DOL

Carpenters win on Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs)

We have received great news that the Federal Department of Labor and the Trump administration have exempted the construction industry from new Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAP). Our union and our signatory contractors partner to invest millions of dollars every year to create the best trained workforce in the world without relying on taxpayer funding. IRAPs would have diminished construction standards and lowered wages. We took a stand against IRAPs competing with our already established and effective model of apprenticeship, which provide workers the opportunity to earn good wages while they learn a craft acquiring nationally recognized credentials.
 
Along with the decision to keep IRAPs out of the construction industry, the Federal Department of Labor (DOL) defined construction to include: (1) the erecting of buildings and other structures (including additions); (2) heavy construction other than buildings; and (3) alterations, reconstruction, installation, and maintenance and repairs. 
 
The DOL justified its exclusion of construction by stating that its goal is to “expand apprenticeships to new industry sectors and occupations and industries where apprenticeships are emerging or underutilized.” The DOL saw no reason to disrupt current apprenticeship programs. 
 
All the Regional Council and Carpenters Training Institute staff who contributed time and effort into public comments deserve a big thanks. They were successful in getting the Regional Council’s three partner Associated General Contractors (AGC) chapters to write letters on our behalf, even though the national AGC did not support our position. On the strengths of our contractorrelationships, our partners successfully encouraged contractor associations to write comments opposed to IRAPs in our industry. Thank you to all the countless other contacts made to the DOL from our members and apprentices who wrote letters and submitted email comments. This work could also not have been done without all the hard work of our Communications, Political and Legal departments working closely with our Business Representatives and the Instructors all around our Regional Council. 
 
A bipartisan letter from all four caucus leaders in Minnesota, including nearly 100 lawmakers, was also submitted. Seven Davis-Bacon Republicans from around the Regional Council signed a Congressional letter supporting our position. 
  
The full text of the DOL ruling is available here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2020-03605.pdf

It should also be noted that there is no sunset on the exclusion of the construction industry from these programs. Furthermore, the decision clarifies that IRAP participants are not eligible to be paid “apprentice” wages for Davis-Bacon purposes.
 
There will likely be more to come with this ruling in the way of regulatory or legal challenges from the AGC. The DOL stated, “it conceivably could be appropriate in the future to reconsider its decision not to allow IRAP’s in the construction sector.” This reconsideration would be predicated on new and compelling evidence that construction apprenticeships are faltering or new IRAP programs are working well enough to warrant repealing the exclusion.
 
Thank you again for all your work on this important issue. It was a great effort by our members, our staff, the leadership of the Carpenters Training Institute, the Regional Council and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. We should all be proud of what we accomplished.