Frequently Asked Questions

This section is a forum for the sharing of the most current industry information and the most frequently asked questions posed to Iron Workers Local Union No. 3. Review often, the information is continually updated.

What is an iron worker?

Some people confuse iron workers with steelworkers. Iron workers are members of the Building and Construction Trades. Iron workers work on construction & maintenance projects, erecting buildings, stadiums, bridges, prefabricated buildings and other related work. Steelworkers work in steel mills, which produce the steel.

I'm told that work for iron workers in the area is not steady, with plenty of downtime.

It's true that an iron worker doesn't do a 9 to 5 job and that there are seasonal variations, but there are several things to consider. First, with all of the anticipated construction being planned for western Pennsylvania in the coming years – bridge repairs, a coke battery, hotels, high rises, etc. - there will be work for the foreseeable future. In addition, members of Iron Workers Local Union No. 3 are not restricted to western Pennsylvania. As an iron worker, you can go where you're needed.

I'm told I can save 30 percent if I hire non-union labor.

A study by a research firm, Independent Project Analysis, determined that union jobs are 17 percent more productive than those of non-unions (pg.24), so when you hire union labor, you hire the best trained workers who are committed to helping you do the job on time and on budget. In today's environment of sophisticated construction and computerized buildings, labor represents, on average, only 25 percent of the entire construction budget. It's not reasonable to assume that you could save that amount of money.

But what if union labor strikes in the middle of my job?

Each of the 23 building trades unions negotiates separate contracts with employers, which may expire at different times. That's why we recommend that every major construction job be performed under a project labor agreement, or PLA. Every PLA is different, but at minimum, they guarantee there will be no strikes or work stoppages through the life of the project. Owners and contractors, along with all of the unions working on the job, also can negotiate the percentage of work that should be done by minority and women-owned companies and issues such as making up construction days lost to bad weather. Since the opening of the Pittsburgh International Airport in 1992, virtually every major building constructed in western Pennsylvania has had a PLA. That includes PNC Park, Heinz Field and the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.