Heat and Hot Topics

By Debra A. Levy

Our offices are in an outer suburb of both Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Va.—right in the middle of both—where the temperature reached 100 and it felt like 108 this weekend. So heat’s been as much on my mind as sweat has been on my body. It has reminded me how nothing turns up the heat like government regulation and legislation. So here are three items the glass and metal industry needs to watch that may not have been on your heat index yet:

1. Apprenticeships: A proposal from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) would change what are considered “Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs” to allow groups such as educational organizations, states and localities, trade associations and unions to set benchmarks for training and educational content. The DOL would have oversight. The administration says the goal is to advance the use of apprenticeship programs in industries where participation in such programs is low. Since construction has the largest number of active apprentices (DOL says there were 166,629 in 2018), the construction industry would be exempt from the rule. Labor union leaders say they have robust, vital and successful apprenticeship programs and any additional ones would be redundant. Other groups maintain the opposite. A number of industry subcontractor trade associations such as the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association support the exemption. It’s a different story for the GCs. Both the Associated General Contractors of America and the Associated Builders and Contractors are against the exemption. The proposed rule (https://bit.ly/2Xx1OpY), which was published in the Federal Register June 26, will be open for comments until August 26. Already more than 4,000 comments have been received, many from iron workers supporting the exemption.

2. Speaking of Heat: A bill before the U.S. House of Representatives would direct OSHA to adopt a standard to prevent exposure to excessive heat, whether indoors or out. Representatives from California and Arizona (Rep. Judy Chu, D-CA and Raul Grijalva, D-AZ) introduced the Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act (https://bit.ly/2YjYfVe) on July 10. “OSHA does not have a federal standard that requires the breaks, shade or water that we know can prevent [heat-related illnesses],” said Rep. Chu. Opponents of the bill say that OSHA already has the power to issue such regulations and that heat exposure is already regulated under a clause in the OSHA Act of 1970. It remains to be seen if further protections against worker heat stress and stroke will be put into place. Worker exposure to heat is becoming a more frequent topic of concern. Just recently NBC Nightly News ran a story about UPS workers exposed to temperature extremes (https://nbcnews.to/30JCY4n).

3. The Limits of Non-Competes: There’s also legislation surrounding agreements not to compete (non-competes) as states continue to tighten rules around the scope and breadth of non-compete agreements. Five states recently passed laws exempting, on the basis of income levels, certain employees from having to sign such agreements. In Maine, workers must make at least four times the poverty level, which comes to about $50,000 a year, before they can be required to sign such agreements. In Maryland, those making less than $31,200 are also exempt. In New Hampshire, workers who make less than twice the minimum wage (currently less than $14.50 an hour) are exempt. Two Western states have gone even further. In Washington, employees making less than $100,000 a year are exempt, and in Oregon, you must take home more than the median average income for a family of four—currently about $95,000—before an employer is able to require a non-compete.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.