The Electrical Worker online
July 2023

Bipartisan Efforts Bolster Building Trades,
Union Apprenticeships

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Construction workers have something on Capitol Hill that many groups of voters don't: friends on both sides of the political aisle.

That was especially evident this spring with the relaunch of the Bipartisan Building Trades Caucus and introduction of two bills vital to expanding union apprenticeship programs.

IBEW member and U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross of New Jersey originated the caucus in 2016 during his first full term in Congress and reestablishes it every two years, with strong support from fellow House Democrats and like-minded Republicans.

The 2023 caucus comprises 10 members from each party, many of whom joined Norcross and his GOP co-chair, Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, at an April news conference outside the Capitol.

"As someone who began their career on construction sites, I am proud to be a voice in Congress for the hardworking men and women who build our nation," said Norcross, of Folsom, N.J., Local 351. "An American-made economy begins with American workers, and our caucus will work to expand opportunities and pathways for middle-class families."

Toward that end, Norcross and Fitzpatrick have introduced the Apprenticeship Hubs Across America Act to help the Department of Labor expand and promote registered apprenticeships and other job training programs.

The bill would support a national network of apprenticeship hubs that brings together unions, local workforce boards, community colleges and employers to provide career opportunities that don't start with a four-year college degree.

With a career path that took him from apprentice to journeyman wireman to congressman, Norcross said, "I know firsthand the value of working with your hands and the need to continue to grow and train this critical workforce."

Another vital piece of legislation announced the same week is the National Apprenticeship Act of 2023, which would build on progress made by similar bills that were passed with bipartisan support during the past two Congresses.

Addressing the critical shortage of skilled workers, the new $3.8 billion package aims to add 1 million new training opportunities over the next five years — unions' registered apprenticeships, as well as youth training and pre-apprenticeships.

Fitzpatrick, who introduced the bill with Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia, said it "will provide much-needed reinforcement and reauthorization of our registered apprenticeship programs."

The DOL reports that 93% of people who complete a registered apprenticeship are employed upon graduating, with an average starting wage above $77,000 a year. Further, businesses on average earn $1.44 back for every dollar invested in registered apprenticeship programs.

Yet the training programs are grossly underfunded compared with what other developed nations spend on job training, according to a DOL study last year.

Scott, the ranking Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, called the legislation "a clear win-win for workers and employers, and it will help grow the economy."

International President Kenneth W. Cooper praised the bipartisan advocacy and said he hopes it spurs more.

"Brother Norcross, Rep. Fitzpatrick and their colleagues who are supporting the Building Trades Caucus and these important bills know there's a direct link between good union training and good union jobs, and between good union jobs and a strong American middle class. And they are acting on that," Cooper said.

"They are setting a common-sense example of how you get things done in Congress, and we applaud them for it."


House members relaunched the Bipartisan Building Trades Caucus this spring, along with two bills vital to funding and expanding union apprenticeships. IBEW member and Democratic Rep. Donald Norcross, at podium, originated the caucus in 2016. His Republican co-chair, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, is in the front row raising his fist in support.

The mission of the caucus includes:

Providing students and workers with expanded access to apprenticeship programs across the country.

Greater investments in job training programs to close the skills gap, create good-paying jobs and strengthen pathways to the middle class.

Preparing American workers in the building trades for the future of work.

Prioritizing worker and workplace safety standards.

Breaking the stigma associated with getting help for opioid use and cutting red tape to save lives.

Increasing funding for the National Labor Relations Board to ensure that workers who exercise their legal rights get a fair shake.