Labor groups have seen big increases in jobs and employment with the development of the Marcellus Shale in western Pennsylvania. For pipeline workers, operating engineers, welders, equipment operators, and other skilled tradesmen the energy industry is helping to keep them on the clock and in the field.
Jim Kuntz with the Union of Operating Engineers Local 66 says his group is “If we did not have Marcellus Shale we would probably be closer to 20 to 25 percent unemployment.”
In addition to almost full employment, Kunz has seen a spike in new members and recently Local 66 doubled their apprenticeship class to about 80. Many new apprentices are leaving their previous career paths to join the trades and build a new life in a higher paying and more satisfying career.
Union officials expect the good fortunes in Pennsylvania to continue for years to come. Even if the energy industry slows down in the area, there will be continued employment associated with other related industries and infrastructure projects resulting from a burgeoning local tax base.
For now, the local unions are content to grow their membership, train new highly skilled tradesmen and rebuild the Pennsylvania economy in the process.