Lawmakers should require that apprentices participating in programs that meet federal and state Registered Apprenticeship standards perform at least 15 percent of their hours on large infrastructure projects. Lawmakers should also require that projects adopt a targeted hire initiative to establish hiring requirements and partnerships with community groups, so that affected groups—such as local residents, women, people of color, workers with disabilities, and other disadvantaged individuals—are able to access these jobs. These requirements are modeled after successful programs in Washington state, Alaska, San Francisco, and Los Angeles County.18
In industries and regions with few established Registered Apprenticeship programs or where established apprenticeship programs have little capacity to fulfill necessary training, any infrastructure bill should ensure partnership with the public workforce system and provide funding to labor-management intermediaries in order to develop apprenticeship or paid work-based learning programs.19
4. Respect workers’ rights to join a union
All workers who want to form a union should be able to do so. Despite enhanced protections to ensure that contract workers know their rights and to prevent companies from using government funds to fight the efforts of workers to form a union, workers seeking to unionize typically face an uphill battle.20
Subsidized employers are free to use their own funds to fight organizing efforts and often engage in sophisticated campaigns to prevent workers from forming unions.21 This can include forcing workers to attend anti-union meetings and pressuring workers to reveal their private preferences for the union. Moreover, President Trump repealed protections that ensured that service contractors provided workers employed on previous contracts a right of first refusal.22
All companies receiving federal infrastructure funds should be covered by existing collective bargaining protections for contract workers, and successor contractors should be required to provide a right of first refusal to workers. In addition, companies receiving federal support should be required to comply with the Protecting the Right to Organize Act.23 This means, for example, that firms could not force workers to attend anti-union meetings or sign arbitration agreements that would get rid of their rights; moreover, they would have to give workers the ability to communicate with each other about collective issues. Congress could go even further to support worker voice by requiring local agencies overseeing major hubs of work, such as airport authorities, to develop boards bringing together worker and employer representatives to establish ongoing workplace standards, including required minimum pay, benefits, scheduling, training, and staffing levels.