Alaska lawmakers push to drop labor regulatory change

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Some Alaska lawmakers want the state to drop a proposed regulatory change they believe undermines plumber and electrician workforce development.

A group of 18 legislators sent a letter Monday opposing a state Department of Labor proposal to end a requirement for 8,000 apprenticeship hours toward a journeyman certificate of fitness, KTVA-TV reported.

The department would allow prospective plumbers and electricians to pursue the certification outside the federally registered apprenticeship program, but would also require 12,000 hours.

The letter to Labor Commissioner Tamika Ledbetter that was signed by Democrats, Republicans and independents called the proposal a “nebulous 'trainee' standard.”

The change would restore a standard that was eliminated in 2006, Deputy Labor Commissioner Cathy Munoz said.

“What we're saying now is that going forward we propose to keep the federally required apprenticeship in place but to allow an additional pathway for Alaskans who are not able, for whatever reason, to participate in an apprenticeship program through the electrician or the plumbing union,” Munoz said.

The proposed regulation undercuts the system currently in place and fixes something that is not broken, Democratic Rep. Zack Fields said.

“What’s so crazy about is that this is a system that is privately funded training by the industry. It’s nationally recognized. It has national oversight through the federal Department of Labor office of apprenticeship. Why would we mess it up," said Fields, who worked at the Department of Labor for three years under former Labor Commissioner Heidi Drygas.

A public comment period for the proposal has expired, but Munoz said there are about 200 comments to review before a final decision is made.

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