If the Legislation Weren’t So Irredeemably Stupid…
… I’d wonder whether we had an effect on this issue. Governor Carcieri has vetoed the apprenticeship
gift to large, union contractors legislation:
In accordance with the provisions of Section 14, Article IX of the Constitution of the State of Rhode Island and Section 42-1-4 of the Rhode Island General laws, I transmit, with my disapproval, 2009 H 5582, “An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations.”
This act would decrease the ratio of apprentices to journeymen in various fields of trade and industry.
Although I am a strong supporter of apprenticeship programs, and believe that such programs are necessary to maintain and foster a dynamic workforce in the building trades, this bill is flawed and could have some unintended consequences.
Apprenticeship ratios should provide ample opportunities for young people to enter the ranks of the skilled workforce and at the same time allow for a level of supervision and on-the-job training commensurate with their needs. It is unclear that the ratios proposed in this bill strike that delicate balance.
If the ratios allow for too few people to enter the building trades it will be nearly impossible to replenish the aging workforce in this area. It is also important to acknowledge that there is a cost to operating an apprenticeship program, and that cost must be borne by someone. Labor unions, though not exclusively, have traditionally operated many of the apprenticeship programs. In doing so, they bear a cost that other contractors and companies — those that do not operate such a program — do not incur.
In closing, although I am sympathetic to the concerns expressed by the proponents of this legislation, I am equally concerned that the proposed remedy may have unintended consequences that could harm many businesses and workers. I look forward to working with the various impacted parties to hopefully find some other more balanced solution.
I should also note some inside information that the legislative supporters of this bill — including House Majority Leader Gordon Fox, who proved himself unfit for public office in his passionate speech on its behalf in the special session, this autumn — wanted to make a performance of their support but didn’t really want it to become law. Two lessons from that suggestion: legislation can be a dishonest business, and the unions shouldn’t fall for the fake support from the recipients of their support and largess.