hold 7 percent of union trade jobs, which is double the share in 2012; nonunion trades in the state are less than 3 percent women. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction has the smallest gender wage gap of any major industry, with women on average making nearly 96 percent of what men make compared with 80 percent nationwide.
Although Latinos make up almost a third of the U.S.' 10.7 million construction workers, black workers account for just 6 percent and Asian workers for less than 2 percent. These numbers are expected to grow as construction unions work to become more diverse, but it is important to ensure these workers have long-term career opportunities and aren't just being used to fill quotas on individual jobs, says Jennifer Little-Greer, executive director of the Minority Construction Council.