The Impacts of a Merger or Consolidation for the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association (SMWIA)

Ronald L. Seeber
School of Industrial and Labor Relations
Cornell University
ILR Dean’s Office
309 Ives Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-3901
Tel: (607) 255-4371
Fax: (607) 255-7774


The American labor movement and the building and construction trades are in crisis. Over the past 25 years, the proportion of the construction labor force that is unionized has declined significantly, leading to an unprecedented quest to revitalize the building trades. The building trades unions have put significant efforts and resources into the reorganization of their trades, without much success. Technology and political changes have favored the growth of the nonunion sector over the union. As a result, the building trades have been discussing potential mergers between unions, both for their very survival and as a way to restore their former strength. This report presents the findings of research on the prospects for the merger of the Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA) with one or more other unions, and the potential impact of that merger(s) on the SMWIA, sheet metal contractors, the construction workplace, and the future of unionized construction. While the future is uncertain, the report examines a range of potential scenarios, including specific mergers between organizations.