Open-shop contractors prevail over unions



Labor organizations and contractors like Karen Say don’t see eye to eye on a new apprentice program for heavy-equipment operators.

Union leaders fought the open-shop approach of the program. But it was approved late last year by the Washington State Apprenticeship and Training Council, making Say happy.

“It’s fantastic,” said Say, whose Puyallup-based company, Saylor Construction Co., has had contracts in Federal Way and elsewhere to remove underground storage tanks and install underground utility equipment. The new program will make it easier to train workers on backhoes and other heavy machinery, she said.

Supporters of the program’s training said it will help non-union contractors and their employees meet market demands and government requirements of heavy-equipment operators.

A “key opportunity to advance heavy-equipment apprenticeship training for open-shop contractors throughout the state” has been unlocked, said Sandra J. Olson, executive director of Construction Industry Training Council, which proposed the program.

Once apprentices register for training, they can work on prevailing-wage jobs and begin fulfilling government regulations for apprenticeships.

Say and other contractors said the program provides training where and when they and their workers need it.

“It will be a faster process now,” Say said, noting that previous training had to be done in-house.

Approval of the program took more than two years. During a review by the state Department of Labor and Industries, three union organizations formally objected to the proposed standards.

The matter was referred to an administrative law judge, whose ruling in support of the program led to its final approval by the state apprenticeship council last October.

Union officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

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