Prevailing Wage: What is it, and why is it important?

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Today the Nevada legislature heard arguments for Nevada Assembly Bill 136, sponsored by Assemblymen Frierson, Benitez Thompson, Carlton, McCurdy, Daly; Assefa, Backus, Bilbray-Axelrod, Carrillo, Cohen, Duran, Flores, Fumo, Gorelow, Jauregui, Martinez, Miller, Monroe-Moreno, Munk, Neal, Nguyen, Peters, Spiegel, Sprinkle, Swank, Thompson, Torres, Watts, and Yeager. Special thanks to Nevada State Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson and Government Affairs Chair Edgar Flores for introducing this bill to protect Nevada’s workers, communities, and contractors.

Nevada AB136 proposes changes to the way that prevailing wage requirements are determined for public construction projects in Nevada. If passed, the bill would require public and charter school construction projects to pay 100% of the prevailing wage to construction workers on those projects, instead of the 90% they now pay. The bill would also lower the project budget threshold for prevailing wage requirements on Nevada public works projects from $250,000 to $100,000, and remove specific requirements for the way the labor commissioner determines the prevailing wage. Finally, the bill would allow the prevailing wage to be challenged by any public body, labor organization, or contractor in the project’s county within 30 days of prevailing wage determination.

So why is that important? What does it mean for Nevada?

Prevailing wage laws are public checks against the practice by some contractors of slashing wages for construction labor in order to compete on price for public construction projects, like schools. Under prevailing wage laws, contractors awarded public projects must agree to pay wages the labor commissioner has determined to be the prevailing—or statistically average—wage in the county where the project is located.

Studies show that when prevailing wage laws are weak or non-existent, communities and individuals are negatively impacted. These impacts include erosions to workforce development efforts, increased safety hazards and higher injury rates on the job, and lower—sometimes significantly—wages and benefits for workers, which directly impacts county economic health.

Research also shows that the presence of prevailing wages laws does not increase project costs, which suggests that higher wages offset losses due to unskilled labor, injuries, and decreased productivity when no prevailing wage exists. Prevailing wage laws are also shown to increase workforce diversity and participation in apprenticeship programs.

A robust, skilled labor workforce is critical to Nevada’s future. Nevada Assembly Bill 136 will ensure that the viability, safety, and diversity of our state’s construction apprenticeship programs and workforce will be protected, can grow to meet the challenges of Nevada’s growth, and provide living wage jobs for working Nevadans—which benefits all of us.

Thank you again to Speaker Frierson and Chair Flores, and to the Nevada legislative members who sponsored and support this important bill.

Chart the Course: Educating Washoe County Students and Families About Earn-While-You-Learn College Opportunities

U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto stops by the Northern Nevada building trades booth to chat with Dian VanderWell and Rob Benner at Chart the Course.

U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto stops by the Northern Nevada building trades booth to chat with Dian VanderWell and Rob Benner at Chart the Course.

So many students flounder trying to find their way through college and into a rewarding career. Many of them end up unemployed or under-employed after graduation, often saddled with thousands in student debt. And we now know that this generation’s massive collective student debt has had repercussions on our economy that we’ll feel for decades to come. Educating Nevada’s students about debt-free, earn-while-you-learn opportunities for good-paying jobs in growing career fields is more important now than ever.

U.S. Senator Cortez Masto and Rob Benner, business representative for the Building & Construction Trades Council of N. Nevada.

U.S. Senator Cortez Masto and Rob Benner, business representative for the Building & Construction Trades Council of N. Nevada.

Thank you to the University of Nevada—Reno for hosting Chart the Course, an event for Washoe County middle- and high-school students and their families to explore a variety of education and career paths, including careers in the high-tech building trades. We loved having the opportunity to speak with Washoe County students and parents about our registered paid apprenticeship programs—a college education that pays students to learn!—and the limitless and varied career opportunities that exist today in the in-demand building and construction industry.

We’d also like to thank Truckee Meadows Community College and the Washoe County School District’s Career & Technical Education (CTE) program, and a special shout-out and thank you to Nevada’s U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto for stopping by, and for her support of registered apprenticeships and the Nevada building trades!

Do you have the mettle to complete the 2019 Ironworkers Gladiator Bootcamp Training Course?

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Do you know someone who deserves not just a better job, but a rewarding, well-paying career they can be proud of? How about paid university-level training and benefits from day one? Tell them to join us for the:

2019 IRONWORKERS GLADIATOR BOOTCAMP TRAINING COURSE

The Ironworkers Union Local 118 is accepting a maximum of 25 participants for a free two-week bootcamp. This intensive course will train participants in the skills required for a great job in the in-demand ironwork industry. Those with the mettle to complete this two-week bootcamp will have the opportunity to join the paid apprenticeship program at the Ironworkers Local 118. Starting wage for an Ironworker apprentice is $19.50/hour plus benefits.

The Ironworkers Gladiator Bootcamp runs Monday through Friday, March 18-29, 7:00 AM – 3:30 PM.

If you or someone you know is interested in this great opportunity to build a brighter future in the high-tech building and construction trades, register below to attend the mandatory pre-bootcamp orientation session on Friday, March 8 from 10am to Noon (late attendees will not be accepted) at The University of Iron, 14295 Mt. Bismark St in Reno.

No experience necessary. Women encouraged to apply! Must be 18 years of age with a H.S. diploma/GED, reliable transportation, and able to lift and carry a minimum of 70 lbs. Must pass on-site drug screen to be accepted into the program.

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I have read the above and agree to these terms of the 2019 Ironworkers Gladiator Bootcamp Training Course *

Referral letters from local contractors or other relevant organizations or individuals are accepted, but optional. If you have a referral letter, please bring it with you to the orientation session on March 8 and submit it by the end of the session.

BCTNN's Rob Benner and IBEW Local 401's Michelle Abel talk workforce development and good jobs on the Cheri Hill Show

Trade union representatives Rob Benner and Michelle Abel talk about the new landscape of construction jobs with Cheri Hill. Image courtesy of the Cheri Hill Show.

Trade union representatives Rob Benner and Michelle Abel talk about the new landscape of construction jobs with Cheri Hill. Image courtesy of the Cheri Hill Show.

Two champions of the Northern Nevada building trades—Michelle Abel, journeyman electrician and union organizer at IBEW Local 401, and Rob Benner, business representative at the Building & Construction Trades Council of Northern Nevada—sat down with local radio host Cheri Hill on Thursday, February 14 to talk shop about local construction growth, the changing definition of higher education, what career success really means, and why skilled workforce development is critical to the future of our region.

“If we can’t build it, they can’t come,” said Benner of the skilled workforce shortage that stands to put the brakes on unprecedented growth in the Reno-Sparks metropolitan area. “It doesn’t matter how attractive Nevada is to business, it doesn’t matter what incentives we offer—if we can’t build the facilities these companies need, they won’t be able to move here. And if they can’t move here, then we don’t get the data center jobs, we don’t get the advanced manufacturing jobs.”

Filling that need requires educating everyone from graduating high school students to parents and educators to local community and political leaders to the job-seeking public about paid apprenticeship programs in local building and construction trades, most of which allow apprentices to earn free college credits—even full associate degrees—while in the program, but without the burden of student debt that often comes with higher education.

Listen to the full interview (26 minutes)

Jerry David, IBEW Local 401 brother and community leader, will be missed

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The Northern Nevada building trades community extends its deepest condolences to the loved ones of IBEW 401 brother and former business manager Jerry David and his wife of 52 years, Sherri, who were found dead in their south Reno home last month.

Jerry David was initiated into the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 401 on March 6, 1958, and served the IBEW community for a total of 61 years—from his apprenticeship with Acme Collins Electric to his retirement as Local 401 business manager in 1999 at the age of 62. He later served as the president of the Reno Rodeo, of which he and Sherri had been long-time members.

Union, community, and business leaders remember Mr. David for his generosity in leadership, his drive and commitment to his work, and his ability to bridge connections in the labor and management community. He had strong and long-lasting relationships with area contractors, and his impact on IBEW and the local building and construction trades—and the greater Reno-Sparks community—won’t be forgotten.


Build a great career while helping us build the #NewNevada

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Heads up, job seekers: Here's your opportunity to kick-start a great new career in the building and construction trades. Paid training, good wages and benefits, and an awesome group of people to work with on interesting projects around Reno-Sparks.

Stop by 570 Reactor Way in Reno to pick up an application for a free orientation, or call 775-856-0169 for more information. Women encouraged to apply!

As automation tech threatens hospitality and manufacturing Nevada jobs, the construction industry booms

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“In general, the more skilled the labor and geographically-varied the worksites, the more protected the job. The construction industry has certainly become more high-tech and will continue to do so—jobs that were considered mostly manual labor even a decade ago are looking a lot more like engineering today—yet construction is still considered to be one of the industries least at risk for automation. Too many variables and situation-specific issues make it a poor candidate for job-bots (who really like predictability!), and things like mobility and manual dexterity are still the prime domain of humans, and the construction industry relies heavily on both of those. So it’s good news for Nevada that construction and development are one of the most robust sectors of our economy.”

Read more at ThisIsReno.com. (paywall)

National Apprenticeship Week Builds Awareness for Workforce Training and Job Opportunities in Northern Nevada

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It’s been an exciting year for the Northern Nevada building and construction trades, and last week—#NationalApprenticeshipWeek—was certainly the pinnacle, as we welcomed proclamations from Washoe County and the cities of Reno and Sparks officially recognizing November 12-18 as National Apprenticeship Week, hosted hundreds of future tradeswomen at the 2018 Building Women Career Fair, and had a great time celebrating our 90th anniversary at Fantasies in Chocolate. Let’s recap!

NATIONAL APPRENTICESHIP WEEK RECOGNIZED IN NORTHERN NEVADA

N.A.W. has been recognized in several other cities across the U.S. since 2015, and this year we’re excited and honored to add the cities of Reno and Sparks and Washoe County to that list, as all three issued proclamations officially recognizing November 12-18 as National Apprenticeship Week. We thank the members of Reno City Council, Sparks City Council, and the Washoe County Commission for their vision and leadership in making this important recognition for local workforce training programs.

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THE 2018 BUILDING WOMEN CAREER FAIR

On Friday, November 16 we co-sponsored this career fair built for women of all ages with our apprenticeship recruitment partners at the Northern Nevada Apprenticeship Coordinator’s Association (NNACA). Hundreds of young women filled the TMCC Pennington Applied Technology Center to learn about building and construction trade apprenticeship opportunities, hear from local tradeswomen, and even experience hands-on and via virtual reality what it’s like to weld pipe, construct a frame, and paint a wall.

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We’d like to thank Truckee Meadows Community College for hosting us, and the Nevada Office of Workforce Innovation (OWINN) and the Nevada Chapter of Associated General Contractors for co-sponsoring the event.

A shout out to members of the Sheet Metal Workers Local 26, UA Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 350, Painters and Allied Trades Local 567, NV Energy, Heat and Frost Insulators Local 16, Laborer’s Local 169, TMCC’s welding department, the Operating Engineers Local 3, and IBEW Local 401, BuildNV, the Northern Nevada Literacy Council, Wells Fargo, the Community Services Agency (CSA), the International Code Council, and Sierra Nevada Job Corp for running booths and exhibits to give participants a well-rounded look at career opportunities in advanced construction and the high-tech trades.

Finally, a very special thank you to our local tradeswomen—Anita Eveland from the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 350, Jessica Collins from the Heat + Frost Insulators Local 16, Jolene DeLisa from the Laborers Local 169, Nicole Perez from IBEW 401, and Nanette Quitt from NV Energy—for coming out to talk to, share stories with, and inspire the next generation of tradeswomen in Northern Nevada.


FANTASIES IN CHOCOLATE

We celebrated Reno’s 150th birthday, and our 90th anniversary, at the 2018 Fantasies in Chocolate fundraiser at the Grand Sierra on Saturday evening, November 17. We were excited to be a part of this legendary fundraiser for the Reno Gazette-Journal Foundation, and our members got to work right away building what we don’t mind saying was likely the most unique and eye-catching booth in the history of Fantasies in Chocolate. 👍 🛠

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We had a great time talking to folks about our work in the community and our paid apprenticeship programs, and handing out (and eating) some seriously delicious chocolate chip + peppermint cookies from Rounds Bakery. Many thanks to Rounds, and to Artkore in Las Vegas for printing up some fun giveaways, and to RGJ for inviting us. It was a great way to celebrate 90 years devoted to training, advancing, and supporting the men and women who build Northern Nevada.

Indeed, it’s been a great year for our building trades, and we’re using that energy and momentum to build a number of new programs and initiatives in 2019. Stay tuned!

Women's Construction Career Fair Aims to Demolish Gender-Based Myths About The Construction Trades

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Electricians and IBEW Local 401 sisters Michelle Abell and Nicole Perez

The future may be female, but those building it—at least right now—are still mostly male. The annual Building Women Career Fair, hosted by the Northern Nevada Apprenticeship Coordinators Association (NNACA) and sponsored by the Building and Construction Trades Council of Northern Nevada and the State of Nevada’s Office of Workforce Innovation, aims to change that by hammering away at the myths that keep women from pursuing careers in construction. 

The fair, which welcomes women (and men!) of all ages, happens on Friday, November 16, 2018 at the TMCC Applied Technology Center at 475 Edison Way in Reno. The event is part of National Apprenticeship Week, and runs from 9:30a to 3p. Virtual reality stations and cool, hands-on building activities in trades like welding, sheet metal, pipefitting and more will give attendees a chance to interact with equipment and safely sample the on-the-job experience of painting a room or welding pipe. Local tradeswomen will be on hand to answer questions about what it’s really like to be a woman working in construction, and to help interested women navigate the application process for paid apprenticeships they can start right out of high school.

“Women have proven again and again that they’re just as hardworking and capable, and in some cases even outperform, men in the building trades,” says NNACA trades apprenticeship recruiter Dian VanderWell, “but nobody’s telling young women that. The myth still persists that it’s still a career most suited to men, or that the trades aren’t a progressive career option for women. We’d like to change that, and this career fair is a good start.”

Despite construction’s industry’s paid training, high wages, and good benefits, the national average of women working in the trades is still at just under 10%—but that needle is beginning to move. Most tradeswomen report that they’ve often been the only woman on a given job site, but are starting to see more of their female counterparts—referred to in the trade unions as sisters—on the job. In some areas, all-female work crews have been spotted, and Habitat for Humanity has begun assembly all-female construction crews in some areas. And women-owned construction companies are on the rise. It’s estimated that within ten years, women will comprise as much as 25% of the construction workforce.

Last month, more than 2,000 tradeswomen from around the world, including large groups from Canada and smaller cohorts from Ireland and Nigeria, gathered in Seattle for the 8th annual Women Build Nations Conference—the third largest gathering of union members in the U.S.—to talk shop on issues ranging from recruitment and mentorship to career advancement and technology to the evergreen issues of sexism and harassment on the job. 

VanderWell, who attended the conference to learn what tradeswomen need to be successful, and to bring home ideas for recruiting more of them, says the mass of tradeswomen gathered in one place to help each other was inspiring. “These women are coming together not just at the conference, but in tight-knit women’s trades associations in their local areas, to help each other go farther in their careers and navigate some of the challenges. I’d like to see a group for tradeswomen in Northern Nevada gain traction. It’s been clear in our previous years that women of all ages are interested in these careers, but there’s still a barrier to tear down in getting them to take the step to apply, and then to stay.”

Robert Benner, business agent for the Building and Construction Trades Council of Northern Nevada, top sponsors of the annual Construction Career Day in Reno, agrees. “Yes it’s starting to change, but it’s still challenging to be a woman in the building trades, and we’ve got to keep working at making the environment supportive of women. We do that in part by bringing more women into these fields, having more women on our job sites, and then getting them on the path to leadership and fully supporting them in that.” 

What: Building Women Career Fair
When: Friday, November 16, 2018, 9:30a-3p
Where: TMCC Applied Tech Center, 475 Edison Way, Reno
More: https://www.facebook.com/events/182947265963489/

WATCH:
Eight Reno/Sparks area tradeswomen at all stages of their careers talk about what it's like working as a woman in the building and construction trades, and why they'd recommend a trades career to hardworking women who want to be financially independent.

Northern Nevada Union Leader Robert Benner honored at Virginia Demmler Honor Roll Dinner

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It was an event studded with some of Nevada’s brightest political figures at the Democratic Party of Washoe County’s annual Virginia Demmler Honor Roll Dinner and fundraiser at the Reno Ballroom last night, where Washoe Dems honored three community leaders for their exemplary work on behalf of the Democratic party. The 2018 Virginia Demmler honorees were Nevada State Senator Julia Ratti, Democratic Party of Washoe County Secretary and community advocate Dean Schermerhorn, and Northern Nevada Central Labor Council Secretary-Treasurer, Building Construction Trades Council of Northern Nevada Business Representative, and SMART Local 26 President Robert Benner.

Washoe Dems: “As a pillar in the labor community, Benner is heavily involved with several unions. Additionally, he is incredibly involved with the Democratic Party of Washoe County. Specifically he is the Chair of the Business Policy, Employee Rights, Economic Policy, Pay Equity, and Retirement Security committee.” 

Benner and his fellow honorees were welcomed by Nevada gubernatorial candidate Steve Sisolak, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, and Congresswoman and candidate for U.S. Senate Jacky Rosen. Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro was the event’s keynote. 

Benner used the spotlight to outline a brief modern history of labor in the U.S. and the wax-and-wane cycle of workers rights, ever-subject to current political climates, and to drive home the message that our country was founded on the principle that government—like unions—should be of the people, for the people, and by the people: 

“We have forgotten where we came from and how we got here. We need to pick  up where we left off: to elect people that are going to fight for workers, fight for small business, and fight for the middle class. We need to make it easier for workers to organize, unite, and move this country in the right  direction—the  direction of representation for all, the direction of prosperity for all, the direction of democracy for all.”

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The Virginia Demmler Honor Roll Dinner honors those whose service to the Democratic party and community honors that of the former Virginia Demmler, a lifelong activist whose work was instrumental to the success of the Democratic Party of Washoe County, where she served as chair and executive director.