Speed Reads

Blame game

Who's to blame for the plummeting wages of American construction workers?

Adjusted for inflation, the average American construction worker makes $5 an hour less today than in 1972, when builders earned the equivalent of $32 an hour. Though some blame the influx of immigrant workers for the decrease in wages, the decline actually started more than a decade before immigrant laborers flooded the market.

During that decade, contractors and clients shunned unionized labor in favor of undercutting wages to boost their own profits. In the 1970s, 4 in 10 construction workers were union members; today, it's slightly more than 1 in 10.

"Immigrants are not the cause of this, they are the effect," sociologist Ruth Milkman told the Los Angeles Times. "The sequence of events is that the de-unionization and the accompanying deterioration of the jobs come first, before immigrants."