My testimony on #WageTheftBill (that was not allowed to be read before the committee due to GOP cowardice)
By Randy Bryce
By Randy Bryce
My name is Randy Bryce. I have been a member of Ironworkers Local 8 since 1997.
I’ve had the privilege in that time to work on many of Wisconsin’s landmarks, private businesses, and, numerous parts of our infrastructure.
Prior to this, after leaving the US Army with an honorable discharge, I had several jobs that had no bright future, but, allowed me to pay my bills. (usually two jobs at a time)
One day, a friend of our family – a physician who had a patient that was the former ironworker apprenticeship coordinator let me know that the ironworkers were taking applications. I hated the job that I was at. It was in a dirty warehouse, and, I dreaded going into work every day.
I applied. I had never done construction work before. After going through the application process, I finally made it onto the apprenticeship list. I’m not going to go into great detail explaining how my apprenticeship went, because I understand that this body has a bill that they’d like to ram through before the rest of the state is aware of how horrible it really is. I’ll be as brief as possible.
Fact is, the ironworker’s apprenticeship has the ability to take unskilled people off of the street, and, gives them a career that they are proud of. They taught me everything that I needed to know in order to now have a career that not only takes care of my family, but, has me proudly pointing out every project that I worked on as I drive throughout the state to my son Ben.
That training isn’t cheap. But, WE pay for it through our union dues, and, from contributions from the contractors who hire us. The apprenticeship board consists of 5 union reps, 5 contractor reps, and, a rep from the state who meet monthly. Zero tax dollars are used. After passing the #WageTheftBill (lets not pretend that this bill involves rights or the ability to work) Michigan has found out that it is now lacking with skilled trades workers. They will soon be using tax money to train workers.
This horrible attack on the Building Trades is not good for anyone in the state. It is a blatant attack due to political ideologies. Sen. Fitzgerald admitted such when this idea was first mentioned when he sought to exempt certain unions who supported Republican candidates. (Unconstitutional) Proponents have admitted that it will not raise wages.
I am sure that you are all aware of the Wisconsin Contractor coalition – a group of around 400 private businesses – many of who donated heavily to Republican candidates – who are opposed to this bill. They see it for what it is – the government getting in the middle of how they hire their help.
We make those contractors a LOT of money. They CHOOSE to use us.
If we are not allowed to collect money from members who freely choose to join our organization, who will pay to train us? Why stop at collecting union dues. A college tuition freeze is nice, but, why not let the student get a degree, then pay what they feel it is worth? Why do groups who want to see this passed charge a membership fee? Wisconsin Manufactorers and Commerce charge fees. The Associated Builders and Contractors charge membership fees. Even ALEC charges membership fees – and I recall that taxpayers foot the bill for a few members of Wisconsin’s legislature to belong to that group. Think of all of the extra jobs that they could create if this bill only went a little bit further and actually addressed freeloading for all. Why not let people pay taxes based on how well they feel that they are being represented? (I think we know how that would turn out)
Another aspect of what is trying to be sold is that this bill gives workers a choice. There already is a choice. If somebody wants to do what I do for a living, there are plenty of open shops that already exist. People are free to go work there. They won’t get the same training that our union dues pay for, and, they probably won’t make the same amount of money as a result, but, they exist. Their lessor wages are what I refer to as their “nonunion dues”. It’s the cost that they choose to be paid for not joining a highly skilled workforce.
The ironworkers created the first union in order to pool money together in order to give someone killed on the job a decent burial. Because of what we saw that could be done by looking out for each other, we were able to demand safer working conditions. Our trade is annually listed among the top 5 with regard to having a high mortality rate, but, it is a lot better than it used to be.
The union that I belong to is self insured. We get no sick days or holiday pay. As stated before, we pay to self train. Our instructors are experienced journey men ironworkers.There is ZERO burden on the taxpayer. The 4 year apprenticeship has members graduate with no student loan debt. Once graduating to Journeyman status, one can work anywhere in North America with a network that has been set up to attract skilled labor when an area faces a shortage. We have no seniority. If you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Our vacations are taken understanding that we will not get paid for the days that we are on vacation. All of our representatives are elected. All of the decisions that we make are voted on. The general membership is given monthly reports on how every dime is spent. Every dime spent is voted on. Unlike what is taking place this week, Ironworkers local 8 is PURE. DEMOCRACY.
Every single member of the legislature is cordially invited to come view our training facility. When running for state senate, I made it a point to invite members of the opposition party to see what we do.
I am disappointed beyond words at not just what this bill contains, but, how it is being passed. I am proud to be among those who build Wisconsin. My job is construction. This bill is demolition.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak my mind. Because I belong to a union, I was able to take off of work today and not fear that I would lose my job.