The Trump Administration’s Department of Labor is proposing an expansion of apprenticeship programs that could undermine long-established joint labor-management union efforts.
In attemping to expand apprenticeship to other industries, originally the U.S. Military and the unionized construction trades were excluded from any new programs, recognized for their long-standing success rate. North America’s Building Trades Unions estimate that the construction trades and company partners invest $1.6 in apprenticeship annually, operating 1,600 apprenticeship sites across the nation.
Despite this early language excluding the unionized trades, a new proposal would allow the establishment of “Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs” (IRAP). These IRAP programs would not have the same standards as current Building Trades apprenticeship.
These IRAP programs only have to pay the minimum wage and are not required to have a wage increase schedule; have no apprentice to journey worker ratios; no required safety training; no instructor eligibility requirements and no reporting on minority access.
These IRAP programs could use “on-line vendors” and would not face the curriculum screeing that union programs face.
The proposal respects existing apprenticeship programs “at least initially.” This could open the possibility for future programs that would undermine union apprenticeship. The proposal also offers a limited definition of construction; it would allow new programs for solar installers and welder, for instance, even though these are part of existing trades training.
NABTU appreciated the Trump Adminstration’s initial recognition of the union difference in construction, but fears that this commitment could be undermined.
“North America’s Building Trades Unions commend the Administration for recognizing in the proposed rules on Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAP) that these programs have no place in the construction industry,” NABTU said in a statement. “We firmly believed this exemption should be a permanent part of the final rule.”
Until August 25, the public can submit comments on these proposed rule changes. Construction workers, apprentices, retirees and contractors are encouraged to enter comment. These do not have to be technical, simply a statement that union apprenticeship is effective and should be exempt from duplicating programs.