Ohio House eyes prevailing wage law for public works projects

By Marc Kovac, staff writer
Published: May 9, 2017 3:50 PM

COLUMBUS – The Ohio House launched hearings Tuesday on legislation that would give local communities discretion on whether to follow the state’s prevailing wage law on public works projects.

Backers of HB 163 and companion legislation in the Ohio Senate say the proposal stops well short of an outright repeal, as has been attempted in the legislature in past sessions.

Instead, Rep. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) said, it would give affected local governing authorities the power opt out of “state-mandated wage” requirements.

But Democrats on the Economic Development, Commerce and Labor Committee voiced concern about the bill Tuesday. Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton) questioned whether the bill would lead to fewer jobs, lower wages and more people needing public assistance.

“Is this bill worth losing billions of economic activity…?” he asked.

And Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) asked whether it would be more appropriate to increase local government funding.

Union groups also do not support the change – according to the Ohio State Building & Construction Trades Council, Ohio’s prevailing wage law “protects and preserves local area wages on federal and state construction projects. It guarantees that workers are paid fairly.”

Matt Szollosi, executive director of the Affiliated Construction Trades of Ohio, who attended Tuesday’s hearing, said his group is “adamantly opposed” to the legislation.

“Based on data that we have from a recent study that was commissioned and completed by professors at Kent State University, Bowling Green State University and Colorado State University, a severe weakening or repeal of prevailing wage would result in construction workers’ incomes being reduced by 16 percent and would push a significant percentage of construction workers below poverty level and onto public assistance,” he said.

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Video: Indiana GOP Leader Admits Repealing Prevailing Wage ‘Hasn’t Saved a Penny’

With Senate Committee Set to Vote on Repeal Bill, April 24 Video Debunks Prevailing Wage Supporters’ Claims about Savings
PRESS RELEASE · MAY 2, 2017
MEDIA CONTACT | MIKE BROWNE
DEPUTY DIRECTOR

MADISON, Wis. – With the Republican-controlled Senate Labor Regulatory Reform Committee poised Wednesday morning to vote for a misguided repeal of prevailing wage laws for public works projects, video has surfaced from a forum April 24 in Milwaukee where Republican Indiana House Assistant Majority Leader Ed Soliday angrily reveals that similar legislation passed in Indiana which went into effect in 2015 “hasn’t saved a penny.”

“We got rid of prevailing wage and so far it hasn’t saved a penny,” Soliday says during the question and answer session last week hosted by the Wisconsin Transportation Development Association in Milwaukee. “Probably the people most upset with us repealing [prevailing] wage were the locals. Because the locals, quite frankly, like to pay local contractors and they like local contractors to go to the dentist in their own town.”

One comprehensive analysis showed repealing Wisconsin’s prevailing wage laws will result in a projected $500 million in construction value being completed by out-of-state contractors on an annual basis and a yearly total of over $1.2 billion being lost due to reduced economic activity. A second analysis revealed 885 public construction jobs left Indiana after repeal of prevailing wage and 770 jobs popped up across the border in Kentucky.

One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross said he “wasn’t surprised the Wisconsin Republicans are using lies and deception to level yet another attack on Wisconsin workers.” Ross said the list of Republican co-authors on the bill was “a who’s who of Wisconsin’s anti-worker extremists.”

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(See a Copy of Video Here)

Op-Ed If residential builders pay prevailing wages it would help – not hurt – California’s housing crisis

By Alex Lantsberg
May 19, 2017, 4:00 AM

California has a housing crisis. Supply has not kept pace with demand. Rents and home prices are soaring and many working families are being priced out of the market altogether.

The state Legislature is considering myriad ideas for reform. One that has generated a lot of push-back from the building industry is incorporating prevailing wage standards into more residential projects.

“Prevailing wage” refers to what’s generally paid to skilled craft workers in different regions. Based on local employer surveys, it includes hourly pay, benefits and training costs for dozens of different construction occupations. It sometimes, but not always, reflects union rates. Typically required on publicly funded construction projects, prevailing wages encourage contractors to compete based on workers’ skill, experience and productivity, as well as on innovative project management – not merely on who can pay their workers the least. Decades of peer-reviewed research have linked prevailing wages with higher-quality craftsmanship, more local hiring and lower poverty rates among construction workers.

Peer-reviewed research has linked prevailing wages with higher-quality craftsmanship, more local hiring and lower poverty rates among construction workers.
Some builders and developers falsely claim that paying prevailing wages would lead to higher housing prices and make the state’s affordability crisis worse. They’re wrong; they want to maintain a status quo that allows them to line their pockets at the expense of workers and taxpayers.

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A.G. Schneiderman Announces Arrest Of Public Works Contractor Charged With Wage Theft Of Nearly $700K

Defendant Allegedly Failed To Pay $691,040 In Prevailing Wages And Benefits To Ten Workers Performing Construction On Bronx Public Schools.

BY LONG ISLAND NEWS & PR – PUBLISHED: MAY 03 2017

New York, NY – May 3, 2017 – Today, Attorney General Eric T. Schneideman and New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer announced the arrest of contractor Vickram Mangru on charges that he underpaid wages and benefits to workers on a publicly-funded New York City construction project. The arrest is part of an ongoing investigation into widespread allegations of prevailing wage theft at New York City public works projects.

Contracted to perform work on several New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) public schools in the Bronx between December 2012 and April 2014, Mangru – while doing business as Vick Construction out of Valley Stream, New York -was charged with allegedly cheating six workers out of $301,683 in wages. Vick Construction and Mangru had previously been debarred and banned for a five-year period from performing public work projects by the New York City Comptroller’s Office for failing to pay proper prevailing wages to workers. On December 31, 2013, Mangru entered into a settlement agreement, admitting he underpaid workers by $34,347 in prevailing wages and supplements.

Undeterred, Mangru allegedly continued to operate in several public schools and continued to pay well below proper prevailing wage rates, forming AVM Construction in January 2014. AVM Construction was purportedly owned by Mangru’s son Ravi Mangru and his wife Gayatri Mangru, who both claimed to be the company’s president. However, according to workers, Mangru ran the day to day operations of AVM Construction, including directly supervising the work and paying employees.

Between April 2014 and February 2015, Mangru is alleged to have continued working on multiple NYCDOE school projects in the Bronx. An investigation determined that Mangru, now operating under the umbrella of AVM Construction, allegedly failed to pay proper prevailing wages to ten workers on those school projects by an additional $389,357 during the ten-month period.

In total, Mangru allegedly failed to pay $691,040 in prevailing wages and benefits to ten workers, from December 2012 to February 2015.

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Prevailing wage repeal fails, contractors pleased

May 14th, 2017
by Philip Joens

Contractors around Jefferson City felt relieved Friday night after the General Assembly failed to approve a bill that would’ve repealed Missouri’s prevailing wage law.

Currently, construction workers are paid a state-set minimum wage on state and local construction projects in Missouri because of a state law created in 1959. House Bill 1o4 proposed to repeal that law. It was passed the House in March and had the support of Gov. Eric Greitens before it stalled in the Senate. While local contractors feel relieved, they also know the bill may come up again in next year’s session.

“We have been very concerned about losing prevailing wage,” said Greg Schrock, a local electrician and president of the Jefferson City union International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 257. “It could make or break us.”

Meyer Electric Vice President Craig Linhardt said he hopes this will give assembly members time to reflect on the issue.

“Hopefully this will give the legislature and the people of the State of Missouri time to reflect on the long term ramifications of how this law affects the working families of Missouri,” Linhardt said.

Each year, all contractors, both union and non-union, turn in the hours they work to the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. Wages differ by skill set and county. Because local unions collectively bargain wages in each county, all union contractors are lumped into the same pool.

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Open Letter from City Leaders Calls for Prevailing Wages in State Housing Reforms

Thu, 18 May 2017, 17:53:20 EDT | Source: Smart Cities Prevail

SACRAMENTO, Calif., May 18, 2017 – In an open letter that ran as a full page ad in today’s Sacramento Bee, elected leaders from six of California’s eight largest cities called on California Governor Jerry Brown and the State Legislature to include prevailing wage standards in state housing reforms. The ad was paid for by Smart Cities Prevail (SCP).

The state Legislature is considering myriad ideas for reform. One that has generated a lot of push-back from the building industry is incorporating prevailing wage standards into more residential projects.

Smart Cities Prevail (SCP) is a non-profit research organization that focuses on wage policies and contracting standards in the construction industry. The ad was signed by a group of local elected officials from the cities of San Diego, Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, and Sacramento.

The ad references ongoing efforts to streamline more housing development – with several proposals under consideration to combat California’s persistent housing affordability crisis again this year.

“Real housing reform needs to do more than simply streamline more development,” the leaders write. “We need to promote investment in the people who are doing the building, and struggling to pay the rent in our communities.”

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Like everything, construction projects are better with (Davis) Bacon

By: Bridgetower Media Newswires
May 12, 2017 11:52 am

Today there is a new and more compelling reason to keep Davis-Bacon and prevailing-wage laws.

The unexpected result of Davis-Bacon and prevailing-wage laws is that they are empowering careers for the American disadvantaged worker. With advances in technology and with laws requiring government agencies to collect wage and worker data, local communities are taking advantage of this information to ensure their worker-hiring programs are successful. The results have been transformative.

Government agencies can now not only track wages; they can also keep track of how many people from various groups are being hired. Members of some of these groups have historically not been seen in large numbers in the construction industry. Meanwhile, inner cities are struggling economically and unemployment is running rampant in minority segments of our society.

Cities and public agencies are responding by attaching hiring goals to public-works projects. These call on contractors to hire local, underrepresented and economically disadvantaged workers.

Prevailing wages and Davis-Bacon laws have enabled these workforce programs to gain visibility and transparency through the requirement of certified payroll reporting. These reports have proved to be an invaluable means of tracking workforce goals, since information about workers’ sex, ethnicity and zip codes must also be submitted.

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Wage Theft Is Costing Workers $50 Billion a Year in Stolen Pay

THURSDAY, MAY 11, 2017, 3:33 PM
BY ELI HOROWITZ

 

Five local carpenters who were working on a mixed-use building that includes high-end apartments in downtown Worcester are claiming that they were victims of wage theft and payroll fraud.

The carpenters, who were employed by P&B Partitions, a contractor based in West Berlin, New Jersey, say they were victims of wage and hour violations. Three of the carpenters have filed wage complaints with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, according to a statement from the New England Regional Council of Carpenters.

According to the wage complaints, P&B did not pay the carpenters for all hours worked and frequently paid the workers for overtime hours in cash and at less than the rate required by state law.

Dave Minasian, a spokesman for the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, said the amount of money the workers claim they were bilked of is not being released at this time.

P&B said they did not have anyone immediately available to comment on the complaint. Minasian said P&B has not responded to his organization.

The Worcester Carpenters Union is assisting the workers in recovering the allegedly lost wages.

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Construction Fatalities Cost the United States $5 Billion Per Year

Jill Manzo
May 8, 2017

The construction industry is one of the most dangerous industries in the United States. Construction workers face a wide range of hazards when they arrive on the job site each workday, including large equipment, heavy supplies, height hazards, and long hours. It is important that construction workers are well trained and highly skilled in order to limit on-the-job injuries and fatalities.

Over the past four decades, OSHA and its state partners have worked with labor unions, employers, and safety and health advocates to increase workplace safety. Many employers and contractors put their workers through training and safety programs to ensure workers are prepared for job sites. Safety and health programs encourage a proactive approach to finding and fixing job site hazards before they cause injury or illness. Today, workers are less likely to die on-the-job than they were 40 years ago due to workplace safety efforts.

However, there is still room for improvement. A new report by the Midwest Economic Policy Institute (MEPI) finds that a total of 4,339 construction workers lost their lives at work from 2011 through 2015. This means that an average of 867.8 construction workers suffered a workplace fatality per year, or about 16 construction workers every week across the nation.

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(Full PDF Copy of Report Available Here)

Study: Construction workers in southern US lack employment benefits

Kim Slowey
May 11, 2017

 

Dive Brief:

  • A study has found that construction workers across the southern U.S. receive little to no employment benefits and have relatively low pay, according to the Houston Chronicle.
  • The Workers Defense Project report found that 40% of construction workers in Houston had no health insurance, retirement savings, paid vacations or sick leave. More than 30% were not offered breaks during the day and reported that their employer did not provide drinking water on the job.
  • Only 5% of the 1,435 workers interviewed in six Southern states said workers’ compensation covered the cost of their work injuries, and 57% said they earned less than $15 an hour.

Dive Insight:

The results of this study reinforce a complicated issue plaguing the industry. On one hand, contractors across the country are facing the consequences of skilled-labor shortages and say they’re pulling out all the stops – including raising pay – in an effort to recruit workers. However, this report reveals that, at least in the South, many companies aren’t making the necessary changes in compensation and workplace culture to be an attractive option for new workers.

(Read More)

(Full PDF of Report)