A Call to Update Critical Workforce Regulations

The Department of Labor (DOL) announced in 2009 that it would review and revise two sets of regulations and goals for women and minorities in apprenticeships and on federal construction projections.

On March 28, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Task Force on Tradeswomen’s Issues, the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO, and 79 other organizations sent a joint letter applauding the DOL’s commitment to reviewing and revising the regulations and urging them to move forward without additional delay. Proper revision and enforcement can ensure that an equitable share of jobs on federally funded projects goes to women and minorities.

First, DOL announced that it would issue updated regulations on the affirmative action requirements for construction contractors. The regulations prohibit discrimination against workers by federal construction contractors, but should be reviewed to address the barriers to employment that persist in the construction workforce. While women comprise over half of the workforce, they make up only 2.6 percent of all construction workers. Black men are 9.7 percent of the employed male workforce, but only 6.1 percent of the construction workforce. The opportunity for public comment is currently scheduled for April after years of delay.

Second, DOL also announced it would revise the federal apprenticeship regulations. Current regulations have limited low-income people, people of color, and women onto a career pathway. Women still hold fewer than 3 percent of the skilled trades apprenticeships, and their numbers are shrinking. While minority numbers have increased in the last 30 years since the regulations were first implemented, other barriers have held their numbers low. Ensuring that women and minorities have equal opportunities to fully participate in apprenticeship programs is vital to workers and to our economy. The opportunity for public comment on revising the federal registered apprenticeship is currently scheduled for this September after years of delay.