St. Louis County Council reinstates apprenticeship requirement for bidders

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APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAMS produce highly skilled workers, reduce turnover rates, improve productivity, increase diversity of the workforce and help to establish career progression. For workers, an apprenticeship means higher wages, better benefits, more competitive skills, and no student debt.

Clayton, MO — The St. Louis County Council voted 6-1 to approve requiring bidders for most county projects to participate in federally approved apprenticeship programs.

The bill, sponsored by Councilwoman Shalonda Webb (D-4th District), requires bidders on construction projects worth more than $75,000 to have apprenticeship programs approved by the U.S. Department of Labor.

County Executive Sam Page is expected to sign it.

Webb said the apprenticeships will help recruit workers to ensure top quality work on taxpayer-funded projects and appropriate safety training to prevent job-related injuries or deaths.

The bill reinstates a prior county apprenticeship requirement for contracts that was eliminated in 2018 amid criticism that such language excluded non-union contractors, particularly female-owned and minority-owned contractors.

At the time, the council voted 5-2 to remove the requirement from the program and overrode a veto from then-County executive Steve Stenger. Page, then council chair, and Councilmen Mark Harder (R-7th District), and Ernie Trakas (R-6th District), supported the moves, which came after the county enacted standards for minority participation in contracts.

Voting to restore the apprenticeship requirement were Councilwoman Webb, Council Chair Rita Heard Days (D-1st Dist.), Councilwomen Kelli Dunaway (D-2nd Dist.) and Lisa Clancy (D-5th District), Councilmen Tim Fitch (R-3rd Dist.) and Ernie Trakas (R-6th Dist.).

Harder was the lone council member to vote against bringing back the requirement.

“This is what bipartisan support of Labor issues look like,” said Pat White, president of the Greater St. Louis Labor Council. “Thank you to the members of the St. Louis County Council for recognizing the importance of a strong apprenticeship program that not only benefits new workers in gaining life-long skills, but also protects consumers knowing workers will have the training to do it right the first time. It was a sound decision, and we applaud their concern for their constituents.”

As county executive, Page has been a reliable supporter of Labor issues and said he considered reinstatement of the apprenticeship requirement the bill “a workforce development opportunity for the county.”

“You only need to look at all of the construction underway in the St. Louis region to understand that our union apprenticeships are producing the next generation of highly trained, highly skilled workers,” said John Stiffler, executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council.

See related story: Bricklayers 1 apprentice demonstrates the value of quality training

One of the most successful efforts to expand access for women and minorities in the skilled trades, is the Building Union Diversity (BUD) program. Launched in 2014, the pre-apprenticeship program helps prepare participants for success in union apprenticeships, and today boasts a 92 percent graduation rate.

“Our unions and signatory contractors, working through the BUD program are helping ensure the next generation of union workers accurately reflects the diversity and talent in our region,” Stiffler said.

Based on the success of the BUD program, the Missouri AFL-CIO created an affiliated non-profit organization called the Missouri Works Initiative, which took over the BUD program in St. Louis last fall will is now expanding it to Springfield and Kansas City and other areas of the state.

Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562, in partnership with the Mechanical Contractors Association and the Plumbing Industry Council, has its own version of BUD called the “Champions” program.

Champions is an acronym for Creating Hometown Advantages for Minority Participation In Our Neighborhoods.

The program graduated its second class of pre-apprentices in November.


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