Contractors worry repeal of prevailing wage would decimate industry

May 7th, 2017
by Philip Joens

Currently, workers on public projects are required to be paid a minimum wage set by the state. Created in 1959, the law is similar to the Federal 1931 Davis-Bacon Act, which requires workers be paid minimum wages on federal construction projects.

If approved, House Bill 104 will repeal the state law while still mandating contractors pay workers at least federal or state minimum wage, whichever is higher. If they choose to, contractors may still pay employees more than that amount. It would take effect Aug. 28. Thirty-one states have prevailing wage laws. Some, like Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee, have a minimum amount that must be spent on a project before the prevailing wage law guarantees workers certain wages. Others, like Missouri, Illinois and Nebraska, cover public works projects no matter the contract amount.

Pay differs by skill set and county. In Cole County, carpenters make $25.16 and iron workers make $28.96 per hour. In rural Benton County, carpenters also make $25.16 while iron workers make $29 per hour.

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

To determine the prevailing wage in each county, the state compares the number of hours worked in each county at the collectively bargained rate and the rate non-union contractors pay. The rate with the most hours worked each year prevails and becomes the wage for each skill set in each county.

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