TAUC, Interior Dept. Work To Address Skilled Labor Needs on Tribal Lands
PHOENIX, ARIZ. - The Association of Union Constructors (TAUC) on May 13 signed a cooperative agreement with the Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development (IEED), part of the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs, designed to provide crucial new careers for Native Americans and Native Alaskans in the construction industry - and expand work opportunities for union contractors at the same time.
Left to right: Margaret Zientek of Citizen Potawatomi Nation; TAUC President Bob Santillo of McCarl's Inc.; Lynn Forcia, IEED.For decades, many Native American tribes have struggled with some of the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the country. Their tribal lands contain many natural resources, and several large-scale energy and industrial projects have been forecast. The locations of these potential projects are often so remote that standard pools of labor will not be sufficient to provide all of the necessary manpower. At the same time, there are a lot of hardworking people on tribal lands who want a chance to develop their talents and abilities.
The agreement - the first between a contractor association and IEED - will allow both groups to work hand-in-hand with tribal governments and the building trades to enhance training opportunities for residents of these areas. In fact, several international unions have already started apprenticeship and on-the-job training programs on tribal lands to increase the pool of skilled labor.
Specifically, the TAUC-IEED pact includes the following:
- TAUC will recommend that its member contractors who are working on tribal lands allow tribal members who meet the necessary skill and safety requirements to be hired first
- When there is a lack of skilled journey workers available from tribal lands, TAUC will recommend that its member contractors work closely with the international unions and arrange for the immediate training of tribal members as pre-apprentices. Tribal members with specialized skills who meet the necessary qualifications may be tested and, upon successful completion, be made an apprentice or journeyperson.
- Before any tribal members are hired, they must receive proper safety training and jobsite orientation.
IEED and TAUC, in conjunction with its 2,500 member contractors, will select a potential pilot project to implement the cooperative agreement. The project will be determined based on the interest of the contractor, tribe, and affiliated building trade union that would be willing to undertake such an initiative.
A Native American dancer performs at a ceremony in honor of the signing of the TAUC-IEED agreement."This is indeed a historic occasion," said Lynn Forcia, Chief of the Division of Workforce Development within IEED. "There are billions of dollars of projects on tribal lands anticipated in the near future. A crucial part of this initiative is to ensure that there's a highly skilled workforce of American Indians and Alaska natives where the jobs will take place."
"Some tribes are glad to celebrate 25% unemployment, but most have more like 50% to 75% unemployment on their reservations," added Margaret Zientek of Citizen Potawatomi Nation, a tribe located in Oklahoma. "Native Americans are able and ready and willing to work, but they can't find work. It makes natural sense to work together as partners to help fulfill your need for workers and our need for jobs."
"TAUC has always strived to build mutually beneficial relationships with other organizations," said TAUC President Robert Santillo. "Synergy is crucial to the long-term success of any industry, and union construction is no exception. I'm very excited about this new partnership with IEED and the building trades."
Map of Projects on Indian Lands