Crain's Detroit Business: Marick Masters on nonunion labor trends

A federal lawsuit alleging pervasive racial discrimination in a nonunion electrical shop based out of Lansing was filed last month. Now, the union representing electrical contractors is taking their case to the public with a billboard targeting a large hotel under construction in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood, questioning why its developers and general contractor aren't using unionized trades labor. Overlooking the construction, the billboard says, "Union electricians power Detroit" followed by, in a horror movie red font, "Why not the Godfrey?" It marks a noted escalation, however mild, in what have been fairly quiet relations between union and nonunion construction labor the last decade or so, said Marick Masters, a management professor in the Wayne State University Mike Ilitch School of Business. "These trends (of de-unionization) started long before that," Masters said. "The growth in nonunion labor in construction really started in the 1970s and it's not surprising that you haven't seen a whole lot of tension points in the sense of public visibility, but the trend nonetheless has been present."

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