ABC Members Engaged and the Merit Shop Triumphed

The 2022 Washington State Legislative Session was only 60 days but was chalk full of bills that impacted ABC members. ABC focused on advocating for equal opportunity for merit shop contractors, testifying against legislation that would negatively impact ABC members’ bottom line, and lobbying in support of bills that would improve the construction industry.

ABC Wins:

SB 5599 Concerning journey level electrician certifications of competency. 

This legislation was intended to create technical changes to a bill that was passed in 2018 (SB 6126) which requires all 01 electrical trainees to enroll in an approved apprenticeship program by July 1, 2023. SB 6126 eliminates the current path for 01 trainees to complete the 8,000 hours and test out for their journeyman certification.

Some of ABC’s electrical contractors testified in opposition to SB 5599 during the public hearing in the House Labor Committee. They highlighted all the shortcomings with SB 5599 and outlined numerous compounding impacts of a bill passed in 2018 with the implementation in July 2023.

According to the Office of Labor and Industries (LNI) SB 5599 was written to protect all trainees… However, here are all the areas it did not address and why ABC was opposed.

There are not enough approved 01 electrical apprenticeship programs

  1. According to LNI, there are 22,400 electrical trainees that hold a current trainee card. Not all those electrical trainees are seeking 01 journeyman certification, it is the highest paying electrician job.
  2. According to LNI, there are 13 approved 01 electrical apprentice programs available throughout Washington.
    • 2 are non-union with open enrollment
    • 4 are single employer (meaning they do not offer open enrollment to other electrical contractors.)
    • 7 are union

Starting on July 1, 2023, all 01 trainees will be forced to enroll in one of the 13 approved apprenticeship programs if they want to become a 01 certified electrician.

  1. There are not options for trainees or apprentices in rural areas
    1. 01 trainees and apprentices located in rural areas will have to travel up to 3 hours to the training facility. According to LNI, this burden is on contractors.
  2. Shortage of training agents for 01 electrical apprentices
    1. According to LNI, they need 2,200 approved training agents to address the current enrolled 01 electrical apprentices… This is before all trainees are forced to enroll in 1 of the 13 approved apprenticeship programs.
  3. Potential loss of hours for trainees:
    1. According to LNI, the approved apprenticeship programs have the authority to subjectively determine how many hours a trainee can keep when they enroll in the apprentice program. This is outlined in the approved programs standards.
    2. Loss of hours results in loss of pay
      1. As you may know, an apprentice receives a percentage of the local prevailing wage based on how many hours they have with LNI. If they lose hours, they move down the prevailing wage scale.

ABC will continue to work on this issue with the hopes of collaborating with other stakeholders to fix these shortcomings and attempt to create better solutions for the upcoming implementation of SB6126. 

More legislation ABC opposed that failed:

HB 1776 -Prevailing wages at high hazard facilities.

This legislation attempted to expand mandated prevailing wage rates to state’s refineries, which are private companies. Wages at the refineries are already well above the state’s average and there is no evidence to indicate wages are below standard. ABC opposes this legislation because we are concerned that this legislation would expand prevailing wage to other industries and be required on private projects.

HB 1831 - Concerning installation, maintenance, and related certification requirements for electric vehicle support equipment.

This legislation attempted to require certification under an electric vehicle infrastructure training program for certain public works on the electrical vehicle supply equipment. ABC opposed this legislation because IBEW is the only training program in the state and would have had a monopoly on the industry.

HB 1770 - An act relating to strengthening energy codes.

This legislation attempted to strengthen energy codes for residential buildings. ABC opposed because it requires new buildings to be “net-zero ready” but does not include any definitions in the bill that describes what that means nor what it entails. Additionally, the way this bill is written, it expands the authority of the Washington Building Code Council without additional oversight, which we fear could result in less transparency with the public. 

SB 5909 - Concerning legislative oversight of gubernatorial powers concerning emergency proclamations and unanticipated receipts.

This legislation authorizes majority and minority leaders in the Senate and House to terminate a state of emergency if the Legislature is not in session and it has been more than 90 days since the Governor declared a state of emergency. ABC supports this legislation because we have witnessed a lack of participation in the decision-making process by Governor Inslee and the management of the COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years. While ABC believes this is a step in the right direction, we would prefer to see additional legislation which provides even more oversight by the legislature when the governor declares an emergency

HB 1776 -Prevailing wages at high hazard facilities.

This legislation expands prevailing wages to a private industry, the state’s refineries. Wages at the refineries are already well above the state’s average and there is no evidence to indicate wages are below standard. ABC opposes this legislation because we are concerned that this legislation would expand prevailing wage to other industries and be required on private projects.

Legislation that passed:

SB 5600 - Concerning the sustainability and expansion of state registered apprenticeship programs.

This legislation expands the number of industries required to go through the Washington State Apprentice and Training Council for program approval and provides grant funding for only already approved apprenticeship programs. ABC opposes this legislation because it expands a broken approval process and could slow down the approval process for critically needed programs, like the 01 electrical apprenticeship programs.

HB 1732 - Delaying the implementation of the long-term services and supports trust program by 18 months.

This legislation delayed the long-term care tax by 18 months. ABC was neutral on this legislation because it was a short-term solution to the issue and more work will need to be done on this program.

HB 1846  - Providing a tax preference for rural and nonrural data centers.

HB 1988 - Provides tax deferrals for investment projects in clean technology manufacturing, clean alternative fuels production and renewable energy storage.

SB 5714  Creating a sales and use tax deferral program for solar canopies placed on large-scale commercial parking lots and other similar areas.

All three bills were delivered to the Governor and unfortunately, did not include amendments that removed the project labor agreement provisions.

These bills require 100 percent of the project development to be completed under a project labor agreement or community workforce agreement PLA/CWA to receive tax benefits. ABC opposes because these agreements prevent fair and open competition and prevent non-union contractors from using their workforce unless there are specific exemptions the PLA includes.