Save Our Union Apprenticeships

Here's what you need to know this week:

What if we told you there was a way to get a quality education, a high-paying career, and valuable technical skills that last a lifetime without serving in the military or taking on student loan debt?

Well there is, and it's called a union apprenticeship program. North America's Building Trades Unions (NABTU) offer a vast array of registered construction apprenticeship programs that give those that enroll in them  globally recognized skills and all the benefits of a union contract in just a few years. Instead of taking on debt for an education, apprentices are paid outstanding wages while completing the program. With both classroom and on-the-job training, our union apprenticeship programs produce the best of the best electricians, plumbers, ironworkers, painters, laborers, and many more. When contractors hire union labor from these programs, they know they're getting the highest level of safety and quality.

As is the case with all in the labor movement, though, these programs are being threatened by those who seek to cut corners and focus solely on profit. Many industry profiteers (and their influence in government) seek to use the name of the apprenticeship in their own way to reap the rewards that come with its reputation. They often do this by offering their own "apprenticeships" that, at their worst, are little more than basic instruction before sending workers out on the job. Until now, the differentiating factors between these programs and ours have been that ours are:

-  Registered, meaning they follow strict quality and safety standards

-  Union, meaning they come with better wages and benefits, safer working conditions, and the strength of worker solidarity

Naturally, the industry profiteers will not unionize, and the strict rules of being registered are too costly for their bottom lines. Fortunately for them, they have corporate allies in the government.

Enter the Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Program, or IRAP. This proposal by Trump via executive order essentially says, "We need more apprenticeships, so if non-union entities can't meet the quality standards, let's just make a new set of standards". This new standard is the IRAP system, and the rules within it are under complete control of the Secretary of Labor. At its worst, this system by its very nature could mean almost anyone in the construction industry with anything they could call a training program could then present itself as offering an apprenticeship program equal to the top-of-the-line ones that unions offer. This would result in lower quality, less safe construction projects, and lower labor standards overall, and it is all being done in the normally admirable name of apprenticeship expansion.

Currently, the proposed IRAP regulations provide a temporary exemption for the construction industry, but this could change when the rules are finalized. We need to make sure that when finalized, the construction industry exclusion is permanent.

Luckily, it hasn't been finalized yet, and there's something you can do. Visit and fill in your information to send an automatically generated letter to the Department of Labor expressing these concerns. The process takes less than a minute, and completing it means that you've taken action to save our union apprenticeship programs. 

Here's what's coming up:

- TOMORROW (8/9), our Florida Alliance for Retired Americans (FLARA) chapter will be holding its annual Medicare/Social Security Birthday Event with Congressman Charlie Crist. Every year, FLARA celebrates the birthdays of Medicare and Social Security with various members of congress. Those members that defend these programs are thanked, and those who have an unfavorable voting record are educated and asked to do better. This event will take place at 10AM at the Sunshine Center (330 5th St N, St. Petersburg), and everyone is invited and encouraged to attend.

- TOMORROW (8/9), our Florida Future Labor Leaders chapter will be screening Salt of the Earth, a film based on a historical strike in which miners organized and fought bosses. This event is free and family friendly, and will take place at 7PM at Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association (3102 N Habana Ave, Tampa). RSVP HERE

- On Monday (8/12), our Manasota Activist Group meeting will be held at 6:30PM at Perkins Restaurant in Sarasota (5921 Fruitville Rd). This meeting serves as an avenue for all union activists in Manatee, Sarasota, and DeSoto Counties to get involved with the CLC. If you live in the area, come out and join us!

Keep in Mind:

We recently screened candidates for St Petersburg City Council. Action was taken on these screenings at our last CLC meeting, and we're still in the process of contacting candidates. Stay on the lookout for endorsements in the next week, as the primary is coming up quickly on August 27th!

That's all for this week! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more updates. If you would like to receive text message alerts from the Florida AFL-CIO (Msg & data rates may apply), text FLUNION to 235246!

In Solidarity,

West Central Florida Labor Council

If you have any comments, or would like something added to the newsletter, please let us know!