Congress should eliminate restrictions on new “green jobs” training grants that disqualify construction training programs that aren’t affiliated with a union, the Associated General Contractors of America said April 22. Saying the future economy should be as inclusive as possible, it urged members of Congress to support newly introduced legislation that would make any qualified, professional construction training program eligible for the new grants funded by the stimulus package.
“This is no time for Congress to start denying workers access to opportunity and avenues to success,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “You should be able to don a green collar even if you don’t wear a union hat.”
The Green Jobs Act, which was included in energy legislation enacted at the end of 2007, establishes a renewable energy worker training program to help create a workforce capable of building more energy-efficient buildings and infrastructure, Sandherr said. However the legislation included language requiring all grant applicants to partner with unions, effectively barring more non-union training programs from applying.
The association urged members of Congress and the Administration to support legislation introduced by Minnesota Congressman John Kline that would allow qualified construction training programs, regardless of union affiliation, to compete for the federal grants. Noting that the construction industry already is taking significant steps to improve the environmental performance of buildings, roads and infrastructure, he said the legislation was needed to help build on that progress.
Adding that the Associated General Contractors of America represents both union and non-union construction firms, Sandherr said “nobody should have a monopoly on improving our environment or building the economy of the future.”