Harris County Follows Biden’s Bold Investment in Union Apprenticeships

Gulf Unions
Finding Ways to Overcome Republican Race-to-the-Bottom Employment Standards

Key Topics & Facts:

  • Lina Hidalgo, Harris County Judge, secures new paid training programs for Houston area
  • President Biden strengthens workers’ collective bargaining as GOP empowers corporations 
  • New union jobs and environmental projects meeting 21st century opportunities 

Supporting Jobs in Texas

Harris County Commissioners recently approved a $9.1 million contract aimed at doubling the enrollment of union apprenticeship programs along the Texas Gulf Coast. This decision will not only increase the enrollment capacity in local apprenticeships within the building and construction trades, but also introduces two new, innovative training programs in the entertainment and transportation industries — one designed to train stagehands to work in Houston’s live events industry, and one to train mechanics to work on the new electrified fleet of buses that will soon be hitting Houston’s streets. These investments signal a commitment by Harris County leaders to create opportunities for homegrown, high-quality paid training programs and deem union proud jobs are being reinvented for the 21st century.

Communities Thrive with Union Membership

Jay Malone, Political and Communications Director at the Texas Gulf Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, said, “Union apprentices offer young Texans a future most of us think is permanently relegated to the past — jobs that pay enough to support a family with pensions, job security, and a real voice on the job. For years, low-road developers have stolen that future from us by putting their profits ahead of the interests of their workers and community.” Malone, who also serves as a Progress Texas Institute Board Member, continued, “Building a progressive future requires more than voting — we must also demand that projects funded with our tax dollars put the interests of workers and our communities first by expanding opportunities for young Texans to enter union apprenticeships." In Texas, union membership has been dramatically hindered due to GOP efforts to concede powers in employment agreements to businesses (known as at-will employment); this new program funding was made possible through President Biden's American Rescue Plan Act. Along with spurring economic growth, federal and local leaders are ensuring these jobs provide high wages, health insurance, worker’s compensation insurance, a pension and collective bargaining power. It’s truly ‘earn while you learn’ at the highest standards.

Investing in the Workforce of Tomorrow

In March, Vice President Harris traveled to Wisconsin, another formerly strong union-centered state, to announce the Biden Administration’s Executive Order to Expand Registered Apprenticeships. The program is aimed at creating more registered apprenticeships within the federal workforce, encouraging agencies to prioritize projects for recipients hiring individuals from these programs, and amplifying worker compensation and bargaining power for federal programs and contracts. “President Biden listened to the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, but more so to the American People, who have asked for equitable training programs that create well paying jobs and strengthen the pride of the blue-collar,” said Reagan Stone, Advocacy Manager for Progress Texas. 

Across the country, the Executive Order will match new registered apprentices with clean energy jobs, like those positions specializing on the fleet of zero emissions buses in Harris County or the future Madison Metro Transit facility visited by Vice President Harris. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and President Biden are making a plan of action that supports family-focused communities and innovative new green projects.

What you can do: