Paul Gehl, Community columnist
8:12 a.m. CT Jan. 21, 2017
We have to do a better job of supporting our returning military veterans in Wisconsin – whether it is improving their health care, job opportunities, pay scale or all of the above.
I read recently with great irony that the Wisconsin executive director of Americans For Prosperity (Eric Bott) believes that wage protections – specifically Wisconsin’s prevailing wage laws – should be repealed so veterans can actually enjoy more job opportunities and better wages. That is not a misprint. A guy from a group promoting “prosperity” is suggesting less is more for our honorable veterans. No sir, more is more for our veterans.
I am a veteran, a longtime American Legion member and the former president of Lunda Construction. While president of Lunda I was proud to employ many veterans who were extremely interested in continuing their service to country building critical infrastructure like highways, schools and bridges that helped keep our communities safe for our families.
A 2016 study by the Midwest Economic Policy Institute found recent changes to Wisconsin’s prevailing wage laws implemented by the Wisconsin legislature “will have a disproportionate impact on veteran(s)” because veterans are more likely to work in the construction trades than non-veterans and these law changes will result in lower wages for construction workers. Specifically, the study estimates that the changes going into effect this month will result in the loss of more than 2,000 jobs and $13 million in lost wages for veterans. Mr. Bott throws out various red herrings to misdirect and obfuscate but in the end he cannot refute the study’s core findings – veterans work in construction at higher rates than non-veterans so by definition a repeal of prevailing wage disproportionately hurts veterans.