Ohio cities could stop paying prevailing wage to construction workers

POSTED ON FEBRUARY 24, 2017
BY LIMA NEWS

 

COLUMBUS – Local governments could opt out of paying Ohio’s prevailing wage on public construction projects under a new proposal from state Sen. Matt Huffman.

State law requires counties, cities, villages and townships to pay minimum wages and benefits, called prevailing wages, to construction workers on projects exceeding a certain cost.

Huffman plans to introduce a bill next week that would allow jurisdictions to decide whether they pay prevailing wages and for what projects. He said the bill has the support of the Ohio Municipal League and Ohio Association of County Commissioners.

The Affiliated Construction Trades of Ohio, which represents Ohio’s skilled trades, opposes the idea.

Executive Director Matt Szollosi said Huffman’s proposal would cause drive more work to out of state contractors who pay their employees less. Szollosi said that would drive down participation in trade apprenticeship programs, are funded with a portion of hourly pay.

“Labor costs are 23 percent of overall costs so the notion that you can elicit significant savings on the labor side by cutting wages and benefits for workers is unfounded,” Szollosi said.

(Read More)

Veterans Urge Walker, GOP To Abandon Prevailing Wage Repeal

Wisconsin American Legion Argues Repeal Would Cost Veterans Jobs

Wednesday, February 22, 2017, 1:45pm
By Laurel White

Veterans are calling on Gov. Scott Walker and GOP lawmakers to abandon their proposals to repeal prevailing wage laws in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin American Legion representatives said Wednesday veteran jobs could be lost if state lawmakers move ahead with repealing the prevailing wage. The group says a large number of veterans work in construction after returning from service.

During the last legislative session, lawmakers removed prevailing wage, which sets minimum salaries for workers, on local construction projects. Now they want to end the prevailing wage for state projects.

“Why is it that always the budget is balanced on the backs of veterans,” said Daniel Seehafer, department commander with the Wisconsin American Legion.

Seehafer and his colleagues cited a 2016 Midwest Economic Policy Institute study that contends 2,000 veteran jobs would be lost if the wage repeal becomes law.

(Read More)

Bill would define independent contractors, reform worker’s compensations system (AK)

21 FEBRUARY 2017 BY MILITARY NEWS

The state is trying to combat employee misclassification by tightening the reins on definitions of independent contractors versus employees.

Independent contractors work on a freelance basis for employers, but the relationship can flirt with the line between contractor and employee. Some companies intentionally call their employees independent contractors to avoid paying payroll taxes and worker’s compensation insurance premiums for them. Some employers also avoid the costs by reporting employees in lower-paying job categories.

House Bill 79, an omnibus worker’s compensation reform bill sponsored by Gov. Bill Walker, would outline an 11-point litmus test for independent contractors, defining when misclassification amounts to fraud. It also makes it the employee’s duty to report work and receipt of other wage-loss replacement benefits, according to Walker’s transmittal letter with the bill.

During an initial hearing on the bill Monday, Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Heidi Drygas and Division of Worker’s Compensation Director Marie Marx explained the details of the bills to the House Labor and Commerce Committee. The Worker’s Compensation Board, a citizen board advising the state on worker’s compensation issues, has been tackling the misclassification problem for some time, Marx said.

“We do not want to prevent true independent contractors from operating – we want them to operate,” she said. “We just want to make sure that those employers who are following the law operate on the same level playing field as those that do not.”

(Read More)

Council member pushes prevailing wages bill as a construction safety issue (NY)

Would apply to projects receiving city money and are 50K sf or hold more than 50 housing units

January 26, 2017 05:10PM
By Kathryn Brenzel

Alongside a package of controversial construction safety bills, a City Council committee is scheduled to consider a measure that seeks to require prevailing wages on certain construction projects in the city.

The bill, first introduced by Queens Council member Elizabeth Crowley in April 2015, has been re-referred to the Committee on Housing and Buildings, and is scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday that will largely focus on construction safety measures. The proposed bill would apply to projects that receive financial assistance from the city, are larger than 50,000 square feet or, if a residential project, more than 50 units, and that don’t have a project labor agreement.

While her revived bill – which has 20 listed sponsors – doesn’t explicitly involve construction safety, Crowley says the proposed legislation will at least indirectly encourage it.

“If you’re an employer, and you’re obliged to pay the prevailing wage, my guess is that you’d want to employ someone who is trained and qualified through a state program,” Crowley said. In New York City, that likely means hiring union labor. (Before joining the City Council, Crowley was a member of a painter’s union.)

(Read More)

Creating wage theft transparency (CO)

February 2, 2017 10:41 am
Column by Jessie Danielson

Imagine working hard at your job, then discovering that you’ve been cheated out of your wages or benefits when your paycheck arrives. You may have personally experienced something similar – not being paid for overtime worked, having to work off the clock, or other wage law violations.

Perhaps the worse part is that under current state law, employers found guilty of wage theft are shielded from the public eye because an obsolete law classifies wage theft as a “trade secret.”

I believe that is wrong. Hardworking Coloradans deserve better, and the public deserves to know about employers who unfairly cheat their workers. That is why I have introduced the Wage Theft Transparency Act, HB17-1021, which will do away with the 100-year-old state law that shields these companies. Not only will it help workers, but it will even the playing field for the vast majority of Colorado businesses who do not violate wage laws Most companies across the state treat their workers fairly. Most companies and employers do not violate the law or the rights of their employees. They know that hard work should be compensated and good employees are critical to their companies’ success.

(Read More)

Northampton adopts ‘Fair Employment City’ status with unanimous council vote (MA)

By Mary Serreze
on February 03, 2017 at 1:30 AM

NORTHAMPTON — The nine-member City Council took a public stand against wage theft, worker misclassification, and poor working conditions as it unanimously approved a resolution declaring Northampton a “fair employment city.”

It was one of several labor-related actions taken before a roomful of advocates packed into Council Chambers at 212 Main Street on Thursday night. The crowd broke into applause at the conclusion of the roll-call vote.

“This has been a long, complicated, and nuanced process, unifying lots of varying agendas and priorities,” said City Council president Bill Dwight.

The resolution declares in part that “decent working conditions and fair wages for workers is an essential part of investment in local economies and sustainable employment practices.”

It takes aim at the misclassification of employees as independent contractors, saying the practice denies workers critical benefits and protections to which they are entitled.

(Read More)

Coalition lays out agenda to boost Massachusetts workers (MA)

Posted Tuesday, January 17, 2017 4:36 pm
By Colin A. Young, State House News Service

BOSTON – Labor unions, community groups and workers rights organizations set up shop in the Great Hall on Tuesday morning to draw attention to a raft of bills that constitute a “healthy workplace legislative agenda” that they said will make workplaces safer for all employees.

Among the issues advocates hoped to bend policymakers’ ears on were public employee safety, workplace bullying, protections for pregnant workers, wage theft, paid family and medical leave, using carbon dioxide detectors in public buildings, and a raise in the state’s minimum wage.

Led by the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) and the AFL-CIO, the lobby day featured briefings on bills, speeches from workers and union leaders, and visits to wrangle support among lawmakers.

“We ask you to be here today in fairness, to join us in fairness, to help us move the agenda for working people who are under attack and public employees who give their hearts and souls and then are made to be the goat,” Massachusetts ALF-CIO President Steven Tolman said during a speech to the organizers who would be visiting legislative offices. “That’s what this is about, about working together to find an agenda to make working people continue to have the strength and the benefits that they should have. That’s all we ask.”

(Read More)

Ky. Legislative update (KY)

By State Rep. Chris Harris
JANUARY 9, 2017

I fought hard during this first week of the 2017 session of the Kentucky General Assembly to protect the interests of Kentucky’s working families against a rising tide of wealthy corporate interests, but in the end, our best efforts were blocked by the new ruling majority in the Kentucky House of Representatives. This week will go down in Kentucky history as one of the most damaging to working people.

Never before in modern times has a legislative session been used to do so much harm in so little time with so few opportunities for public input or debate. No time was wasted by Republican majorities in the House and the Senate to repeal prevailing wage standards in the construction of public projects and to enact what I call “right to work for less” legislation. These measures – affecting thousands of working families in Kentucky, both union and non-union – passed despite our strong objections and repeated attempts to slow the process long enough to let the voices of the people be heard during the legislative process.

Numerous studies and overwhelming data show workers’ wages go down when so-called “right to work” legislation, is passed. There’s a long list of other ills associated with right to work states – less health insurance coverage, poor workplace safety records, and less per capita spending on education, to name a few.

Repealing prevailing wage standards also lowers wages for building and tradesmen, like electricians, pipe fitters, plumbers, and steamfitters employed in public construction projects. These repeals also negatively affect the quality of construction and encourage out-of-state, fly-by-night contractors with employees of questionable training, skills and citizenship.

(Read More)

Union members say lawmakers launching ‘attack on the working people’ (KY)

BY JOHN CHEVES AND JACK BRAMMER
JANUARY 7, 2017 10:19 AM

FRANKFORT – Angry labor union members on Saturday said they don’t know how they became public enemy No. 1 in Kentucky’s 2017 legislative session.

Hundreds of workers in boots and heavy coats poured onto every public floor of the state Capitol to loudly protest final passage of three bills that they say will weaken unions and reduce construction workers’ wages.

“It’s an attack on the working people,” said Chris Kendall, 44, a member of Local 184 of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union in Paducah.

“It’s almost like we’re the enemy somehow, that it’s the politicians against us,” Kendall said. “And all we’re trying to do is earn an honest day’s wage.”

Said Bruce Rowe, a Pike County truck driver who belongs to Local 14581 of United Steelworkers, “This will just be awful for our communities. Once you cut our pay, your tax base goes down, and we’ve got less money to spend at Wal-Mart and buying cars and getting groceries for our families and shoes for our kids.”

(Read More)

Department of Workforce Solutions ordered to stop rejecting wage-theft claims (NM)

Posted: Tuesday, January 31, 2017 7:00 pm
By Phaedra Haywood
The New Mexican

A Santa Fe judge ordered the state Department of Workforce Solutions to temporarily stop rejecting wage-theft claims under what a group of workers claims are misguided policies.

Attorneys who filed a class-action lawsuit last month claim the state agency has allowed businesses to get away with cheating employees out of receiving a required minimum wage and overtime pay. The complaint accuses the department of adopting policies that allow it to dismiss and deny claims for reasons that are not supported by law.

For example, the lawsuit says, the department has refused to investigate complaints of wage theft involving more than $10,000 even though no law precludes this and has ignored claims that date back more than one year.

The judge’s restraining order was jointly requested by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and workers’ rights groups including Centro de Igualdad Y Derechos, NM Comunidades En Accion Y De Fé, Organizers in the Land of Enchantment and Somos Un Pueblo Unido.

(Read More)