➤ Why don’t carpenters make as much as other crafts, like the plumbers or electricians?

  • Trade licensure plays a large role in the ability of specific crafts to demand higher wages. Studies show that any occupation that requires a license will earn a 10-15% premium versus comparable non-licensed work. Licensure presents greater barriers to contractors that don’t use a licensed workforce. Simply put, a guy with a skilsaw and a pickup truck can become a contractor, hire a crew that he calls carpenters, and compete against our contractors at extremely reduced rates.
  • We are not competing with the other trades, we are competing against non-union contractors. 
  • The underground economy plays a big role in wage determination. Square footage rates, nonpayment, no overtime, and premium fraud are a few common examples of wage theft that many of our non-union competitors use to undercut bids and steal market share. The licensed trades are not up against the underground economy to the same extent as carpenters.
  • Making a strong impact on the underground economy is one of our best defenses. The union puts a tremendous amount of resources into the civil and criminal prosecution of criminal contractors to affect that dynamic and create work opportunities for carpenter members. We work with civil attorneys, government agencies, and law enforcement on cases that have resulted in jail and prison time for criminal contractors as well as millions of dollars back in the pockets of workers.
  • Another consideration is sheer numbers. Carpenters are the largest craft in the building trades, including unlicensed crafts like the Ironworkers, who we outnumber, 4 to 1. For the smaller crafts, it is easier to negotiate higher rates that are an overall smaller hit to the contractor and owner bids. The impact of negotiating higher wage packages for carpenters influences the total labor costs more than any other trade, which ties back into our high numbers of unlicensed competition.

Did You Know?

PNWRCC has many women in our crafts and leadership positions.

Margaret Ellings became the first woman initiated into the United Brotherhood of Carpenters in October 1935. The establishment of a women’s committee within the United Brotherhood of Carpenters is one of the most important developments in the union’s recent history. Visit


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