Oregon House OKs state contractor apprenticeship requirement

Also OKs worker layoff notification protection

SALEM, Ore. - The Oregon House approved legislation Monday that seeks to promote workforce development by requiring contractors to employ apprentices to perform at least 10 percent of the work done on certain public improvement projects.

Proponents of HB 2162, which passed the House by a vote of 53-3, said the bill will foster more productive public-private partnerships and provide Oregonians with invaluable on-the-job training experiences.

“This bill presents us with a golden opportunity to invest in the trade professionals of tomorrow by leveraging our purchasing power to promote apprenticeship opportunities today,” said Rep. Greg Barreto (R-Cove), who co-carried the bipartisan legislation.

“By setting minimum apprenticeship requirements for state contractors, we are taking a proactive approach to developing a more skilled workforce and putting Oregonians on the path to family-wage jobs and a successful career.”

Under the provisions of HB 2162, state contractors must employ apprentices to execute at least 10 percent of the work done on public improvement contracts valued in excess of $5 million.

The bill increases the apprentice work requirement to 12% in 2022, while also expanding the scope of the program to include contracts valued at $3 million or above by 2023.

The legislation includes exemptions for emergency situations and Department of Transportation projects. The measure also requires the Bureau of Labor and Industries to convene an advisory committee to track the program’s progress.

By setting minimum apprenticeship employment standards for state contractors, supporters say HB 2162 will provide more Oregon workers with greater opportunities to enroll in occupational training programs, giving them a leg up on trade and technical career opportunities as they enter the workforce.

The benefits of the program to Oregon taxpayers are two-fold, not only are their tax dollars being used to invest in training the next generation of trade workers in Oregon, but the apprenticeship requirement may also lower the overall cost of public improvement projects.

In written testimony submitted to the House Business and Labor Committee, the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters said, “Apprenticeship programs tend to lead to life long rewarding careers with decent family wages, healthcare, pensions and useful trade skills.” The carpenters union also testified that by setting minimum apprenticeship work requirements, Oregon taxpayers may see a decline in the cost of state projects.

“It stands to reason that when 10 percent or more of the hours worked on a publicly funded projected are paid at a reduced apprentice rate, the costs savings to the state and its taxpayers would be significant,” the union wrote.

Having passed the House, HB 2162 now heads to the Senate for further consideration.

In other action, the House voted 33-23 Monday to ensure workers continue to be notified when their employers intend mass layoffs.  

House Bill 2567, modeled after the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act), requires employers with 100 or more employees to provide 60 days' notice to employees and certain officials before ceasing operations, relocating or ordering a mass layoff involving 50 or more employees.

Rep. Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie) was the chief sponsor of the bill and carried it on the floor Monday.

“This is an attempt to eliminate, to the greatest extent possible, economic dislocation,” Witt said. “Through early notice, providers of services and the workers themselves can minimize the economic impact of these events.”

Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon (D-Woodburn) was a sponsor on the bill.

“This bill provides needed assurances for Oregonians,”  Alonso Leon said. “Too often, layoffs have devastating impacts to the financial well-being of individuals and families. With this, we can provide some certainty for Oregonians during challenging times.”

The bill now goes to the Senate. 

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