As an attorney representing contractors in Southern California for more than 13 years, I must take exception to a number of the conclusions in Harry Bernstein's June 30 Labor column, "Unions Didn't Cause Loss of Building Jobs." Although I am sure the study by the National Bureau of Economic Research was a conscientious effort to analyze the reasons for the dramatic reduction in work performed by unionized contractors, the conclusions cited in the column give very little credit to the intelligence of the marketplace.
The column, as well as the study, apparently acknowledges that the vast majority of construction work is performed by non-union contractors, but suggests that "productivity" is greater in the unionized sector. If this were the case, tens of thousands of owners and builders would not have drifted away from unionized construction.
If "productivity" is measured in terms of quality, cost and timeliness of completion, non-union contractors must be doing something right to have captured a majority of the market. Perhaps the unionized contractors analyzed in the study were quite efficient, but they may have been the only unionized contractors who have been able to survive against more efficient non-union companies.
RICHARD M. FREEMAN