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Unions Gather To Celebrate Apprentice Awareness Day - (6/22/2012)

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.

 Suzy 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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