President Biden on Wednesday touted an expansion of apprenticeship programs that are often run by his union allies, even as he prepares to dissolve a Trump-era apprentice program that unions have openly declared as a threat.
Biden delivered a speech at the White House on how his legislative victories expanded apprenticeship programs through his administration’s “Talent Pipeline Challenge.” That initiative aims to “support equitable workforce development” in three employment sectors: broadband, construction and electrification, which are predominately unionized fields.
The White House said this effort will allow 150 employers, unions and other organizations to create or expand programs that help workers develop skills on the job.
Biden hosted an extensive list of unions for the event, which featured a speech from an apprentice with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Other unions in attendance included the Teamsters and Communications Workers of America.
“Companies, many of you are here, are forging partnerships with unions, community college, local nonprofits to create apprenticeships that train workers to develop the necessary skills,” Biden said.
Biden’s support for this particular apprenticeship program is a sharp contrast to his decision to end the Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program (IRAP) later this month through an executive order he signed last year. The Trump administration established IRAP in 2020 to expand federally-funded apprenticeships to industries with high demand and expected growth.
More than 100 programs have since been recognized, and the common profession that benefited from the program was nursing, a field that currently has a shortage after the COVID-19 pandemic. IRAP helped employers launch new apprenticeship programs without direct approval from federal or state agencies and was anticipated to help create 2 million new apprenticeships over the next decade.
Biden’s decision to scrap that program followed pressure from Democratic leadership and their union allies who argued IRAP lacked oversight from the Department of Labor and limited resources towards already effective apprenticeships. Top labor union federations, such as the AFL-CIO, North America’s Building Trades Unions and Laborers’ International Union of North America, praised Biden after his announcement to end the program.
“President Biden and Vice President Harris recognized that IRAPs were a threat to union workers,” the Laborers’ International Union of North America posted on its website.
IRAP supporters said Biden’s remarks this week made it clear he is acting on behalf of union allies who want to keep apprenticeship programs in industries with higher level of union involvement.
“IRAPs proved to be successful in bringing apprenticeship programs to new industries, mitigated some of the nursing shortage we have faced throughout the pandemic, and expanded the number of women who participated in apprenticeships,” Frank Ricci, a labor fellow at the Yankee Institute, told Fox News Digital. “The future of work will be increasingly dynamic, and the Biden administration’s continued undermining of bottom-up economic development in favor of a bloated bureaucracy and labor cronyism hurts the very people they claim to be helping.”
Greg Mourad, vice president of the National Right to Work Committee, added that the end of IRAP is a reward from Biden to his union allies.
“This is another example of Biden throwing workers under the bus just to magnify the power of his big labor buddies, something we can sadly expect more of as Biden and his allies increasingly depend on forced-dues-backed union political muscle to push through their increasingly unpopular agenda,” Mourad told Fox News Digital.
Rep. Virginia Foxx, R.-N.C., who serves as the ranking member of the House Committee on Education and Labor, agreed that Biden ended IRAP to maintain federal control of local programs.
“Unfortunately, President Biden ended IRAPs because he wants to expand the federal government’s control over the American workforce and drive workers into predominantly union-run apprenticeships,” Foxx told Fox News Digital. “This is the kind of political stunt that puts special interests and government bureaucracy over the needs of American workers. It is entirely unwarranted.”
The White House declined to comment, but its press releases regarding Biden’s decision to end IRAP argued the program undermined already effective apprenticeships overseen by the Department of Labor.
Apprentices receive training at their place of employment to develop skills for higher paying jobs, and these programs are most often established through a partnership between employers and labor unions. This is in large part due to the prevalence of the programs in industries with high levels of unionization, such as the three sectors Biden highlighted this week.
Labor unions donated $27.5 million to Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign and its affiliated groups.
Biden often boasts he is the most pro-labor union president in history. He pushed Congress to pass the PRO Act, which would end right-to-work laws that ban union membership as a term of employment in more than a dozen states but stalled in the Senate. Biden has boosted national union influence through several appointments of former labor leaders to the National Labor Relations Board, which is the nation’s top labor arbiter.
Jennifer Abruzzo, a former attorney for the Communications Workers of America, was appointed by Biden to serve as the general counsel at the NLRB.