Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta has appointed Associated Builders & Contractors President Mike Bellaman to the Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion, stemming from an executive order President Donald Trump issued earlier this year with an eye to strengthening the U.S. labor force.
“This an opportune moment for the next generation of American workers and a valuable step for the economy,” says Bellaman. “Regardless of their access to higher education, all Americans deserve the chance to acquire a variety of skills that can lead to high-paying and fulfilling careers. As the president promised in his election night acceptance speech, every single American will have the opportunity to realize his or her fullest potential under his administration. That sentiment will drive this task force as we work to promote affordable education and rewarding jobs.”
Joining him on the 23-member task force are counterparts with business and organized-labor groups, chiefly U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Thomas Donohue and National Association of Manufacturers’ Jay Timmons, along with North America’s Building Trades Unions’ Sean McGarvey and United Brotherhood of Carpenters’ Douglas McCarron. According to Executive Order 13801, they and fellow task force members will submit to the White House proposals focused on: federal initiatives to promote apprenticeships; administrative and legislative reforms facilitating apprenticeship program formation and success; effective strategies for creating industry-recognized apprenticeships; and, effective strategies for amplifying and encouraging private-sector initiatives to promote apprenticeships.
The task force comes at a critical time for industries like construction, which employs about 7.5 million people. By ABC estimates, the industry needs to hire 500,000 skilled workers to fill a backlog of existing jobs. Vacancies could balloon to more than one million if Congress and President Trump approve a major infrastructure bill.
EPA PUSHES BACK ON LITIGIOUS GROUPS
A new directive stands to alter the approach of Environmental Protection Agency headquarters and region office staff to suits and legal maneuvers surrounding enforcement of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and other federal laws.
“The days of regulation through litigation are over,” says EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who issued the directive as the first step in ending ‘sue and settle’ practices. “We will no longer go behind closed doors and use consent decrees and settlement agreements to resolve lawsuits filed against the Agency by special interest groups where doing so would circumvent the regulatory process set forth by Congress. Additionally, gone are the days of routinely paying tens of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees to these groups.”
An EPA announcement on the directive noted how special interest groups have customarily used lawsuits, outside the regulatory process, that seek to force federal agencies to issue regulations that advance their interests and priorities.
IRON WORKERS’ REBAR, P-T SAFETY STANDARDS TAKE HOLD IN CALIFORNIA
The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (OSHSB) has become the first state-approved Occupational Safety and Health Administration plan to adopt the Iron Workers’ (IW) comprehensive updates for reinforcing steel and post-tensioning practice.
“The 1971 federal OSHA standard is antiquated and must be updated,” says IW Executive Director of Safety and Health Steve Rank. “It doesn’t address many hazards that cause serious incidents during common reinforcing steel and post-tensioning activities.” As part of IW General President Eric Dean’s 2017 ZERO Incident Campaign, he adds, the IW Safety and Health Department has targeted OSHA standard updates to prevent incidents and fatalities, and will pursue new reinforcing steel and post-tensioning standards in other state-approved OSHA plans throughout the country.
The IW Safety and Health Department has conferred with the IW Department of Reinforcing Steel, Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute, National Association of Reinforcing Steel Contractors, Post-Tensioning Institute and the Western Steel Council to reform existing standards since 2010. In 2013, the American National Standards Institute updated its A10.9 Concrete and Masonry standard to reflect comprehensive reforms the IW Safety and Health Department and industry stakeholders proposed.
IW cites a direct correlation between incident trends and lack of regulations specific to reinforcing steel and post-tensioning activities, and calls the California OSHSB-adopted reforms a major step towards reducing preventable fatalities and injuries. The IW Safety and Health Department urges other state OSHA plans to follow Cal-OSHA’s and ANSI’s lead. — Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust, Washington, D.C.