News Detail

SWACCA Secures Hard Fought Victory with DOL Proposed Rule to Rescind Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs

SWACCA is pleased to report that yesterday, to begin National Apprenticeship Week, the Department of Labor (DOL) published a SWACCA-advocated proposed rule to rescind completely the DOL’s March 11, 2020 final rule authorizing Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs) (IRAP Rule). Comments on the proposal are due January 14, 2022. SWACCA intends to submit comments before the deadline in support of the proposed full rescission.

SWACCA has been lobbying since the Biden Administration took office to ensure that this rule is fully repealed and not slowly wound down or allowed to remain on the books in some kind of hiatus. In the proposed rule, DOL advances the course of action SWACCA has advocated by expressly rejecting a “sunset” period during which IRAPs would operate for a set number of years before the DOL ceased recognition. DOL also proposes to affirm SWACCA’s calls to not allow IRAPs to be recast as “Certified Work-Based Learning.” DOL also credits the concerns SWACCA and its allies have raised since the beginning of the IRAP proposal that the IRAP system raises serious issues regarding protections of workers in these programs. 

This victory has been a long time coming for SWACCA, which began its opposition to IRAPs back in 2017 when then-President Trump issued an Executive Order on “Expanding Apprenticeships in America.” Under the Trump Administration, SWACCA worked to get DOL to exclude IRAP apprentices from Davis-Bacon coverage in subregulatory guidance promulgated before a proposed rule was issued. SWACCA lobbied the DOL and the Administration for a construction exemption from IRAPs and reinforced this advocacy in multiple sets of written comments SWACCA submitted to the Task Force on Apprenticeship expansion in November 2018 in response to an information collection request titled, “Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs Accrediting Information,” and in comments on the proposed IRAP rule in August 2019. This led to DOL initially implementing IRAPs during the pendency of a proposed rule to formalize IRAPs without opening it to construction. SWACCA then succeeded in having this construction exemption carried forward into the proposed rule. We then joined our union partners and allies in an unprecedented comment letter campaign to retain this exemption in the final rule. Throughout this time, we successfully lobbied Congress to preclude taxpayer funding for IRAPs.

While a construction exemption from IRAPs was in the final rule issued in March 2020, SWACCA pursued a full repeal of the IRAP Rule so that a future Administration could not simply remove the construction exemption and permit IRAPs in our industry.

During the Biden transition after the 2020 election, SWACCA urged the new Administration to fully rescind the IRAP Rule. This early engagement bore fruit in February 2021 when the Biden Administration issued an Executive Order directing a freeze on IRAPs and directed DOL to rescind the Trump-era executive order creating IRAPs.

The issuance of yesterday’s proposed rule is the culmination of over four years of focused and disciplined legislative and regulatory advocacy across two administrations. SWACCA will remain focused on complete victory by continuing our advocacy until the proposed recission is final and effective.

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