Without prevailing wage laws, guess who loses? Taxpayers. (IL)

November 28, 2017

James M. Sweeney is president and business manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150.

Mark Glennon recently argued in a column for Crain’s that municipalities’ budget challenges can only be solved by lowering wages of workers who build our schools, transportation systems and other public infrastructure projects.

Setting aside the irony of a self-described lawyer and venture capitalist calling for middle-class construction workers to take a pay cut, let’s unpack these assertions a little.
Read more: Illinois prevailing wage mandate hurts the economy

Prevailing wage functions as a local market minimum wage on skilled construction work that is paid for by government. It ensures that things like schools, bridges and roads are built by local people who are trained to do the job right the first time, and that local tax dollars do not undercut local wage rates by attracting low-wage, unskilled workers from other parts of the country. Most prevailing wage workers complete three to five years of industry-financed, post-secondary apprenticeship training for occupations that are consistently recognized as among the nation’s most dangerous.

While construction wages and benefits represent just 22 percent of total public works costs, legions of economists have reached the consensus that prevailing wages have no impact on total project costs because they result in higher productivity, fewer safety issues and less spending on materials, fuels and equipment.

If you don’t believe in peer-reviewed facts, consider that Republican Indiana Rep. Ed Soliday said last year that Indiana’s repeal of its prevailing wage law “hasn’t saved a penny.”

What is also known is that states without prevailing wage laws have more income inequality, see more of their tax dollars shipped to firms out of state and spend hundreds of millions of dollars more on programs like Medicaid, food stamps and low-income tax credits for construction workers.

In other words, without prevailing wage laws, taxpayers lose far more than just good local jobs and quality workmanship.

For the record, unions do not set prevailing wage rates. These rates are based on surveys of what union and non-union employees are actually paid in the marketplace. For each craft in each community, the most common wage rate prevails.

(Read More)

Employees of TIF projects in Portland to receive prevailing wage (OR)

NOVEMBER 22, 2017

The Portland City Council voted to require contractors working on Tax Increment Financing-funded projects in the city to pay their employees a prevailing wage.

“We will be the first community in the state to put this in their TIF rules,” Mayor Ethan Strimling told the Portland Press Herald.

Prevailing wages are set on an annual basis by the Maine Department of Labor on a county-by-county basis for state construction projects exceeding $50,000.

However, the city council shot down another provision requiring contractors on TIF projects to participate in an apprenticeship program registered by the state or federal government, a move supported by union workers. Instead, the council will explore offering grants for a broader job-training program that would help other industries as well, the newspaper reported.

Also removed was a requirement that at least 25% of work hours be performed by Portland residents, minorities, women or veterans.

(See Article)


November 28, 2017

LYNN – If a group of union organizers gets their way, contractors who violate the state’s labor laws would be barred from doing business with the city.

Three dozen members of the North Shore Labor Council, a coalition of 50 unions representing 18,000 workers, crowded a City Hall hearing room Tuesday to urge the City Council to adopt an ordinance that would prohibit the city from hiring companies who have failed to pay their workers.

“Our goal is to protect workers from being cheated and keep them from getting these contracts while helping honest businesses,” said Kathryn Cohen, an organizer with the North Shore Labor Council.

Of the 14 firms prevented from doing work for the state or municipalities for public construction or public works projects by the Attorney General Maura Healey’s office over the last two years, one is from Lynn. Since 2015, there have been 26,767 wage complaints and citations issued statewide, 69 to Lynn companies.

At issue is the failure of some employers to pay their employees for work performed. While the state prohibits employers who have violated labor laws from seeking government contracts, some are able to sign deals because no one is checking, Cohen said.

“We know some debarred contractors are still getting work and we need to strengthen enforcement,” she said.

Under the proposed ordinance, a volunteer Wage Theft Advisory Council would be appointed by the mayor and City Council. The six-member panel would review lists of companies who violate labor laws from the Attorney General’s office and sign off on the company seeking work from the city.

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center reports $700 million worth of wages go unpaid annually to about 350,000 Massachusetts workers. Of that number, $5.2 million in wages is recovered by the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division.

Ward 6 City Councilor Peter Capano said the ordinance is crucial because without it, honest employers are at a disadvantage.

(Read More)

Higher Minimum Wage For Employees Of Some City Contractors One Step Closer To Implementation (PA)


Pittsburgh City Council gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a measure that would require a $15 an hour minimum wage for employees of some contractors.

The bill would apply to companies in professional service contracts with the city over $100,000.

According to data from the City Controller’s Office, 31 contracts over $100,000 were approved in 2015. Most were related to construction projects, health care and software upgrades.

When the measure was introduced on Monday, Nov. 20, Mayor Bill Peduto said implementing it would have a minimal effect on the cost of contracts and the city’s finances.

“We want to work with companies that also believe a worker’s value should be a minimum of $15 an hour,” he said. “We are hoping this will be the standard for which Pittsburgh companies will recognize the worth of their workers.”

Peduto said this was the second part of a city wage plan that began in November 2015, when he signed an executive order to gradually increase minimum wage for city employees to $15 an hour by 2021. It’s currently $12.50.

(Read More)