|Rod Sutton's Editorial Archives|
Union labor enables St. Louis-area remodelers to find skilled and reliable help at rates slightly higher than nonunion workers cost in the area.
Joe Roeser, owner of Roeser Construction in Kirkwood, Mo., is surprised when he hears that remodelers from other areas of the country don't use union labor. For his company, and others in the St. Louis area, it's not unusual at all.
"St. Louis is a strong union market," he says. "The quality [of worker] is there." Roeser credits that quality to the training program run by the union for its carpenters. That and a pay scale he finds comparable to nonunion carpenters' make hiring union pay off for him.
"We hire them full time," Roeser says. "We''ve been in business since 1985, and one has been with us since 1986. A couple of others have been with us for 10 years." All 12 of the $1.8 million company's carpenters are union.
The union pay scale is the same for all residential carpenters, Roeser says, whether they work in remodeling or new home construction. A journeyman carpenter, who has gone through the apprentice program and can run a job, earns $32.39 an hour including benefits. If he works as a lead carpenter, what the union calls a foreman, he earns an additional dollar, Roeser says.
The benefits, Roeser says, are better than many remodelers offer. Here's how that $32.39 union wage rate breaks out:
That wage is only $4 higher than the wages paid to nonunion carpenters in the St. Louis area, Roeser says.
With union labor, he says, everybody knows what everybody else is making. "If we get a job and need a carpenter for two weeks, you know what he's making." This also makes for better staff relations. "We hire our carpenters and keep them busy," Roeser says. "Instead of laying somebody off, we call other companies to see if they can use them." As a result, "there's loyalty."