New Case Clarifies Use of Apprentices on Public Works: Use of Craft Labor Rather than Pipefitter Apprentices Is Appropriate On Water Projects When On-Site Journeymen Were Union Laborers
A group of pipefitter apprentices alleged lost wages and training and violation of Labor Code Section 1777.5 against a prime contractor who, as signatory to a collective bargaining agreement with a laborers union, hired apprentice laborers rather than apprentice pipefitters to perform process pipe work on dozens of water and sewage treatment systems in Northern California. The trial court found that the term “craft or trade” in section 1777.5 refers to the journeyman’s trade or occupation, not the work processes in which they engage on any given day. The First Appellate division of the California Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court. Although subdivision (b) provides that apprentices be employed only at the work of the craft or trade to which he or she is registered, the plain language of subdivisions (g) and (h) refers to employing apprentices in the same craft or trade as journeymen employed at the job site. The plaintiffs did not dispute that the on-site journeymen laborers were qualified to perform the process pipe work. Moreover, nothing in the DIR regulations limits a journeyman to performing work processes on which his apprenticeship program has been authorized to train. The Court saw no harm in labor apprentices receiving training in processes that were not expressly listed in the laborer apprenticeship standards. The Court reasoned that any other reading of the statute has the potential to place an unreasonable burden on contractors.
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