VI. UNION AND MANAGEMENT
COOPERATION AND APPROACHES TO MULTI-EMPLOYER PLANS
The Issue of Access to Multi-Employer Training Programs in Chicagos
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
apprenticeships, not organizing, were the primary channel through which
people come into the unionized construction workforce. But today, the
average age of an apprentice is the late 20s; many are in their late
30s. The ageing of the typical apprentice, plus the changing linguistic
(in Chicago, Hispanic and Eastern European) demographic of the US workforce,
from which many organized workers come, put stresses on
traditional apprenticeship programs. These stresses have the potential
overall effect of pushing apprenticeship programs in the direction of
organizing. This paper compares aspects of access to two Chicago apprenticeship
programs, Plumbers Local 130 and Carpenters District 5, to show the
difference between a recruiting and organizing
approach to joint training programs.
Training As Part of a Strategic Organizing Plan
December 2001, a spokesperson for the labormanagement Chicago Construction
Industry Service Corporation (CISCO) said, The biggest problem facing
building trades apprenticeship programs is lack of qualified applicants.
This opinion is widely shared among apprenticeship program leadership.
However, as a way to frame the challenge of how to bring people into the
union, it creates more difficulties than it solves. It views apprenticeship
programs as independent of an overall union organizing strategy. It separates
recruiting from organizing. This paper looks at
this same challenge and asks how access into apprenticeship programs stands
up when viewed as part of organizing.
apprenticeships, not organizing, were the primary channel through which
people came into the unionized construction workforce. At one time, the
typical apprentice was straight out of high school. But today, the average
age of an apprentice is the late 20s; many are in their late 30s. In addition,
many tradespeople are organized rather than trained; that
is, they come into the union not through the apprenticeship program but
by working construction or having their employer sign on with the union.
The ageing of the typical apprentice, plus the changing linguistic (in
Chicago, Hispanic and Eastern European) demographic of the US workforce,
from which many organized workers come, put stresses on traditional
apprenticeship programs. These stresses can be seen as evidence of the
need to simplify access and make it more transparent. They have the potential
overall effect of pushing apprenticeship programs in the direction of
paper sketches the structure of typical joint apprenticeship programs,
gives a brief history of apprenticeship programs in Chicago noting problems
related to minority and womens access, and then compares access
to two apprenticeship programs, the Plumbers (L.U. 130, U.A.) and the
Carpenters (Chicago and Northeast Illinois District Council) to show how
the first operates in the traditional recruiting mode, while
the second integrates training and organizing.
comparison offered here is being developed through my ongoing relationship
with Plumbers Local 130 UA and Carpenters District 5. Plumbers represents
about 2,300 journeymen, operates a hiring hall, and maintains a traditional
apprenticeship program only slightly linked to organizing. Carpenters,
which includes several locals and represents about 32,000 journeymen,
does not operate a hiring hall and has significantly adapted its training
programs to organizing. For the past year, I have been acting as a consultant
to a working committee of the Plumbers called the Workforce Development
and Training Committee that has been taking a critical look at access
to their apprenticeship program. I have also been working with the Chicago
Interfaith Committee on Worker Issues helping to set up the pre-apprenticeship
project called Building Bridges; the two major unions involved in that
project are the Carpenters and the Electricians.
Joint Apprenticeship Programs Differ From Non-Union Programs
apprenticeship programs function defensively, in an environment of competition
from nonunion training programs: vocational or school-to-work programs
in the public high schools, the Job Corps, community colleges, and private
and for-profit job-training entities. When people graduate from a nonunion
program, they leave their training context behind and enter the labor
market as individuals. By contrast, a joint apprenticeship program produces
the skilled workforce and then brings it into the union, represents it,
and bargains for it. This creates a very different set of goals for joint
programs. But the union does not do this by itself. Training, like safety
and technological change, is traditionally a labormanagement concern.
Labor and management negotiate details of the apprenticeship program between
the union and an industry council, including the per-worker-hour contributions
to the training fund. Then contractors sign on--become signatory--to
that master agreement. Labor and management, through a joint apprenticeship
committee (J.A.C.) made up of union and industry representatives, oversee
the number of apprentices in each class, the location of the program,
the application process, even the curriculum.
apprenticeship programs have been set up to defend what they produce.
The benefits of signing on to the master agreement must be preserved for
those who have signed on and reserved from those who did not: this means
guarding its trade secrets, its curriculum, its training sites, equipment,
and tools closely. From the outside, this can look like efforts to exclude
(and sometimes appearance is reality). Today, with a generation of journeymen
retiring and market share of the unionized workforce dipping below 20
percent, defensive design of access to union membership runs counter to
the need to organize.
Joint Apprenticeship Programs
1937, apprenticeship programs, whether they are joint programs or run
solely by employers or employer associations, must be registered with
the Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training (BAT) of the Department of Labor
<www.doleta.gov.indiv.apparent>. There are about 1,000 apprenticeship
programs registered in Illinois. Of these, about 225 are joint. Of these,
26 are located in the Chicago/Cook County area. The joint apprentice programs
in the Chicago area include the crafts (compiled from various sources
including the CISCO Guide and personal communications) listed in Table
apprenticeship programs are linking up with community colleges to add
some academic courses to their program to enable apprentices to graduate
with an A.S. degree, eliminating the forced choice between a trade and
college. This adaptation, while it helps recruiting, does not open up
historical racial and gender exclusivity of the building trades has created
a legacy that still has to be overcome. Many of the old-timers in Chicago
building trades refer to an era in apprenticeship programs by the name
of a west-side Chicago public high school called Washburn Tech. At one
time, all the building trades apprenticeship programs were located there.
In heavily segregated Chicago, racism was always an issue in the schools.
In 1963, the Superintendent of Schools, Benjamin C. Willis, publicly blamed
racial discrimination in the trades for the lack of black enrollment at
Washburn Tech (Chicago Daily News, July 18, 1963). During the early
1980s, under Harold Washington, Chicagos first black mayor (19831987),
a direct conflict developed in which the Chicago Public Schools demanded
that all classes at Washburn Tech be taught by Chicago Public Schools
teachers; the building trades responded that all classes must be taught
by journeymen tradespeople: Only tradespeople teach tradespeople.
The CPS argued that it paid the teachers (including the tradespeople)
and owned the building. The trades responded by moving out, mostly relocating
in the largely white northern and western suburbs. This happened during
the period following the first racial discrimination complaints brought
before the EEOC in Chicago and the 1978 Executive Order (Order #11246,
under President Jimmy Carter) that set a timetable for hiring women on
federally funded construction projects. During that same period, three
Chicago apprenticeship programs--the Electricians, the Pipefitters, and
the Plumbers--were brought under consent decrees as settlements to discrimination
African American woman who eventually succeeded in an apprenticeship program
described her experience with the application process as it was in 1981.
Applications for this particular trade were available for only 2 weeks
every 2 years. They were given out at three different Park Department
sites around the city. On the morning of the first day, there was a line
with several hundred people waiting when the door opened. In the application
form was the information about what had to accompany the application:
birth certificate, high school diploma, doctors note describing
physical health, and so on. All of this had to be gathered and submitted
within the 2week window. That year, she failed to make the submission
deadline. Two years later, there was a recession and the application process
was not opened at all. But in 1985 she was close to first in line when
the doors opened. This time she knew what was required by way of documentation.
She had it all in her car; she got the application, went to her car, put
the documentation in an envelope, drove straight to the post office, and
saw them postmark the envelope. This time she was accepted and called
for a test and an interview. Five months (or, depending on how you tell
it, 4 years and 5 months) later, she started taking apprenticeship classes.
While these barriers to access were surmountable, they could not be defended
on the basis that they sorted good applicants from poor applicants. In
addition, since the information about documentation is the kind of information
a relative of a journeyman would have in advance, these barriers clearly
had an adverse impact on groups of people not already connected
to the trades. Twenty years later this union has important black and Hispanic
member caucuses that watchdog the apprentice experience.
to the Plumbers Apprenticeship Program
to the Plumbers, as the program is now, reflects the hope that the applicant
will be the traditional high school graduate. To enter the apprenticeship
program, applicants must obtain an application (available for a limited
time, only once every 2 years), provide a birth certificate, a high school
diploma or GED, pass a drug test and a physical exam, and have a valid
drivers license and reliable transportation. Applicants
must also take and pass an aptitude test, complete a personal experience
form (credit would be given for previous construction experience), and
obtain a letter of recommendation (from a teacher or minister) or an intent
to hire letter from a contractor (CISCO:79). Points are given for
each of these parts of the application. On the basis of these points,
applicants are ranked on a list in order of their score. As each new apprenticeship
class opens up (which might happen several times a year), candidates are
drawn from this list. This means that a person with a low score may wait
2 years and never be called or may wait nearly 2 years before getting
called. Organized workers are tested and take classes but
do not stream in with the apprentices. No ESL or Spanish-for-English-speakers
class is offered.
main recommendation from the Workforce Development committee has been
that the J.A.C. replace the 2-year list with a rolling application system.
They graduate from high school and they want a job right away,
was the typical comment. They wont wait around 2 years.
The committee also recommends increasing the apprentice wages to median
of trades (about $14.00/hour) and linking the program to an associate
(AS) degree program and ultimately to a B.S. program. While these recommendations
would open up the application process considerably, they do not go far
towards integrating training and organizing. They do not include outreach
to previously not included communities or shaping entry to and exit from
the program to accommodate organized (more experienced) or
non-English speaking workers. They continue to view the target applicant
as a recent high school graduate who will spend a lifetime as a plumber.
Chicago Carpenters: Linking Training and Organizing
Carpenters is a union more than ten times larger than the Plumbers, with
eight times the number of apprentices. The following table offers a comparison:
addition, the Carpenters have disaffiliated with the AFL-CIO. This has
led to some jurisdictional conflicts, where there is no overarching structure
within which they can be reconciled. However, the Carpenters have allocated
money to organizing and have an imperative to organize aggressively, and
they have integrated organizing and training to a great degree. While
specific circumstances surrounding the Carpenters at this point in time
may have worked to push them toward this strategy, the strategy could
also be undertaken by a union not in identical circumstances.
to the Carpenters apprenticeship program begins when a person finds a
union contractor who will hire or sponsor them. Thus an applicant
who has not started the apprenticeship program can start work on
permit and wait until the next set of classes start. The application
process includes producing an original Social Security card, having 2
years of high school or a GED, being physically fit, and taking an aptitude
test that measures vocabulary, arithmetic ability, and reasoning
power. Before the apprenticeship starts, if an applicant is already
working, he or she takes a short series of mini-classes such as the 10-hour
OSHA safety class and CPR. An experienced worker--one with 3 or 4 years
of experience--can be sponsored by a contractor to start as a second-,
third-, or fourth-year apprentice, at that pay scale. While the union
trainers will encourage such a person to start as early in the program
as possible, the worker (with the contractors approval) may decide
to start later. He or she will be encouraged to take upgrade
classes later on. This is a setup specifically designed for organizing.
This also eases a problem found in many trades, where an organized worker
is given a journeymans card and put to work right away, despite
not having the skills of someone who has been through the apprenticeship;
this situation breeds resentment against newly organized workers. Organizers
report that the strongest recruiting tool they have for these people is
the specialized training that the union offers: an experienced worker
can quit his or her job with a nonunion contractor, join the union, begin
to work for union contractors, and start immediately taking upgrading
upgrading classes, also called the Carpenters Skill Advancement Program,
include about 160 different courses. Fees are low: many courses are free,
others cost $25 to $45 with a few costing $99. Most are offered on Saturdays
or weeknights, totaling between 8 and 25 hours. They include courses in
construction supervision. Most are offered in English, but some are offered
in Spanish. Some training materials are printed in Polish. There is also
ESL for non-English speakers.
The following table summarizes
the comparison between the two apprenticeship programs:
we look at how joint apprenticeship programs work we are asking
how they accomplish their goals of producing a high-skill, high-wage workforce,
numerous enough to meet the labor demands of the industry, efficient enough
to compete against a nonunion workforce, and also how they (acting as
a function of the union) keep that workforce and its skills in the union
so that the union can represent it effectively. The test of the success
of an apprenticeship program, therefore, has to be related to how the
union as a whole is succeeding in a fiercely competitive environment.
Since measures of organizing gains and workforce demand are not part of
this study, no projections are being made here that evaluate the outcomes
of the different strategies of the Plumbers and the Carpenters. In addition,
of course, there are apprenticeship programs that exhibit access processes
that range all along the continuum. However, a focus on targeting the
traditional high schoolage applicant and shaping the application
process to that person overlooks the value that the promise of training
has for organizing. And conversely, an organizing approach is incompatible
with an application process that includes hurdles unrelated to the job,
delays, and unavailability of information.
paper benefited greatly from the research assistance of Jocelyn Graf,
graduate student at University of Illinois, Chicago.
Back Unions Bias Fight. 1963. Chicago Daily News, July
18. No page number visible.
Service Corporation (CISCO). 2000. Build Your Future With a Career
in Construction: A Guide to Apprenticeship Programs in Northeastern Illinois.
and Tybor. 1986. Race-Bias Case Ends Quietly. Chicago Tribune,
February 18, Business, p. 1.