Last week in our nation’s capital, chapter staff and contractor members from all over the country met to discuss current legislature in a multitude of arenas. Some topics were promoting things that will help all of the skilled trades, some topics were to oppose institutions that hurt the merit shop philosophy, and some discussion involved gratitude for our representatives standing up for what we believe in as an industry. But at the end of the day, everyone (especially your Assistant Executive Director), walked away with a much greater understanding of what is going on in the Capitol Building, and what that means for our members.

Vice President of Government Affairs, Jason Todd, made sure that chapter staff and contractor members were armed with the facts. Those of us who weren’t well-versed in the issues were given packets of information, and he was always available for questions on specific concerns, and even worked to schedule meetings with our representatives.

Central IN IEC partnered with the Midwest Chapter to discuss points of interest with many local representatives including those from the offices of Congresswoman Susan W.  Brooks, Congressman Peter J. Visclosky, Senator Todd Young, and Senator Joe Donnelly.

So, what did we cover?

The Perkins Act:

  • What it is: An act providing states $1 billion in support of career and technical education programs in high schools. It’s the largest federal program supporting CTE.
  • Where is it now?: It was last updated and reauthorized in 2006. It was reintroduced, passing unanimously out of the Committee on Education and the Workforce and was approved b the entire House of Representatives. It is currently pending in the Senate.
  • Where IEC stands on the issue: IEC favors reauthorization of the Perkins Act. Career and technical education can provide students with opportunities for career awareness and preparation by providing them with the academic and technical skills needed to succeed in postsecondary education, training and employment. Funding these CTE programs at the secondary level will help further expose students to career options in fields such as electrical contracting, and help “prime the pump” for the electricians of the future.

USA Workforce Tax Credit Act:

  • What it is: An act that would allow individual tax payers a tax credit for charitable contributions to non-profit organizations that exclusively provide workforce development, apprenticeship training, or K-12 scholarships.
  • Where is it now?: It was introduced on March 2nd, 2018 and was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means.
  • Where IEC stands on the issue: IEC is in support of offering tax incentives to individuals and companies interested in contributing to non-profit organizations that assist with apprenticeship programs. The trades, having been neglected for so long as a lucrative job choice, is in need of any and all assistance in educating an intelligent and capable future generation of skilled workers.

Building U.S. Infrastructure by Leveraging Demands for Skills (BUILDS) Act:

  • What it is: Bipartisan legislation that would set aside funding through grants to be used to train workers needed to help businesses in targeted industries grow and maintain the workforce necessary to keep up with this demand, while also ensuring that a diverse range of workers could access the training and credentials needed to find sustainable jobs in these fields.
  • Where is it now?: The Senate version of the BUILDS Act was introduced in July of 2017, and the house version was introduced on February 6th, 2018.
  • Where IEC stands on the issue: IEC favors providing grant funding to help train individuals for high-demand jobs, like electrical contracting, in order to close the skills gap in industries that will be needed to repair our nation’s infrastructure. This will put people in high demand, well-paying jobs, allowing a pipeline to be created between Trump’s infrastructure investment, and his goal of training one million new apprentices over two years.

Joint Employer Standard:

  • What it is: A National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) standard that is used to determine when a business should be considered responsible for the labor practices of another. The current standard includes situations in which a company may have indirect or even unexercised potential control over the terms and condition of employment, whereas before employers had to have direct and immediate control over another business’s employees to be held responsible.
  • Where is it now?: The Joint Employer Standard is currently in effect. However, the Save Local Business Act, Introduced by Rep. Bradley Byrne, would return joint employer to the direct and immediate control standard. It has passed the House with bi-partisan support and remains pending in the Senate.
  • Where IEC stands on the issue: IEC opposes the NLRB’s recent interpretation that two employers are deemed joint employers when there is indirect and potential control over a set of employees and favors a clearer definition, such as the prior standard, requiring direct and immediate control. Therefore, IEC supports the Save Local Business Act.

In addition to discussing these bills and acts with various Representatives and Senators,  we had the opportunity to discuss our frustrations and concerns with the members of the Workforce Panel.

This panel included, from right to left:

Tamar Jacoby – President of Opportunity America,

Kermit Kaleba – Federal Policy Director of National Skills Coalition, and

James Redstone – Majority Staff of House Education and Workforce Committee.

It was our opportunity to make our voices heard in a candid, two-way conversation that targeted how funding is distributed, and how it will continue to be distributed to programs who host their own apprenticeship programs that are approved by the Department of Labor.

So how can you get involved?

How can we continue to push for legislation that will continue to help independent electrical contractors and those others that are involved in the skilled trades, those that are underrepresented but over regulated?

Make your voice be heard.

As contractors, YOU are the ones that know what would be best for your industry. YOU are the ones who will be affected by these changes, whether you support them or not. YOU are the ones with the power to vote someone in – or out – of office.

Consider writing your representatives (first of all, find out WHO your representatives are. Find your members of Congress here, and Senators here).

Stay informed on current issues. IEC Nationals is a great resource, sending many updates on what’s happening on the Hill.

Be educated and articulate on the issues.

And, best of all, consider speaking with your representatives at next year’s Policy Conference! The Central Indiana Chapter could always use more muscle behind us. We do what we can to advocate for you. But no one can speak to your struggles and your pain points better than you can.

We’ll see you next year on the Hill!