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Do you have any idea how hot it's been down here?  It's MISERABLE.  Heat indexes over 100 degrees, 100% humidity.  The minute - no, the second - you walk outside, your glasses instantly fog up, you can feel the sun burning your skin, and you start to sweat in places that only Boudreaux's Butt Paste should go.  For someone like me who has a fair complexion and DESPISES any temperature over 85 degrees, well, let's just say that I'm what you consider an indoor person.  You won't see me laying out to get a tan, gardening, or just sitting in the sun reading a book.  I'd rather sit in the air conditioning and not break a sweat, thank you very much.

So, does that give you (those that live in places that have four seasons every year) an idea of how stifling the heat is?  Well, now imagine having to wear a white protective plastic suit from head to toe, rubber boots and gloves in these conditions.    And for the relief workers that walk the coast collecting gobs of oil for a mere $10-15 per hour, this is commonplace.  From what I've read, not all of the relief workers are wearing suits.  Those who do work for 20 minutes, then rest and rehydrate for 40.  Those who don't have to wear them (and WHY wouldn't they?) work 40 minutes, rest for 20.  You couldn't get me to work under those conditions for $100 an hour.  I salute those workers and respect them tremendously for what they're doing.

Let's review.  We have horribly stifling heat while wearing plastic suits.  But wait!  There's more!  Not only do you get the heat and suits for the low, low price of $10-15 per hour, you get bonus gifts as well - for free!  What an incredible value!  You get to inhale hydrocarbons, Xylene and the overwhelmingly popular cancer causing agent - Benzyne!!  Wait - what?  You don't think that's a great deal? Well, take it up with BP and OSHA.  While you're waiting for their call, and particularly if you live near the coast, make sure to hold your breath while they have you on hold.  

Did you know that the relief workers are getting very extensive training  before being put out on the job?  You didn't?  That's probably because they're not.  They're getting four hours.  Yes, four, not the forty they should be getting, along with a Hazwopper certification.  There are even reports that workers, both on land and water, are not being provided the respirators they should have.  Within a two mile radius of the blowout, dozens of ships and several hundred workers are in close proximity, and the health risks are even higher than those on land, because they've started burning the oil, which runs the risk of putting significant amounts of toxins in the air.  Expert after expert report how dangerous these conditions could be.  There are also many reports of how BP is not providing the necessary safety equipment.  Unfortunately, since the economy is in a slump and BP has effectively destroyed three major industries in southern Louisiana, people are desperate for jobs.  It has been suggested that there are many oil spill-related illnesses and side effects that largely go unreported because workers need the money and don't want to risk losing a job.  Have you heard about the waiver they had to sign before being put to work, absolving BP of any liability over $5,000?  It makes me cringe to read about all of this.  Is this really 2010?  With these working conditions, it sounds more like 1910.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will note that by and large, there have been roughly 100 illnesses reported so far.  Given that there are supposedly 24,000 relief workers down here (and about 20 are actually working the Louisiana coast, from what I hear), 100 is not that bad, particularly since most of them did not report serious symptoms and workers recovered quickly.  There are reports that extensive air quality tests are being performed all over the Gulf Coast and on board sea vessels, and yet (as of the time I wrote this) no significant levels of various pollutants have been found.  At this point, we may find that the long term effects will be far more devastating than the short term ones, but since there have never been any studies conducted for situations like this, scientists and health experts are officially finding themselves in an on-the-job training program.  Now that I think about it, everyone from the President down are learning as they go on this one.  

When there is adversity, we often get to see what people are really made of, based on how they handle significant challenges and difficulties.  So far, we've seen incompetence, idiocy, and systematic failure - but we've also seen tremendous strength, resourcefulness, support and dedication.  I'll let you draw your own conclusions as to who these words should apply to.

We are in unchartered territory, folks.  





*These comments are solely the opinions and observations of the author, and do not represent the views of this website or any other person or entity.

Did you know that the Washington DC area has the highest rate of residents with a college degree in the nation?  Yep, at 47%.  Many of these college-educated are taking up the trades and choosing blue collar careers.  The Washington Post featured an article about this trend and a couple of our apprentices from our Diaries Series- Adam Osielski and Rateeluck Puvapiromquan were interviewed.

"They started out studying aerospace engineering, creative writing and urban planning. But somewhere on the path to accumulating academic credentials, they decided that working with their hands sounded more pleasant -- and lucrative -- than a lot of white-collar work. So bye-bye to term papers and graduate theses, and hello to apprenticeships to become plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics and carpenters." 

Know of any apprentices with a similar path?  Share them with us!

The BP Oil Spill drama continues.  Now concerned parties of the Gulf Coast have heinous photos of crude oil-drenched brown pelicans and thick, smelly gobs of oil that are practically solid in mass to hold up and say, “Told you so.” 

This is going to get so much worse before it gets better.

When I had time to sit down last week and really look at these photos, I was literally moved to tears, and I am not the type of person to be moved easily in this way.  Crying is a very rare occurrence for me.  I’ll be honest and admit that I am also the type of person who has never really been overly concerned with environmental matters.  Sure, I’m concerned on a basic level.  I try to recycle when possible.  I cut the plastic rings that hold a six pack (of soda) together so that it won’t strangle a bird that is hovering around a landfill.  I believe that this nation needs to develop more “green” efficiencies to limit long term negative effects on our natural resources.  However, my environmental beliefs are similar to my Catholic ones:  I know what they are, I believe in the reasons why I should live up to them, but more times than not, my beliefs are a little more relaxed than they should be.  Well, needless to say, my outlook has changed considerably over the past month, and I’m certainly not the only one.  This entire catastrophe is, in a warped way, an environmentalist’s dream/nightmare come true, in that perhaps FINALLY the people in this country will realize how imperative it is that we figure out new ways to develop new sources of energy in order to limit our use of the old ones.  I, for one, have finally seen the light.  I suppose it’s easier to see when you’re living in a state whose coast is turning into an oil cesspool, and as a result, its economic livelihood hovers on the brink of ruin and wildlife along the coast is dying from being covered in sludge.

 Since registered apprenticeship is obviously near and dear to my heart, my thoughts keep drifting back to the eleven rig workers that lost their lives.  In the midst of this disaster, they seem to have become a mere afterthought.  I’ve been trying to find information on the web that would provide insight into the type of training BP requires of their rig workers, but so far, nothing specific has come up in my myriad of searches.  I’m not giving up yet, though.

In the meantime, slowly but surely, information (whether it’s conjecture or accurate remains to be seen) is starting to trickle out to the public regarding the working conditions on the Deepwater Horizon.  They were understaffed and overworked.  Safety precautions were ignored in the interest of budgetary concerns.  Lack of effective communication.  Inattentiveness.  Ongoing violations of OSHA regulations.  The list goes on and on.

 

The word on the street is that this has been the status quo for a long time, and big oil fights any attempts by federal agencies to tighten their regulations.  According to an article written by Marcus Baram of the Huffington Post, an oil industry group, in response to proposed regulations, used this as an argument:  “What do hurricanes and new rules have in common?  Both are disruptive to operations and are costly to recover from.”  Are you kidding me with this?  Man, I bet they’re feeling pretty stupid right about now.  The cost of implementing stricter regulations versus causing the largest oil spill in U.S. history?  I’m not a math whiz by any stretch, but I think the least expensive route to go is obvious, don’t you?  Or perhaps the more important question should be - Why didn’t they?

 

From a state apprenticeship agency standpoint, adhering to regulations is par for the course.  Would it be nice to be able to run amok, not be regulated by the Office of Apprenticeship, do whatever we darn well please?  Sure!  Yet, ultimately, that would lead to the complete destruction of registered apprenticeship as a cohesive system in this country, and would not serve its ultimate purpose for existing – to protect the best interest of the apprentices, and provide a rigorous framework for training highly skilled workers.  It would, in some states, certainly lead to much more relaxed regulations.  The flip side of that is the fact that some states wouldn’t even implement registered apprenticeship at all, if given the choice. 

 

My bottom line is this.  Just because oil companies are big, big money, it doesn’t give them the right to make up their own rules.  I think this oil spill makes that abundantly clear.  So, I hope that this makes everyone stop and take notice, for the sake of the numerous oil rig workers who have lost their lives or been injured in a rig accident over the years, and finally result in tighter regulations and stricter training requirements for the industry.  This is a wake-up call, people.  This was a completely avoidable catastrophe that can be blamed in some way, shape or form on all of us, from consumers that depend far too heavily on oil for fuel, oil companies that seem to operate under the impression that they can operate under limited regulations and ignore OSHA standards, to the federal government.  We all play a role in this, and in the end, we should all be held responsible.

 

Stay tuned for the next installment of “The Oil Spot” –  “Clean Up Efforts:  Yet Even More Workers We’re Putting at Risk.”

 

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA APPRENTICESHIP COUNCIL

 

 

The D.C. Apprenticeship Council was established by Public Law 387, 79th   Congress on May 21, 1946. The District of Columbia Apprenticeship Council is a regulatory board, which consists of eleven (11) members as follows: Three (3) representatives from employer organizations, three (3) representatives from employee organizations, three (3) public representatives and two (2) government representatives. Currently, there are two (2) vacancies for labor representative.

 

LEGISLATION:

 

 The District of Columbia has a mandatory apprenticeship requirement under D.C. Law 2-156, which is an amendment to the District of Columbia Apprenticeship Act. This mandatory law requires prime contractors and subcontractors, who receive contracts to perform construction/renovation work on District government assisted projects with a single contract or cumulative contracts of at least $500,000.00 or more within a twelve month period, are required to register an apprenticeship program with the D.C. Apprenticeship Council. Apprenticeship registration under this law does not limit apprenticeship training obligations on government assistance project. This law was initially established in 1978.

 

In 2004, the District government passed new legislation as amendment to D.C. Law 2-156 that requires all prime contractors and subcontractors that perform work on any DC government assisted project to employ at least 35% District residents as apprentices on a trade-by-trade basis. Violators of the new legislation are subject to monetary fine of 5%  direct and indirect total labor cost of the violator’s contract. During this fiscal year (October 1, 2009 to present), the DC Apprenticeship Office monitoring of District government assisted projects revealed that between 49% to 67% DC residents were employed as apprentices.

 

New Apprenticeship Programs

 

During Fiscal Year 2009, sixty-four (64) new apprenticeship programs were registered with the DC Office of Apprenticeship. Among the new programs approved was the District of Columbia Department of Public Works, which became the city’s first government agency to become an apprenticeship sponsor for the occupation of automotive specialist technician. Six (6) apprentices have selected for the program and are employed as government employees at the agency’s fleet division servicing government vehicles, including green vehicles. In addition to the apprentices learning their on-the-job training at the work site, the agency enrolled the apprentices at Montgomery College to receive related instruction in three (3) credit courses. The Apprenticeship Office will be meeting with government officials at the city’s water department for discussions on the apprenticeship system for potential registration.

Apprenticeship Initiatives

 

The DC Apprenticeship Office has been successful assisting five (5) apprenticeship sponsors (3-unions and 2-non unions) to amend their apprenticeship standards to include the Step-Up apprenticeship initiative. Four (4) additional sponsors are reviewing this initiative for consideration. The Step-Up initiative is a tool that allows apprenticeship sponsors to register individuals as apprentices up to a twelve month period, who lack certain apprenticeship eligibility requirements. During the twelve month period, individuals registered as Step-Up apprentices can be employed in their chosen trade areas, including Davis-Bacon projects, which also taken steps to meet apprenticeship eligibility requirements such as, GED and/or required academic courses. Successful individuals are then transitioned to the sponsors’ regular apprenticeship programs. Currently, there are 20 Step-Up apprentices registered.

 

DC Apprenticeship Office also coordinated four (4) pre-apprenticeship training programs in partnership with union apprenticeship sponsors for eighty (80) DC residents to receive preparatory training in their chosen trade areas. The participating apprenticeship sponsors include: IBEW Local No. 26, Sheet Metal Workers Union Local No.100, Steamfitters Union JAC Local No.602 and Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship Committee. Successful completers of the pre-apprenticeship are guarantee acceptance as registered apprentices with the participating sponsors, provided individuals meet all apprenticeship eligibility requirements.    

 

Current Apprentices Registered:

 

Total Apprentices – 5,200

 

Minorities – 2,877

 

Females – 198

 

D.C. Residents – 1,001

 

The Director of the DC apprenticeship office is Lewis Brown

 

E-mail: lewis.brown@dc.gov

 

Submitted by John Griffin

jgriffbat@aol.com

 

 

Where Will You Be on June 24, 2010?

 

Hopefully, you are answering this question by saying Kansas City, MO. Why there? One word: SkillsUSA. If you have not taken the time to attend this event in the past, I highly encourage you to make plans to see our nation’s Champions at Work. So, how is this event related to RAPs? Simply put…both labor and management are remiss in our duties if we are not recruiting these talented secondary career and technical education students!

 

Make no mistake, these Champions have proven their skills and dedication to a number of trades and occupations with long-established ties to Registered Apprenticeship…this is our golden opportunity. Although the current economy may be weak, now is the time to prepare for the future. These Champions are our future!

 

For more info:

http://www.skillsusa.org/events/nlsc10.shtml