Massachusetts labor policy was the star of the day during Monday’s visit to Boston by Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez.
In a tour that included visits to Boston Beer Co. in Jamaica Plain and to City Hall, Perez took part in panel discussions on the state’s minimum wage and sick leave policies. He also visited an apprenticeship center in Dorchester run by the sheet metal workers union and an association of contractors.
“Boston has a lot of programs for giving people pathways to the middle class,” Perez said in an interview. “Massachusetts, whether it’s health care or now paid leave, has really been a model for the rest of the nation.”
He has barnstormed across several states and workplaces to raise support for the Obama administration’s proposals, including raising the national minimum wage to $10.10, adding 375,000 apprenticeships across the country, and passing federal legislation granting workers paid sick leave.
This month, Massachusetts voters passed a referendum requiring businesses with 11 or more workers to let employees earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year.
In June, the Legislature enacted a law that will raise the state’s minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2017.
The Obama administration is also trying to foster European-style apprenticeships in which workers “earn while they learn,” Perez said. He called apprenticeships “the other college” because they teach skills that boost paychecks.
About 410,000 people are working are apprentices nationwide, a Labor Department spokesman said.
Ar the Joseph W. Joyce Apprenticeship Training Center in Dorchester, Perez discussed how he would promote similar joint efforts nationally, said John Healy, training director for the Sheet Metal Workers, Local 17. Healy said his training center currently has about 200 apprentices enrolled in its five-year program.
Perez said the apprenticeship model could be applied to numerous sectors. For example, the pharmacy chain CVS Health, based in Woonsocket, R.I., uses apprenticeships to train pharmacists. Later this year, the Department of Labor will award $100 million in grants to programs, employers, and community colleges that create apprenticeships outside of the construction sector.
“Apprenticeships have applications across a wide array of occupations,” Perez said. “It certainly is not limited to the building trades.”
Perez also discussed the tactics and message of Market Basket protesters. In October, Perez hosted several Market Basket workers at two events in Washington at which he applauded the management style of Arthur T. Demoulas.
“I thought Market Basket was a remarkable example of workers standing up,” he said. “It was all the more remarkable that it was actually managers who were the first who stood up to vindicate the principle that you’ve got to take care of your workers and your customers.”