There are unions for trade workers across the U.S., including electricians, plumbers, and construction workers. But are there unions for landscapers?
The answer is yes. There are unions that represent landscapers, but perhaps not as many as one would think. The unions covering the landscaping industry tend to represent larger worker groups of which landscapers may be part.
This article explains how unions in the landscape industry work, who they are, and what they offer members.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2021, there were 4,458,000 workers employed in building, grounds cleaning, and maintenance, which includes landscape contractors and their first-line supervisors. Of those, only 10.6%, or 472,000, had union memberships.
That means that labor unions in the landscaping industry aren't common in the United States. There are several reasons for this. The biggest may be that landscaping businesses often rely on temporary workers to meet seasonal demand. Unions don't typically encourage temporary employment set-ups.
That's not to say there isn't an argument for landscaping unions. Given the increasing approval of unions among Americans, union landscaping may play a bigger role in the future.
Right now, though, there are only a few landscape union options. The ones that exist tend to represent large corporations, not smaller landscaping companies.
Rather than trade unions, the landscaping industry does have several trade associations.
Trade associations tend to be beneficial for landscape company owners in several respects. They can provide industry advocacy, education, and networking opportunities.
However, trade associations aren't the same as trade unions. They don't stand for the individual workers the way a trade union does. Trade associations don't focus on advocating for worker benefits, better working conditions, or higher wages in most cases.
The following section discusses some of the largest unions that cover landscaping jobs in certain sectors. It also covers the largest landscaping trade association in the U.S. For each, it covers who the union or association covers, member benefits, and how to join.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) covers landscapers and groundskeepers in some businesses.
SEIU tends to represent health care and other service industries. So landscapers that work for Kaiser Permanente, certain public school systems, and other healthcare or service properties are often represented by SEIU.
SEIU membership offers discounts on insurance, educational loans, and travel. They also offer healthcare coverage and, perhaps most importantly, promise to advocate for all of their members. SEIU is a powerful union that promises to fight for fair wages, worker benefits, and good working conditions.
Employees can join SEIU with their name, email, and zip code online. To access or advocate for labor agreements, though, they'll need to contact their local SEIU branch. Of course, they can also choose an employer who already has an SEIU contract.
The Laborers International Union of America (LIUNA) mainly represents workers in the construction industry but also represents workers in various other trades, including landscaping and ground maintenance.
LIUNA also covers public sector laborer jobs, so landscapers who work with schools or cities may join the LIUNA.
LIUNA members receive pensions, healthcare, and various discounts. LIUNA also promises to advocate for living wages, benefits, and safe working conditions.
Employees can join LIUNA by working with companies that already have a LIUNA contract. Alternatively, they can join with other employees in their workplace to form a LIUNA union.
The United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing, Pipefitting, and Sprinkler Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada, or United Association (UA) for short, encompasses landscape irrigation. So, the UA represents certain professionals within the landscaping industry.
UA offers members access to training and education, including free online associates and bachelor's degrees from the University of Ohio. They also advocate for job safety and health benefits.
To join UA, employees can search for a local union on the UA website. They can also organize a new UA chapter with other trade workers in their area if a local chapter doesn't exist.
The National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) isn't a trade union. Rather, it is a trade association that advocates for the landscaping industry. The NALP represents over 100,000 professionals in landscape professions, including:
NALP members gain access to education programs that cover everything from increasing profit to increasing on-the-job safety. They also gain networking opportunities. Beyond that, NALP members are eligible for association-sponsored awards that can set their company above the competition.
Landscape professionals can join the NALP online. Membership dues range significantly from a couple of hundred dollars to over $36,000 annually, depending on membership type and company size.