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President Biden Signs Executive Order to Create More Equitable Trades Workforce

Friday, February 4th marked a major step in securing the stability and dignity of work in the trades for thousands of working people and thousands more to come. President Biden signed an Executive Order ensuring that all major federally funded construction projects of $35 million or greater are required to be governed by a Project Labor Agreement (PLA). This leaves many who aren’t acquainted with the trades with the questions: what are PLAs and why do they help to create a stronger, more equitable workforce?

According to the AFL-CIO, “Project Labor Agreements are collective bargaining agreements between building trade unions and contractors. They govern terms and conditions of employment for all craft workers—union and nonunion—on a construction project. They protect taxpayers by eliminating costly delays due to labor conflicts or shortages of skilled workers.” PLAs bring a layer of equity to the trades, which have historically been majority male and white. Under PLAs, workforce utilization goals can be put in place to ensure that underrepresented groups including apprentices, women, and people of color are able to gain work experience and employment opportunities.

Recognizing the unique challenges communities of color and women have when entering the trades, our Palmer Pathways Pre-Apprenticeship program has formed partnerships with industry leaders who also prioritize equity in their PLAs. “That’s part of the work that Sound Transit is doing,” said Palmer Pathway Advisory Member, John Boufford said. “One of the key objectives for employment in our Labor Agreement is to build a workforce on Sound Transit projects that reflects the diversity of our region. That starts with preparing underrepresented and sometimes underprivileged people to enter an apprenticeship program. Now we’re turning our attention toward the retention of these new apprentices. Through jobsite culture training for supervisory staff, we’re addressing some issues that can crop up on the job like microagressions and microassaults to checkerboarding, and underemployment. Things that might seem minute in the moment but can add up over time causing some to abandon their apprenticeship and career in the Trades. I believe the training and especially the mentorship component of Pathways will help folks deal with and work through those issues.”

Palmer Scholars and its Palmer Pathways Pre-Apprenticeship program are excited to see President Biden’s commitment to equity in the trades. As the President seeks to build back better through the prioritization of infrastructure, our pre-apprentices are building their brighter futures. To view the Executive Order and learn more, check out the White House’s official release below.


This post is sponsored by Jerry McLaughlin.


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