What to Know About Joining a Union in Westchester County

Want to learn a trade? Westchester's unions offer learning and support across a variety of sectors.

Explore exciting opportunities in the thriving trade industry with Westchester’s unions. Whether you’re eager to kickstart your career in the trades or bring your experience to new heights, these unions can help you build a successful career.

In fields like construction, plumbing, electrical work, carpentry, and roofing, unions can help people gain skills through apprenticeships and training. More generally, unions also help provide workers with benefits and job security through collective bargaining where agreements are put to a vote among members of a union.

Being a union member can have many benefits for employees. Unions can help raise income for middle-class households, improve work environments, and boost job satisfaction, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Unions also give workers a voice and create better equality in the workplace.

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“Unions strive to train their members in a way that will unlock their potential to be the best version of themselves,” says Denise June, Training Director of Teamsters Local 456. “They will protect you and your family, while also encouraging you to expand your skillsets and prepare for the future.”

Currently, the demand for skilled workers is strong, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projecting a 4% employment growth for construction and extraction occupations from 2021 to 2031. On average, about 646,100 openings are projected yearly in trade occupations due to employment growth and the replacement of aging workers.

“The best way to set yourself apart is to make sure that you learn your industry and understand exactly what’s needed in terms of skill requirements to be able to attain that particular job,” says Deryl Beasley, the Lower Hudson Valley Regional Director at the Workforce Development Institute. “It’s about knowing exactly what area you’re going into and finding resources to get that skills training.”

Unions in the Westchester area such as Local Union No 3. IBEW, and Carpenters Local 279 offer training and apprenticeship opportunities to help workers break into the trade industry. Teamsters Local 456 offers training and also works with other local affiliates of the Westchester Putnam Building Trades to help workers gain new skills.

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“Training and apprenticeship programs offer many benefits, including firsthand insights from those who are actively working on a particular type of job,” says June. “[They offer] new members the ability to ask questions and perform work under the supervision of a skilled instructor.”

Local Union No. 3 IBEW offers a mentorship program and a bootcamp. In the mentorship program, new or younger workers get paired with longtime employees to learn the ins and outs of the trade and more about the union. In the bootcamp, workers learn different electrical skills and procedures to ensure their safety and success in the workplace.

For people working or entering carpentry, Carpenters Local 279 offers a variety of training programs. It has a delegate training program with the goal of increasing workers’ understanding of the union and the value they bring to the organization. It also has short trainings such as the three-day Collaborative Leadership program. The program works with foreman-level employees and gives them tools to better manage job sites and collaborate with others.

“We have a tremendous market share of union carpenters in New York,” says Carpenters Local 279 Training Instructor Tim Wersebe. “There are 18,000 members with great employment rates in our area, even in the winter months.”

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The union also has a three-year apprenticeship program and a traditional five-year apprenticeship program. In the apprenticeship, workers learn skills in carpentry such as wood trimming, wood framing, concrete forms, blueprints, and more. The apprenticeship program has an 82% completion rate among workers who then become journeymen. Journeymen have a higher average salary than carpenters because of their expertise and skilled training.

“You learn while you earn,” says Wersebe. “The skills that you learn here can’t be taken away from you. They are good for life.”

Younger students who have aspirations of entering a trade can look into a variety of programs and workshops at BOCES (such as PNW BOCES and Southern Westchester BOCES). Having general experience in construction can be beneficial for getting into a trade apprenticeship program and furthering skill-building after high school.

“The laborer unions in Westchester and the Hudson Valley are strong because they have people who are dedicated to training those who come in,” says John Cooney Jr., Executive Director of The Construction Industry Council of Westchester and Hudson Valley. “These are good, solid-paying jobs that provide great health and retirement benefits. All of these unions provide training and allow people to build skills for life.”

Related: The Art of Crafting an Effective Resume in Westchester

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