The state Assembly approved a bill Thursday that would prevent more than one journeyman from ever being required to oversee the work of a single apprentice.
The Republican-sponsored proposal was voted Assembly on a 60-33 vote. The legislation, formally named Assembly Bill 508, would take away the state Department of Workforce Development’s current ability to require that more than one journeyman oversee the work of any apprentice entering the construction industry.
Mandatory journeyman-to-apprentice ratios now vary by trade. Proponents of the legislation say the current ratios set up an artificial barrier that hinders workers from joining 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 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. Many of those same critics had also originally warned that the legislation could run athwart of the training requirements found in collective-bargaining agreements reached between construction unions and contractors. Bill proponents responded to those concerns with an amendment stating that the legislation could not supersede requirements laid out in union contracts.
Beyond setting a one-to-one journeyman-to-apprentice ratio for all trades, AB 508 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 councils.
If AB 508 passes the Assembly on Thursday, it will still need to be approved by the state Senate and signed by Gov. Scott Walker to become law.Follow @TDR_WLJDan