Featured / Labor / Liberty

Next Target of Regulation: Plumbers

PrintFriendly and PDF
Increased regulation linked to slower job growth

BATON ROUGE, La. – Rep. Ledricka Thierry (D – St. Landry) wants to impose fines on any person who performs plumbing without a license, thus increasing the regulatory burden on Louisiana’s workers.

John Barker, executive director of the State Plumbing Board of Louisiana, states that the legislation is an attempt to “make sure the people we are dealing with are qualified to do what they’re doing, and to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public.”

Risks associated with improper plumbing include, but are not limited to, explosions from the build up of hazardous gases, asphyxiation (oxygen deprivation) from faulty furnaces or water heaters, and general negligence, which in one case has caused a high school student to fall into a coma after he was given nitrous oxide instead of oxygen.

However, consequences of such heightened regulation include stymied employment growth, higher labor costs, and reduced competition.

HB 418 follows a 50-year legislative trend toward increased licensing requirements for U.S. workers. Today, nearly 30 percent of workers need licenses to practice in their field, up from less than 5 percent in the 1950s. And that compares to 13 percent in the United Kingdom today.

University of Minnesota professor Dr. Morris Kleiner affirms that increased licensing slows job growth. In his analysis, Kleiner compared states that regulated occupations with others that did not. Between 1990 and 2000, he found job growth was 20 percent higher in unregulated occupations than regulated ones.

Kleiner claims the real beneficiary of increased licensing are licensees who experience an average income increase of 15 percent, on the back of inflated prices. Increased licensing discourages new or out-of-state workers from joining the industry, predictably driving up the price of labor.

However, Barker claims the fiscal benefits of licensing are experienced elsewhere. “If you have licensed, qualified people doing the work, it will lower insurance costs. Also, banks want to loan money to companies who employ qualified people, not substandard plumbing or electrical workers.”

Louisiana’s licensing policies have gained notoriety, particularly from the funeral industry. The state’s Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors continues to forbid Benedictan monks at St. Joseph’s Abbey from making simple caskets without a funeral director’s license.

The Institute for Justice became aware of the stand-off, and is engaged in a legal battle to defend the monks on the grounds that the licensing is pure economic protectionism.

Walter Block, professor of economics at Loyola University, agrees and claims “The licensing of plumbers is nothing but an attempt on the part of practitioners to limit the entry of competitors, and thus keep customers to themselves.”

Barker claims that portraying this type of legislation as a power play by licensees and licensing organizations could not be further from the truth, “the number one mission of this agency is to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Louisiana.”


Robert Ross is a researcher and social media strategist with the Pelican Institute for Public Policy. He can be contacted at rross@pelicaninstitute.org, and you can follow him on twitter.


Tags: , , , , , ,
  • Anonymous

    What’s new here? as it is stated…..in med gas, your installer shall be licensed and up to industry standards (NFPA 99) or better. your system verifier shall also be licensed. to do this in La., you already have to have these credentials, and it’s going to cost.
    do the job right the first time.
    lives depend on it.

    • It’s not the licensing that the problem.  It’s the licensing board that’s the problem.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to be a plumber.

      • There is a lot more to be a plumber than you or giving credit for I been thru 5 years of school 2 nights a week 3 hrs a night to master the plumbing trade.  You are dealing with peoples lives.  My work does not compare to most non license plumbers I am always getting calls to repair what other non professional plumbers installed from crossed water lines to the worst of all a sewer tied into a water.  What about the med gas portion we are dealing with a persons lives if you leave 1 little spec of copper shavings in a med gas piping system you can kill someone not even to mention the cross contamination in a med gas system so plumbing does take a rocket scientist to do the job write you go hire your non licensing plumbers and go ahead and flood your house