There are a number of federal regulatory agencies whose actions and decisions may directly impact your business, the electrical trade, and the merit shop.
Many recent proposed new regulations have the potential to be costly and burdensome on IEC members, particularly smaller businesses. IEC makes sure to actively weigh in on any proposed regulatory changes affecting the electrical industry to ensure merit shop concerns are taken into consideration by key agency decision-makers. These include:
Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeship (OA) and State Apprenticeship Agencies
Apprenticeship programs conducted by IEC chapters are subject to the provisions of the National Apprenticeship Act (Fitzgerald Act) and resulting regulation enacted by the U.S. Department of Labor and the various State Apprenticeship Agencies. IEC works with the Office of Apprenticeship and state agencies on behalf of the industry to ensure apprenticeship rules and standards apply fairly to merit-shop contractors.
Federal Laws and Regulations Impacting Apprenticeship Include:
1) The National Apprenticeship Act (the Fitzgerald Act)
2) Title 29, Part 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations
2) Title 29, Part 30 of the Code of Federal Regulations
IEC has been actively engaged in apprenticeship matters for many years and, in 1972, worked with DOL’s Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training (now Office of Apprenticeship) to establish national guideline standards of apprenticeship. Since that time, IEC has been recognized as a fixture within the registered apprenticeship community.
An indication of IEC’s commitment to the registered apprenticeship system is the appointment of an IEC staff member to serve on the Secretary of Labor’s Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship. The role of the ACA is to advise the Secretary of Labor on critical matters related to the National Registered Apprenticeship System. Currently, IEC staff serves as the vice-chair of the committee.
At the same time, both Congress and the current Administration are taking a greater interest in an apprenticeship as a path to a meaningful, well-paying career. In order to address our nation’s growing skills gap, IEC believes it is integral to support the expansion of apprenticeship which is critical to skilled trades such as electrical contracting.
Employee Benefit Security Administration (EBSA)
The Employee Benefit Security Administration (EBSA) is responsible for monitoring compliance with the requirements of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) randomly audits apprenticeship programs to determine their compliance with ERISA requirements. However, IEC believes most IEC chapters are not subject to ERISA requirements since they are not financed out of trust funds, and IEC continues to work with DOL to educate their staff about IEC.
If your chapter has been contacted by the EBSA regarding erroneous compliance with ERISA, please contact IEC Government Affairs.
Department of Labor, Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS)
The Office of Labor Management Standards has been advancing a proposal commonly referred to as the “Persuader Rule” which would require employers to disclose to DOL any arrangements they have with consultants to address employee unionization efforts or collective bargaining. Under the proposed rule, virtually all interaction with labor lawyers and consultants – and potentially trade associations that provide guidance to members on labor policy – would be subject to the disclosure requirements. In March of 2014, final action on the “Persuader Rule” was removed from DOL’s regulatory agenda and a new date for finalization has not been set. Along with 53 other associations, IEC had urged DOL to delay action on the rule.
Coupled with a recent proposal by the National Labor Relations Board to speed up union elections, employers could find themselves severely constrained in their ability to respond to organizing efforts at their workplace and in communicating with their employees. IEC will continue to monitor the progression of the rule and engage Congress, DOL, and the Office of Management and Budget – which vets rules before they are finalized – on the profoundly negative impact this rule could have for employers and the advice they are able to seek on collective bargaining issues.
Project Labor Agreements (PLA)
Anti-competitive project labor agreements (PLAs) prevent open, fair and competitive bidding on public works projects. PLAs drive up the cost of construction by reducing competition and effectively excluding merit shop contractors and their employees from building projects paid for by their own tax dollars. IEC is engaged in stopping the proliferation of these agreements from spreading, as well as actively working to curtail the use of PLAs through legislation.
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)
Created in the 1930s, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is an independent federal agency that protects the rights of private-sector employees and is charged with conducting elections for labor union representation and with investigating and remedying unfair labor practices. Over the years, the NLRB has pursued an activist agenda to create an environment to effectively dismantle the merit shop contractor. By being aggressive, IEC, along with other like-minded groups, has successfully worked to counter many threats.
However several pending issues, such as the Board’s proposal to shorten the time period for union elections from a median of 38 days to as few as 10, have yet to be resolved. This proposed change to election procedures would leave employers almost no time to speak with their employees about the impact of unionization on their workplace and benefits and cuts the time workers have to review all of the facts and make an informed decision about their representation.
IEC recently submitted comments to the docket for the NLRB’s proposed rule and continues to aggressively advocate for a legislative solution to prohibit further action on this flawed and needless attempt to change longstanding election procedures.
IEC also awaits a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Noel Canning v. NLRB, a case challenging the constitutionality of President Obama’s 2012 appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Should the Court uphold an earlier ruling by the D.C. Circuit, which found the appointments to be invalid as the Senate did not confirm the members and was in session at the time they were placed on the Board, hundreds of case decisions made during the members’ tenure with the NLRB could be challenged.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
OSHA oversees safety regulations in the workplace. IEC takes worker safety very seriously, but guards against excessive and burdensome regulations that impact job creation, industry growth, and added costs. IEC contractors are required to comply with OSHA CFR 29 1926 when performing construction, and OSHA CFR 1910 when performing general industry items such as certain service work.
IEC closely monitors OSHA’s regulatory agenda and the activities of OSHA’s Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH). IEC follows pending regulation and regulatory actions and responds appropriately to ensure worker safety is not comprised, but also no unnecessary burdens are assumed by employers. In addition, IEC is a member of the OSHA Alliance, which is committed to bringing employer groups together with OSHA to discuss matters of importance on worker safety, and to engage in a meaningful dialogue.
Most recently, IEC submitted comments to OSHA expressing strong concerns about two of its proposed rules – one to revise the federal standard for exposure to crystalline silica, and another that would require businesses to submit their OSHA 300 injury and illness logs electronically and make that information publicly available and searchable.
Small Business Administration (SBA)
Under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (SBREFA), various federal agencies must conduct a review of regulatory actions to determine its impact on small businesses prior to publishing a proposed rule. IEC is extremely involved with the SBA and actively serves as an advisor to the agency on issues of safety that impact small businesses. IEC presently has a member seated on an SBREFA panel to represent industry members on OSHA’s proposed regulatory Injury and Illness Prevention Program (I2P2).
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
The EPA operates under a broad range of federal statutes, authorizing them to be involved in a variety of issues, including energy codes for residential and commercial buildings, lead paint hazard exposure, and toxic chemical substance handling. IEC is regularly engaged with the EPA to address any issues impacting the industry, most recently on the agency’s attempt to expand provisions of a 2008 rule governing lead-based paint exposure in residential buildings to commercial and public buildings. The initial rule had a major impact on contractors renovating older homes that used lead-based paint. IEC alerted our chapters on the need for training and certification, and now is vehemently advocating against the expansion of the scope of this regulation. The EPA has yet to define what actually constitutes a “dangerous level of lead” as it applies to public and commercial facilities, which is required of the agency under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Not to mention, there are already other regulations in place (i.e. OSHA’s Lead in Construction Standard) that govern exposures to hazards. EPA’s proposal has the potential to create huge problems for the construction industry.