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Panel gives favorable nod to journeyman-to-apprentice bill

Lawmakers on a legislative panel voted along party lines Wednesday to advance a bill meant to prevent more than one journeyman from being needed to oversee the work of any single apprentice entering a particular trade.

The favorable recommendation sends the proposal – officially named Assembly Bill 508 – on to the full Legislature, which is likely to take it up in coming weeks. Similar legislation, Senate Bill 411, was approved on Oct. 12 by the state Senate’s Committee on Labor and Regulator Reform.

If either bill is eventually approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Scott Walker, the state’s Department of Workforce Development would lose its current ability to require that more than one journeyman oversee the work of an apprentice entering the construction industry. Currently, state-mandated journeyman-to-apprentice ratios vary from trade to trade.

For carpenters, for example, the mandatory ratio is one-to-one when there is only one apprentice in a class. But for every apprentice that joins after that, three more journeymen must be added.

Proponents of the legislation say the current ratios set up an artificial barrier that hinders workers in their attempts to join the trades. Fixing the ratio at one-to-one for all trades, they argue, would help combat the construction industry’s persistent labor shortage.

Contractors have complained that the persistent scarcity of skilled labor in the workforce has made it difficult to find the additional journeymen needed to comply with current journeyman-to-apprentice requirements.

Critics of the legislation have contended that the ratios should continue to be left to the trades’ apprenticeship-advisory councils, which are made up of representatives of both labor and management interests.

Beyond setting a one-to-one journeyman-to-apprentice ratio for all trades, AB 508 and SB 411 would eliminate statutory requirements that set minimum lengths for carpentry and plumbing apprenticeship programs. Those standards would instead be set in consultation with individual trades’ advisory council.

About Dan Shaw, dan.shaw@dailyreporter.com

Dan Shaw is the associate editor at The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at dan.shaw@dailyreporter.com or at 414-225-1807.

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