On Labor Day, we celebrate the American worker. 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, 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. 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, team approach to construction.
In the merit-shop sector of the construction industry, success 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 multiskilled, with no limit to their opportunity to advance as far as their dreams allow.
Construction has always been about the fulfillment of dreams. From the earliest days of our republic, construction was central to our nation’s progress.
Construction is an American passion. The father of the U.S. Constitution, Thomas Jefferson, focused much of his personal effort between 1769 and 1826 on the building and design of his magnificent Monticello home. In the mid-to-late 1700s, our first president, George Washington, built his Georgian-style mansion, Mount Vernon, on the banks of the Potomac River. These buildings and many more like them still stand as historic reminders of the craftsmanship of American builders.
Accomplishments are many
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 work force 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 specialists. 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. Let’s publicly acknowledge and thank all of the men and women who build America.
Edward Rispone is the national chairman of the Associated Builders and Contractors.