North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) and other unions assert that union-funded Registered Apprenticeship Programs and the workers who benefit from them, are directly in the crosshairs of the Trump administration.

Two months ago, the Trump administration’s U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) proposed new rules for apprenticeship programs. Trump DOL wants to establish new certification requirements for Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs).

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The new “industry-recognized” apprenticeship programs would be designed and operated by private business groups.  These programs would be a system outside the Labor Department’s registered apprenticeship program.

According to Politico

The idea was criticized from the start by Democrats, who said it lacked a proper mechanism for quality control. Under the proposed system, they said, the government would never be able to verify the effectiveness of the programs it was funding. Some Republicans, meanwhile, privately complained that the model didn’t offer sufficient incentive for businesses to participate.

The Trump DOL proposal would drive down standards for the apprenticeship programs that workers and industries depend on and jeopardize good jobs and safety standards in the construction industry, the union coalition stresses.

“Our union apprenticeship programs are the gold standard for the construction industry. They should be used as a model for other industries, not undermined, because they provide rigorous education and training, are held accountable and workers are paid middle-class wages for their hard work,” Painters President Ken Rigmaiden tweeted during the union’s August convention in Las Vegas.

“If we don’t act soon, before Aug 26, labor will regret the economic outcome for decades to come,” he stressed.  

Workers and unions concerned over the Trump DOL changes don’t have much time left to object. The 60-day comment period for input from the general public ends Monday, August 26, 2019. Comments can be filed, via building trades unions here.

“We need to make sure the (Trump) administration does not allow low quality industry apprenticeship programs, called IRAPs, in the construction industry. IRAPs would open the door to unskilled workers — not only lowering apprenticeship pay but your wages and benefits as well,” the Laborers union warn.

“The construction industry already has quality union apprenticeship programs that work,” said John Stiffler, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council. “Registered union apprenticeship programs ensure the workers rebuilding our infrastructure have the highest level of training, keeping our communities and families safe. They work for employers; they work for workers and their families; and they work for our communities.”

“We have standards to ensure safe, quality work. This proposal, like so many from this administration, seeks to put business groups in charge and would erode the very standards that have made these programs so successful,” Stiffler said. “We have to let the Department of Labor know working people won’t stand for this.”

Right now, the nation’s construction unions run more than 1,600 training programs, all DOL-certified, providing top-tier training and letting thousands of apprentices earn while they learn. That relieves apprentices of massive college student debt and lets them step right into well-paying union construction jobs when they graduate. The jobs include health care coverage and retirement benefits.

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