Monday, September 1, 2003

On Labor Day it is time to celebrate the American worker

By Dave Larkins
Guest columnist

One industry that represents the expertise and diligence of the American worker in a powerful way is the U.S. construction industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) this nation employs some 9.65 million construction workers.

Sometimes Labor Day is associated with labor unions, but it is actually a day to honor all U.S. workers regardless of labor affiliation. The BLS indicates that in 2002, only 17.8 percent of the workers in the construction industry were affiliated with a labor union. The majority of construction workers opt instead for a merit shop, or a team approach to construction.

In the merit shop sector of the construction industry, success and advancement is based on skill, knowledge, ability and determination. Merit shop construction professionals are masters of their own destiny and thrive in a free-market environment. They are competitive and multi-skilled, with no limit to their opportunity to advance as far as their dreams allow.

From the earliest days of our republic, construction was central to our nation's progress.

Over the past 225-plus years, wagon roads gave way to railroads, which set the stage for today's superhighways and airports. New materials, innovative products and a highly skilled construction workforce transported us from rustic settlements to the skyscrapers, bridges, manufacturing facilities, industrial plants, dams and the architectural and engineering wonders of modern America.

Today, monuments to the efforts of the construction craft professional are all around us. These highly skilled men and women build the homes, offices, schools, churches, restaurants, highways, sports arenas and other venues so central to our everyday lives.

These craft professionals are electricians, millwrights, carpenters, welders, painters, pipefitters, roofers, masons, plumbers, ironworkers, heavy equipment operators, metal building assemblers, sheet metal workers, drywall installers, steelworkers, road pavers, concrete finishers and other specialties. These construction professionals have unique expertise, training, knowledge and professional skills.

Construction is a profession worthy of our admiration and respect. The history of the construction craft professional in the United States is to be celebrated on this Labor Day. Let's publicly acknowledge and thank all of the men and women who build America.


Dave Larkins, Hebron, Ky., is a member of the Associated Builders & Contractors.

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