Apr 25, 2017
Critics of a proposal to fully repeal the state’s prevailing wage laws decried it Monday as an assault on the wages of blue-collar workers, while proponents framed the move as frugal stewardship of public funds.
A state Senate panel gave the proposal its first legislative hearing Monday.
If enacted, it would mark another crushing defeat for Wisconsin labor unions. They, along with legislative Democrats, are among the staunchest backers of a prevailing wage, a minimum wage requirement for workers on public construction projects.
The bill would eliminate all state-imposed prevailing wage requirements for projects funded by the state. That includes state office buildings, University of Wisconsin System buildings and state highway projects.
Two who testified against the bill were Leroy Miller, a heavy equipment operator from New Berlin, and Luke Burnaman, a crane operator from Portage. Both are union members and U.S. military veterans.
Both men said they’re concerned about how prevailing wage repeal could affect veterans, who they and others who spoke Monday said are disproportionately represented in the building trades.
Burnaman said he and his family moved to Wisconsin from his native Louisiana last year, lured by the prospect of higher wages and better schools for his children.
He questioned why senators would mull prevailing wage changes after recently having increased their own expense reimbursements. State Senate leaders earlier this year approved a 31 percent increase in their daily per diem amount – up to $115 per day, compared to $88 per day last year, the Appleton Post-Crescent reported.