New Labor Department Head Can Green-Light Union-Free
Shortly before resigning as U.S. labor secretary this summer
amid rising fury over his handling in 2008, while serving as a U.S. attorney in
Miami, of a plea deal with alleged serial child sex abuser Jeffrey Epstein,
Alexander Acosta plainly made a sweetheart deal with top construction union
Under the Department of Labor (DOL) proposed expansion of
apprentice programs, released just a couple of days after Mr. Acosta had
announced his resignation, no construction training programs will be approved,
at least initially, and perhaps ever. Currently, programs in the building
trades account for more than half of all apprentices registered by the DOL.
Not surprisingly, top union bosses were delighted by the
‘No Registration May Be Granted Without Giving … Unions a
Chance to Object’
They know all too well that current federal and state laws
and regulations typically make it very difficult for non-union construction
firms and their partners to establish registered programs to train
Consequently, independent builders
must often go hat-in-hand to discriminatory Big Labor
training and hiring halls to find apprentices who can participate in their
A key reason why is a New Deal-era law approved by
ideologically blinkered politicians who actually believed they could fight the
Great Depression by reducing the number of union-free construction
Under the National Apprenticeship Act of 1937 (NAA), the
U.S. labor secretary has wide discretion to allow or stop the registration of
However, as Dr. Charles Baird, an emeritus professor of
economics at California State University, East Bay, who specializes in labor
policy, has pointed out, “to this day no registration may be granted without
giving construction unions a chance to object.”
President Donald Trump took a significant step to mitigate
the enormous harm the eight-decade-old NAA continues to cause in June 2017,
when he issued Executive Order 13801, instructing the DOL to create guidelines
for industry-recognized apprenticeships.
E.O.13801 potentially opened up a new avenue for young
employees who want to work in the construction industry to get the training
they need without having to join or pay dues to an unwanted union.
Unfortunately, in implementing E.O.13801, former Sec.
Acosta, clearly acting at the behest of building-trades union bosses,
championed the exclusion of builders from eligibility.
“According to the U.S. Labor Department,” noted National
Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix, “just 14% of construction workers
across the nation choose to belong to a union.
“Given that six out of seven construction workers aren’t
union members, it’s crazy that federal policymakers continue to ensure Big
Labor has a vise grip over apprenticeships, and the huge flow of federal money
tied to them, in the industry. It’s outrageous.
“The best solution would be for Beltway politicians to stop
using the power of the federal government to limit the supply of apprenticeship
opportunities that are available. This objective could be accomplished through
complete repeal of the NAA.
“But President Trump’s E.O.13801 could at least make it
possible for certified industry groups, schools and nonprofits to set up many
more viable union-free apprenticeship programs without having to clear DOL
“And fortunately, it’s not too late for Patrick Pizzella,
appointed by Mr. Trump as acting labor secretary after Alexander Acosta
resigned, to modify the proposed rule in order to authorize industry-recognized
apprenticeship programs in the construction sector.”
New Acting Labor Secretary Has a Promising Track Record
By the time this Newsletter edition went to press, Mr. Mix
had already spoken with several high-ranking DOL officials to convey to them
how disappointed Right to Work supporters were with the Acosta-crafted
apprenticeship proposal and the importance of correcting it before issuance of
the final rule.
Since the nomination of Eugene Scalia, the President’s
choice for permanent labor secretary, is not expected to reach the Senate floor
until late this year, the apprenticeship rule may well be finalized before he
“Based on his record of opposition to Big Labor special
privileges, we are hopeful Mr. Pizzella will clear away the roadblock his
predecessor set up for union-free construction apprenticeships,” said Mr. Mix.