Miss. Senators, Colleagues Seek Withdrawal of Proposed One-Size-Fits-All Washington Mandates 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) have joined colleagues in seeking the withdrawal of a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) proposed rule that would impose new one-size-fits-all Washington mandates on registered apprenticeship programs in Mississippi and across the country.

Wicker and Hyde-Smith are among 22 Senators who signed a public comment letter that challenges the proposed rule titled, “National Apprenticeship System Enhancements,” which would enforce universal classroom and training requirements on all programs while also giving the DOL the ability to dissolve non-union apprenticeships.  The burdensome new mandates would be especially troublesome for programs in rural states like Mississippi.

“Businesses and other sponsors of apprenticeship programs already face financial and administrative burdens.  The proposed rule further discourages employer participation.  The DOL is imposing burdensome requirements, hindering flexibility, limiting non-union worker training, and forcing employers to comply with a grave agenda,” the Senators wrote.

The proposed rule would require all apprenticeship programs to provide a minimum of 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and 144 hours of classroom training.  This new mandate would replace the current system that allows employers to determine whether a registered apprenticeship program has been completed by using one of three methods:  the trainee’s competency, on-the-job training hours, or a combination of competency and time.

“Employers understand the qualifications and skills a prospective employee needs to be successful.  The one-size-fits-all Washington mandate does not take into consideration the various dynamics of apprenticeship programs across localities and industries.  The burdensome requirement will also be particularly difficult for small businesses to fulfill as they may lack the flexibility and resources necessary,” the Senators continued.

In a bid to limit non-union apprenticeships, the proposed rule would allow the DOL to dissolve a non-union apprenticeship program accused of misconduct or noncompliance without verification by the National Labor Relations Board.

“This rule creates conditions where union membership is all but compulsory and undermines workers’ rights to choose union membership.  This is especially pertinent in rural areas where a majority of apprenticeship programs are sponsored by small businesses with no union affiliation or where unionized workforces do not meet their unique needs,” the Senators wrote.

The Mississippi Apprenticeship Program, administered by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, has supported almost 13,000 apprentices between 2016 and 2023.

U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) led the letter, which was also signed by U.S. Senators Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Ted Budd (R-N.C.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), John Thune (R-S.D.), and Todd Young (R-Ind.).

Read the signed letter to Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su here.