The south has been a difficult place for labor unions to thrive. While the political atmosphere remains fairly hostile towards unions, they are making ground in their organizing efforts.
Texas AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Leonard Aguilar has seen just about every level of the union world, from pre-apprenticeship to his new position within the state labor federation. He joined AWF Union Podcast to discuss what they are doing to spur job creation and how their pre-apprenticeship programs are helping the state’s working people.
Winter storm recovery
Having a United Association background, Aguilar gave a quick update on the damage done to piping systems by the recent winter storms in Texas.
He said the state rallied together over the common problem, but this was quickly forgotten. While the people of Texas are searching for solutions to the problem so it does not happen again, leadership at the Statehouse has quickly pushed the problem aside and is back to partisan arguments.
Texas job creation
Aguilar said the Texas AFL-CIO is focusing its efforts on job creation, specifically through the Texas Renewable Energy and Jobs Program. This is designed to help workers and those entering the workforce to find careers and training in the renewable energy sector.
Currently, many energy jobs are not union jobs. The shift to renewable energy positions unions in a great place to organize and train a brand new workforce. While Aguilar said they are still protecting workers in the fossil fuel industry, it will be important to target this new workforce.
Pre-apprenticeship in Texas
Pre-apprenticeship programs are being developed throughout the state with suggestions from various building trades unions. He said the three-week program is expanding and is open to high school students, those looking to enter the workforce and people switching careers.
He said the opportunities in Texas are great for building trades workers, with cities expanding and corporations moving to the state.
As an added bonus to building trades unions, Aguilar stated the program boosts apprenticeship retention rates. Participants can gain a feel for the career and begin to invest, making them more likely to fully commit.