The Way We Build: Restoring Dignity to Construction Work (Working Class in American History) (Paperback)
The construction trades once provided unionized craftsmen a route to the middle class and a sense of pride and dignity often denied other blue-collar workers. Today, union members still earn wages and benefits that compare favorably to those of college graduates. But as union strength has declined over the last fifty years, a growing non-union sector offers lower compensation and more hazardous conditions, undermining the earlier tradition of upward mobility. Revitalization of the industry depends on unions shedding past racial and gender discriminatory practices, embracing organizing, diversity, and the new immigrant workforce, and preparing for technological changes.
Mark Erlich blends long-view history with his personal experience inside the building trades to explain one of our economy’s least understood sectors. Erlich’s multifaceted account includes the dynamics of the industry, the backdrop of union policies, and powerful stories of everyday life inside the trades. He offers a much-needed overview of construction’s past and present while exploring roads to the future.
About the Author
Mark Erlich is the Wertheim Fellow at the Harvard Labor and Worklife Program and the retired Executive Secretary Treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. His books include Labor at the Ballot Box.
"Whether you are like me and have been along for the entire 50-year ride, or you're relatively new in the industry, you should read the newly published University of Illinois Press book, The Way We Build: Restoring Dignity to Construction Work." --Tom Finan, Construction Forum
“A fascinating and incisive analysis of construction. The author’s extensive experience as a carpenter, superintendent, and union leader gives him an intimate knowledge of the industry. He shows how unions transform tough construction jobs into rewarding middle class careers. A must-read for industry practitioners, trade unionists, and ‘future of work’ enthusiasts.”--Jeff Grabelsky, The Worker Institute at Cornell ILR School
“Having been a carpenter, dynamic union leader, and observer and writer of labor history, Mark Erlich's experience provides unique and incisive perspective on the challenges facing workers, management and government in the construction industry. This book is required reading for anyone who cares about the future of construction and the wider community dependent on it.” --David Weil, Professor, Heller School, Brandeis University and former Administrator, US Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division in the Obama administration
"Remaining realistic about the limitations and exclusionary practices that tinged the old days of union dominance, Erlich insists on a new, more inclusive model of organizing that also bolsters the profession as a means towards financial stability for women and people of color." --Architectural Record