The 500,000 members of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) that work in building construction, highway and utility construction, and environmental remediation play an important role in the industry. On nearly every phase and area of these job sites, laborers work independently and assist other craft workers to complete projects. Laborers often are some of the first workers hired on a project and the last to leave it.
Skilled craft laborers use numerous skills as they move between many varying tasks with equal ability. Further, they follow detailed instructions as well as problem solve for themselves. This unique combination of skill, knowledge and decision making requires considerable technical and mental skills. Women and minorities make up approximately 50% of the skilled construction laborers work force. Flexible work schedules are often necessary due to the varying lengths and locations of jobs. A laborer may be paving a highway for weeks in one county, then working only a few days on a masonry project in another county. The unpredictability of each project can be both frustrating and exciting. While some laborers may specialize in one type of work such as environmental remediation, often it is difficult to rely on just that one work classification to provide steady work. Cross training, therefore, is a way to become more “marketable” for future jobs, and it provides experience and skills necessary to stay on jobs longer. Many laborers because of their ability, versatility, and productivity in performing their work tasks, have been asked by their project supervisor or foreman to move on to the contractor’s next project.
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