ABC Keystone Merit Shop Advocacy Blog

By: David G. Greineder, IOM, ABC Pennsylvania Director of Government Affairs

On October 25, ABC members traveled to Harrisburg to take part in “Free Enterprise Day.” Industry leaders from our five regional chapters spoke to legislators serving on the Senate Labor & Industry Committee on the challenges they are facing and what role the legislature can play to improve workforce conditions.

Coming as no surprise, the main topics discussed were the growing skills gap and worker shortages. A solution ABC has long championed is a level playing field in the journeyworker-to-apprentice ratio rules. As private employers, the merit shop is required to have four journeyworkers to each apprentice. On the other hand, union employers can have whatever ratio is negotiated in a collective bargaining agreement. This needs to change – not only from a fairness perspective, but that of common sense. No business assigns four supervisors per trainee. Further, with such severe worker shortages, it’s insane to limit how many people a business can train – especially in the trades, which provide family-sustaining wages far exceeding the minimum wage.

ABC PA Free Enterprise Day
ABC PA members attend Free Enterprise Day on October 25, 2021.
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Since the passage of the rules 60 years ago, the federal government created OSHA and implemented other workplace safety measures. As a result, most states updated ratio rules to maximize the number of apprentices that can be trained, regardless of whether they belong to a union. Sadly, Pennsylvania is lagging behind. If the state updated the antiquated, discriminatory, and arbitrary rule, the merit shop could train an additional 56,000 apprentices per year. This is a significant number to combat the workforce demand in today’s construction industry. At a time when the public is being lectured on following uniform standards, it’s time to apply that same principle to regulations for joint and non-joint programs.

ABC will continue to press forward on in this issue, even in the face of the unions refusal to give up their advantage. We will be issuing action alerts in the coming week to tell your legislators that the discrimination needs to stop. Please take part in the process – your voice is needed!

As we head into the silly season – otherwise known as an election year – I want to encourage everyone to keep up the fight and not give up. It is clear we have a long road ahead, but I am confident we can make progress on these issues and more. The tremendous forces coming at us from all sides would not be happening if we weren’t doing something right, so let’s rock n’ roll!

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Posted October 26, 2021