UNIONS GATHER TO CELEBRATE APPRENTICE
By Jason Gottesman
Labor and trade organizations
as well as a number of legislators gathered in the Capitol’s Main Rotunda
today to celebrate Apprentice Awareness Day.
Frank Sirianni, the President of the
Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council, said “union apprentices
are the best of the best” and noted all are gathered to make the public
and General Assembly aware of the apprenticeships offered. He further pointed
out that unions hold 76 percent of apprenticeships in the construction
industry accounting for more than 8,000 apprenticeships across the Commonwealth.
He also said the union apprentices have a 75 to 80 percent graduation rate,
where as non-union apprentices have a rate of less than 50 percent. Sirianni
also said the apprenticeships offered by unions are the most diversified
with women and minorities making up 20 percent of apprentices. He indicated
the goal of the apprenticeships is to produce the safest and best-trained
workers in Pennsylvania, many of whom he said have an Associate’s degree
or its equivalent.
Suzi Person and Mike Coffey, both apprentices,
spoke about how they have been benefited by the family-sustaining wages
provided by the union through their apprenticeships. They both also spoke
of prior work in non-union shops where they said undertrained workers were
underpaid, unsafe, and suffered from low morale.
Sen. Christine Tartaglione (D-Philadelphia)
said it is important that those in attendance let legislators know the
importance of apprenticeships. She said the apprenticeships lead to family
sustaining jobs that are needed in this economy. She urged those in attendance
to help fight for the funding for more apprenticeship programs, as the
last two years has seen state funding dry up. She stated apprenticeships
and union laborers are needed for a better infrastructure so long as they
can convince legislators to not be afraid to be build.
Rep. James Roebuck (D-Philadelphia)
said apprentices gain skills in their apprenticeships that make them a
productive part of the Pennsylvania workforce. He stated the trades are
committed to ensuring proper training and diversity in both quality and
individuals. Rep. Roebuck added “this is something that needs to be built
upon” because unions are committed to ensuring that everyone that wants
an opportunity gets one.
Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks)
emphatically reported all of his municipalities have responsible building
ordinances. He said he understands the importance of union issues, especially
as they relate to Prevailing Wage. He said Prevailing Wage is not a partisan
issue and relayed he is committed to ensuring Prevailing Wage is not reformed
in any way.
Rep. Ron Waters (D-Philadelphia)
held up his AFSCME card and noted how his father instilled in him the importance
of unions. He highlighted how unions give former inmates a second chance
at life and open doors to them for quality living. He said he stands with
the unions and what they represent and said trade organizations and unions
need to be protected because they ensure there is a middle class. He called
the effort to privatize state liquor stores “anti-union” and said those
against the move want to keep people employed.
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