By Erika Geiss
Jan 24, 2018
The word “Michigan” is practically synonymous with building and manufacturing.
From the auto industry that made our state famous to the “mighty” Mackinac Bridge that travelers still marvel at decades after its construction, our skilled tradesmen and women have driven us forward practically since statehood.
Yet we have trouble filling jobs in the skilled trades. It’s expected that Michigan will add 15,000 jobs in the professional trades every year through 2024, but we lack people with the training and experience to fill them.
One of the incentives these jobs offer is a good salary. That’s why it’s even more astonishing that special interests are trying to repeal Michigan’s prevailing wage law. These special interests, mostly contractors who hope to be able to pay their employees less, have worked to gather signatures to put the issue before the state Legislature or on the 2018 ballot.
Contrary to what you might have heard, the law doesn’t force companies to pay workers union wages or require that only union workers be hired for a construction job. It stipulates that for state-funded work projects, employees receive a pay rate based on a survey of actual wages and benefits in the area.
Studies suggest that if Michigan’s prevailing wage law is repealed, salaries for construction workers would drop by 20 percent to 50 percent. Just think about what it would be like to have your salary cut in half. Would you want to stay in that job? Most likely, you’d be looking for a new line of work. At a time when Michigan is trying to attract more skilled trades workers, repeal would be a terrible mistake.
Not only does prevailing wage ensure a good quality of life for people who choose these careers, it ensures that our roads and schools are built on time and on budget. It allows the workers to provide for their families and support local businesses while laying the groundwork – quite literally – for a well-built Michigan that will attract further investment.
We must protect Michigan’s prevailing wage law.
State Rep. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) represents the 12th District.