Draft DOLWD regulation changes prompt opposition

Legislators cite registered apprenticeship program as a cornerstone in training electricians, plumbers

State efforts to change plumbing and electrical regulations, eliminating the current apprenticeship requirement and boosting the ratio of apprentices supervised by a single journeyman, are being challenged by a bipartisan group of legislators.

“These (proposed) regulations would significantly expand the risk of on-the-job deaths and serious injuries while undermining the primary workforce development system for the industry,” the legislators said in their letter to Alaska Commissioner of Labor Tamika Ledbetter.

“The proposed regulations would be devastating for multiple reasons,” they said. “For occupations where a single error can result in death – not just for individual workers but others on a job site – these changes present a clear and present danger to the life and safety of Alaska workers and must be discarded.”

The letter was signed by Representatives Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak; Zack Fields, Matt Claman, Harriet Drummond, Andy Josephson, Ivy Spohnholz and Chris Tuck, all D-Anchorage; Grier Hopkins, D-Fairbanks; Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka; Kelly Merrick, R-Eagle River; Gabrielle LeDoux and Laddie Shaw, R-Anchorage; Sara Hannan and Andi Story, D-Juneau; and Senators Tom Begich and Elvi Gray-Jackson, D-Anchorage; and Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks.

The opposition from the legislators is supported by the Alaska Safety Advisory Council, an entity within the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development whose members are appointed by the governor. The advisory council formally requested on Jan. 12 that those changes announced on Dec. 4 be withdrawn, to allow stakeholders the ability to meet with the proposing entities and weigh in on the proposal and potential consequences of enactment.

The proposed changes “undermine the safety to the worker, the consumer and the industry at large,” said Vince Beltrami, president of the Alaska AFL-CIO. “There is just no need to do this. This undermines the whole apprenticeship system. It is not a well thought out policy.”


These training programs are officially registered U.S. Department of Labor programs required under current state law.

“For 17 years these programs have worked,” Beltrami said.

The new regulations would allow “as high as a 10:1 ratio of inexperienced to experienced workers and would create a new category of ‘student’ trainees without the rigorous standards of the federal apprenticeship system,” legislators told Ledbetter.

“In addition, the regulations would allow Outside electrical workers and pipefitters to receive certificates of fitness based simply on hours worked in the trade, rather than completing a rigorous apprenticeship program,” they said. “Under current law, electrical workers and plumbers/pipefitters must complete a four-to-six-year apprenticeship with hundreds of hours of classroom training and thousands of hours of on-the-job experience, all under the direct mentorship of an experienced journeyworker.”

Republican legislator Kelly Merrick, of Eagle River, noted in a statement released by the legislators that Alaska’s private sector construction contractors had invested in apprenticeship training for generations.

“We should support industry-funded training with a stable, predictable and effective regulatory climate,” she said.

The proposed regulatory changes would also impact a career ladder for military veterans and their families. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Plumbers and Pipefitters’ unions have built national programs to help service members transition into the skilled trades, through their Veterans Electrical Entry Program and Veterans in Piping program.

“Alaska’s government should support transitioning service members, not undermine veterans’ career opportunities,” said Anchorage Democrat Zack Fields.