Don’t Drink the Tea. Think With the WE.
Apr
2016
13

Dangerous Michigan Bill Would Triple the Number of Less-Skilled Electricians on Worksites

Electrician builder at work inspecting cabling connection of high voltage power electric line in industrial distribution fuseboard

Electrician builder at work inspecting cabling connection of high voltage power electric line in industrial distribution fuseboard


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A bill that would drastically change the journeyman-to-apprentice ratio on Michigan construction sites in the electrical profession has passed the State Senate and awaits the signature of Gov. Rick Snyder.  In January, the House version of the bill, HB 4813, passed by a 58-48 margin.  HB 4813, opposed by the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council, would triple the number of less-skilled workers on worksites and make them less safe.

The entire Democratic caucus of the Senate was joined by four Republicans — Mike Kowall (R-White Lake), Mike Nofs (R-Battle Creek), Tory Rocca (R-Sterling Heights), and Dale Zorn (R-Ida) — in voting against the measure.  It is unclear what Gov. Snyder, who has been a vocal supporter of the building trades in the past, will do.  Todd Tennis of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) hopes the governor will thoroughly review the bill and consider its consequences before making a decision:

I hope the governor will realize that passage of this bill means we’re headed for less safe jobsites.  We’re looking at having three times as many inexperienced people working with electricity.”

Joining the IBEW in their opposition to the bill is the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) Michigan Chapter, who argues that the bill will lead to less training for apprentices and more dangerous worksites.  Their executive director, Mike Crawford, argues that the current ratio was the result of a spike in electrical apprentice fatalities in the late 1980’s.  A change in the ratio, especially one as drastic as HB 4813 prescribes, would greatly diminish safety standards, he asserts:

Workers will be put into unsupervised environments, which could not only be dangerous, but fatal.  IBEW-NECA worked to establish the apprenticeship ratio, and took steps forward to protect apprentices. We’re concerned that this House bill will return us to those days in the 1980s.”

Tennis is among those who, at the very least, would like to see Governor Snyder demand a compromise 2-to-1 comprise, instead of leaping to 3-to-1 from 1-to-1. State Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) made similar comments on the Senate floor:

“I fear that when we move this bill forward today we will see an increase in the number of losses of both property and people’s health and life as a result of this decision. One to three is too much — it is just far too fast, and I really do worry, colleagues, what the impact of this public policy is going to be on job sites around this state.”

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