GOP-run House rejects pro-apprenticeship addition to defense bill

WASHINGTON—Republican lawmakers and the GOP Trump administration may talk a good game in backing expanding apprenticeship programs – including building trades apprenticeship programs – but voting for them is another matter.

That, at least, was the result of the first vote on apprenticeships in the full House this year, when Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., a Painter, tried to include a pro-apprenticeship program in the bill covering U.S. defense programs. He lost 235-190, with every Republican opposed to funding apprenticeships and every Democrat in favor.

“I grew up in Kenosha, Wis., a working-class town with a very large skilled trade presence,” Pocan told his colleagues during the debate in mid-July. “I understand what good, middle-class jobs look like, and the impact they can have on a community.

“A good middle-class paycheck ensures people can afford a mortgage, have healthcare for their families, take a family vacation, and send their kids to college if they want to. And that is what we need right now: More higher-paying jobs.”

Many of those jobs, Pocan said, come not through college and university educations, but through apprenticeships in the building trades. That’s why he wanted the pro-apprentice language in the defense bill, which later passed with a huge, bipartisan majority.

The program he advocated “would increase the number of highly skilled workers in the United States and strengthen apprenticeship programs as an effective earn-and-learn model for students, workers, and employers.” Those include military contractors, such as shipyards.

Pocan’s measure, the Learns Act, would have authorized, but not actually allotted, $20 million per year for three years for grants to public-private partnerships for apprenticeships. The partnerships would involve firms, community colleges, technical schools, high schools and other organizations, including unions. The feds would pick up 75 percent of the total cost.

“It is a win-win for workers and businesses. The Learns Act supports closer connections between registered apprenticeship programs, employers, and others offering good-paying jobs,” Pocan said.

But the GOP objected. Led by Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., they said the House Education and the Workforce Committee – dominated, though Byrne did not say so, by radical worker-hating right wingers – should handle the apprenticeship bill. And while Byrne did not mention it, Pocan noted the GOP’s proposed money bill for the Labor Department for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 “entirely eliminates Department of Labor apprenticeship grants.

“Again, that appropriations proposal cuts $95 million from apprenticeship funding — every single dollar in the program. There is not a penny left to connect workers and businesses with apprenticeships.  You can’t have it both ways. If you support apprenticeships and job training for workers, then you should support funding for job training and apprenticeship programs. It is pretty simple,” he said.

Source: PAI