I plan to have a letter and a web site both with roughly the same content.
Iím a small electrical contractor in business in California since 1975.
I employ several minority workers (some of them for over 15 years)
They got Gray Davis to sign a regulation which says that all non-union electrical workers must pass a union style journeyman examination, or stop working Jan 1 2005.
The alternative is to join an apprenticeship program
This may sound ok but here is where the story gets complicated -- The Devil is in the Details--
As a California Licensed Contractor I donít have to take the exam but if I donít I am required by law to fire all of my employees who canít pass the exam. I could theoretically hire a California Journeyman - the problem is that most all of them are in the Union (none of my employees can join the Union because the union requires a certain level of high school algebra.) Each journeyman can supervise only one employee.(Colorado more reasonably allows (1) journeyman to supervise 4 helpers).
Not to get too involved in the details the reality is this:
I have passed the test ****
None of my employees has been able to do so although they have tried.
I will be able to keep only one of my workers
I can no longer work in my own office because I must be on the job supervising my one worker.
In reality Iím out of business - just what the union wanted
--and itís all legal
There is no Grandfather Clause
The non-union contractors who figure out how to stay in business will be forced to go to a journeyman system. Most now work on an assembly line type of system. Most of the specialties can be learned in about 3 weeks time. If Ford Motor Company were to go to this system they would have to have a fully trained automobile mechanic at every position on the assembly line from painting to driving the finished car to the parking lot. Imagine what the price of a new vehicle would be. If applied to McDonalds restaurant each employee would be required to attend a five year restaurant training course and each graduate employee would be allowed to supervise only (1) trainee.
The larger issue is of course freedom. There is no data I know of which says there are any more accidents of electrical fires caused by union or non-union workers and contractors. Unions are fine in their pure form. The problem is that because they have priced themselves so high compared to the skill level of most of the electrical jobs that they can no longer compete on a economic basis - so they are competing on an legislative basis.
The existing law generally says that a California Electrical Contractor may hire and train anyone to work. The contractor bears the responsibility for the safety of the workers and the customers. He is the best judge of the workers abilities, safe work practices, and ethics because he and his supervisors have close contact with the workers.
California has an excellent system of protecting the public from poor or dangerous workmanship. It is the California Contractors License Board. They have done a great job of removing the Licenses of Contractors who do not do good safe work.
California has a good system of protecting workers, the California Workmanís Compensation System. Any Contractor having an unsafe work place is soon out of business because the insurance payments for workmanís compensation skyrocket.
**** the test is a fairly difficult test based on the 1999 National Electrical Code (yes I know it is now 2004). It is based mostly on calculations and legalities. The test is probably a good test for electrical inspectors, contractors, large project supervisors and journeyman electricians. The test did not ask many questions about job safety or practical electrical work.