Imagine our surprise when we read in H. Lee Murphy’s recent article, "Booming housing market buoys privately held homebuilders," that a major hurdle for private homebuilders is a shortage of labor, even going so far as to say union carpenter apprentice programs, “are gone now.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. The Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters operates five apprentice training centers: two in the Chicagoland region; others in Rockford, Pekin, and Bettendorf, Iowa; and we recently broke ground on another facility in East Moline.

Last year, 2,835 apprentices came through our training program for world-class instruction in all aspects of carpentry crafts, including residential construction.

Our union is comprised of 30,000 of the best trained and highest skilled carpenters the industry has to offer, so pardon us when we take umbrage to claims that labor shortages are the problem.

The real issue here is a labor shortage of unskilled carpenters willing to work for low pay and meager or no benefits.

Building a house requires a tremendous amount of skill. Just as you wouldn’t entrust a doctor who didn’t go to medical school to perform surgery, you shouldn’t entrust a carpenter to build your home who hasn’t undergone hundreds of hours of extensive training.

Using unskilled labor is a serious problem in the construction industry. A recent survey of 300 general contractors conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center found that 31 percent use unskilled or inexperienced workers on jobs.

There’s a reason why you won’t find union contractors among that cohort. Union contractors hire trained, skilled tradespeople who are paid a fair wage with benefits so that they can take pride in their work and create a quality product that is completed in a cost-effective and time-efficient manner.

Our signatory contractors are picking up residential work in every region across our jurisdiction and recently signed agreements with new residential contractors looking to meet the demand of the new housing boom.

Skilled union labor isn’t in short supply. Don’t believe the hype.

Gary Perinar is Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters.