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Save Veteran Construction Training Programs

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After coming home from the Army, Union Veteran Council Executive Director Will Attig struggled to find his place. “I came home without a job, a degree or a future,” Attig said. That changed when he found a Registered Apprenticeship Program with the North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) and became a journeyman pipe fitter with the Plumbers and Pipe Fitters (UA).

This is not only Attig’s story but countless other veterans who have found the registered apprenticeship programs as a way to achieve the American dream after returning home from service. At the same time, we have seen private organizations and for-profit schools create phony programs that prey on veterans leaving them with sub-par training and no true education. Right now, the future of America’s veteran construction workers, the integrity of their industry and programs that support tens of thousands of veterans’ transitions are at risk.

“The Registered Apprenticeship model gives us the same level and quality of training we received in the military,” Attig added. “This is one of the reasons why veterans choose to attend NABTU Registered Apprenticeship Programs and are joining construction unions at a rate almost double then non-veterans.”

A new proposal by the U.S. Department of Labor could drive down training and labor standards in construction registered apprenticeship programs and set off a race to the bottom throughout this industry. We have less than a month to stop it from becoming a reality. Here is how you can add your voice to the fight. While we applaud the government’s interest in expanding apprenticeship opportunities in new industries, [Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs] have no place in construction.

How Can You Help?

First, if you are a union veteran and a member of a building trades union, we need you to click the link below to submit a comment. It takes less than five minutes and could mean the difference in defending the way of life for your fellow construction workers, your family and yourself.

Building Trade Veterans: Click here to take a stand!

Second, if you are not a member of the building trades but support your fellow union veteran brothers and sisters, please follow the link below to send in a comment voicing your support and solidarity for your fellow union veterans in the trades and the programs that are helping thousands of veterans find a way to truly return home.

Veterans and Supporters: Click here to take a stand!

The proposed IRAPs differ significantly from registered apprenticeship programs. Construction registered programs help recruit, train and retain workers through progressive wage increases; apprentice-to-journey worker ratios that promote safety; quality assurance assessments by the government; uniform standards; mandatory safety training; instructor eligibility requirements; and transparency requirements. The proposed IRAP regulations abandon the important protections of the registered model and give employers the license to implement whatever low-road standards they see fit.

IRAPs in construction would jeopardize both the quality of construction and the safety and security of veterans in the construction workforce, thereby weakening every community across the country where our fellow veterans and workers reside and are needed.

As veterans and supporters of veterans, the time is now to stand together and oppose second-rate IRAP certifications that would undermine the gold-standard that the registered apprenticeship programs have attained.

This post originally appeared at the Union Veterans Council.

This article was originally published at AFL-CIO on August 14, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: The Union Veterans Council brings working-class veterans together to speak out on the issues that impact us most, especially the need for good jobs and a strong, fully funded and staffed VA.

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Military Veterans Deserve Jobs When They Return

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While we take the time this Veterans Day to honor the courage and sacrifice shown by our veterans, we should also rededicate ourselves to making sure vets have a secure and stable life after they finish their service.

The U.S. Labor Department reports the unemployment rate among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is 11.3 percent, significantly above the overall rate of 10.2 percent for the nation as a whole. Some 185,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are out of work. Many of these unemployed veterans are National Guard or Reserve troops who were called to duty but found when they came home that their old jobs were no longer there for them.

The AFL-CIO Union Veterans Council is calling on Congress to strengthen and enforce the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, which ensures veterans can claim their former jobs when they return from active duty.

In his Veterans Day message, Union Veterans Council Chairman Mark Ayers quotes President Franklin Roosevelt who signed the first GI Bill into law in 1944:

What our servicemen and women want, more than anything else, is the assurance of satisfactory employment upon their return to civil life.

“For today’s veterans, that same desire holds true,” Ayers says.

Click here to read Ayers’ message.

There is good news for vets on this holiday. President Obama signed on Nov. 9 a new executive order that underscores to federal agencies the importance of recruiting and training veterans, to increase the employment of veterans within the executive branch and to help recently hired veterans adjust to civilian life.

The executive order establishes a Veterans Employment Program office within most federal agencies, the White House said. These offices will be responsible for helping veterans identify employment opportunities within federal agencies, providing feedback to veterans about their employment application status, and helping veterans recently employed by agencies adjust to civilian life and a workplace culture often different than military service.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Veterans Affairs Secretary  will chair a high-level committee to oversee the program. Click here to read the executive order.

The Union Veterans Council also is calling for other federal programs, as well:

  • Expanding state and local programs for providing job training and employment counseling services.
  • Increasing coverage of the new post-9/11 GI Bill to include payments for apprenticeships and on-the-job training.
  • Continuing funding for the nationally recognized AFL-CIO “Helmets to Hardhats” program, which has placed tens of thousands of transitioning veterans into careers in the construction industry.

Ayers sums it up this way:

On this Veterans Day, we have the privilege of honoring these very special American men and women whose sacrifices and service are beyond most people’s comprehension. We owe them a great deal. First and foremost, we owe them our freedom. Secondly, we owe them our gratitude. And finally, we owe them the prospect of a secure and stable life upon the conclusion of their service.

This post originally appeared in AFL-CIO blog on November 10, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author: James Parks had his first encounter with unions at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He saw firsthand how companies pull out all the stops to prevent workers from forming a union. He is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. He has also been a seminary student, drug counselor, community organizer, event planner, adjunct college professor and county bureaucrat. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections.


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