Prevailing wage repeal will hurt taxpayers, workers

Beth Meyers represents the 74th Assembly District of Wisconsin

Jun 26, 2017

MADISON- The citizens of Wisconsin have seen their fair share of legislative proposals this year that could dramatically change the status quo for our state. From changes to how the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources addresses high capacity wells to new limits on campus free speech, there are always controversial issues being brought up and debated in Madison. While, the biennial budget is still being discussed and negotiated with Majority Party leaders in both houses, important issues such as transportation funding and K-12 education funding need to be negotiated before the budget comes to the Assembly floor.

However, there is another plot being hatched in Madison which has significant implications not only for Wisconsin’s skilled workers but for taxpayers as well. Just this week, I stood beside my colleagues, laborers, and construction groups for a press conference which focused on a new report from the Midwest Economic Policy Institute. This report considered the potential repeal of the state’s prevailing wage law, and its impact on our state’s workforce and on taxpayers’ pocketbooks. Prevailing wage laws require that construction workers on state projects be paid the wages and benefits prevailing for similar work in the surrounding area. This prevailing wage rate helps prevent a race to the bottom that could lead to a less productive workforce and inferior construction practices.

In 2015, the Legislature ended prevailing wage for local construction projects, and the impact was disastrous for Wisconsin’s workers. Since the repeal came into effect, there has been a 50 percent increase in construction projects going to out-of-state contractors. Now, Republican legislators want to repeal prevailing wage for state projects as well.

According to the Midwest Economic Policy Institute’s research, a construction worker would see their average yearly salary of $51,000 be cut to $29,500, under a prevailing wage repeal. That is a 44 percent cut in pay! This hard-earned income is not only taken away from workers who receive prevailing wage – it has a far-reaching negative multiplier effect for all Wisconsinites. We all know that the economy is interconnected, and cutting income for workers in one area has an impact on all of us. Northern Wisconsin can’t endure a 44 percent wage loss for workers who want to buy homes, raise families, and support local businesses in our communities.

Our workforce is at a crossroads. Now more than ever, we need to protect Wisconsin’s workers and make sure there is ample opportunity for them to succeed in highly skilled trades.

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The Truth About the Prevailing Wage Law

JUNE 10, 2017
Capitol Report
By State Representative, Leon D. Young

Succinctly stated: Repealing the prevailing wage doesn’t save the state money. , it costs the state JOBS! With that being said, let’s examine the truth about the prevailing wage law that Republicans refuse to admit and don’t want you to know. Repealing prevailing wage has in effect:

* Shipped millions of dollars across the border to companies in states like Florida and Kentucky.

* Caused great economic harm to countless, hard-working Wisconsin workers and their families. Moreover, a closer look inside the numbers reveals the following:

* More than one in four workers in Wisconsin made less than $11.56 per hour, which is considered a poverty-wage job, according to COWS (The Center on Wisconsin Strategy) with UW – Madison.

* Low-wage jobs don’t offer good benefits. Workers in low-wage jobs are less likely to receive health insurance through their employer, according to COWS.

* Repealing prevailing wage hurts veterans who work in the construction industry. According to a 2016 study from the Midwest Economic Policy Institute, approximately 2,000 veterans are likely to separate from their jobs by 2018 because of the repeal of prevailing wage laws.
o This will result in a total decline of veteran construction workers’ wages of $113 million, according to the same study.
o Additionally, more than 200 veterans will earn less than the official poverty line.
o This would, according to the Midwest Economic Policy Institute, result in more veterans relying on government assistance programs that would cost taxpayers more money.

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Repealing prevailing wage laws hurt veterans (WI)

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.

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Union members say lawmakers launching ‘attack on the working people’ (KY)

BY JOHN CHEVES AND JACK BRAMMER
JANUARY 7, 2017 10:19 AM

FRANKFORT – Angry labor union members on Saturday said they don’t know how they became public enemy No. 1 in Kentucky’s 2017 legislative session.

Hundreds of workers in boots and heavy coats poured onto every public floor of the state Capitol to loudly protest final passage of three bills that they say will weaken unions and reduce construction workers’ wages.

“It’s an attack on the working people,” said Chris Kendall, 44, a member of Local 184 of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union in Paducah.

“It’s almost like we’re the enemy somehow, that it’s the politicians against us,” Kendall said. “And all we’re trying to do is earn an honest day’s wage.”

Said Bruce Rowe, a Pike County truck driver who belongs to Local 14581 of United Steelworkers, “This will just be awful for our communities. Once you cut our pay, your tax base goes down, and we’ve got less money to spend at Wal-Mart and buying cars and getting groceries for our families and shoes for our kids.”

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Gary Wetzel: Repealing Wisconsin’s prevailing wage law would hurt veterans

February 21, 2017

 

SOUTH MILWAUKEE – I am a proud military veteran, Medal of Honor recipient, American Legion member and retired operating engineer. Though retired, I am an active advocate for veterans, their medical care, job opportunities and family sustaining wages.

Specifically, I am concerned about a repeal of Wisconsin’s prevailing wage law and the negative impact it would have on veterans.

This is not a union versus non-union issue. All workers in the construction industry benefit from prevailing wage laws. Prevailing wage laws simply ensure workers building our vital infrastructure receive a fair wage. If you cut construction worker wages by repealing prevailing wage laws – which everyone agrees will happen if prevailing wage laws are eliminated – veterans will be harder hit because veterans are more likely to work in the construction industry.

We are veterans who want our voices heard and have a deep desire to continue proudly serving this great state and country by building safer roads, schools and communities for our families. Let us send a loud message to our legislative leaders – protect job opportunities and wages for our veterans.

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Prevailing Wage Repeal Would Hurt Kentucky’s Economy

Repealing Kentucky’s prevailing wage law would weaken the state’s economy, according to a new study.

Eliminating prevailing wage would cause a pay cut for middle-class workers, qualify more workers for public assistance, slash apprenticeship training, and result in more of Kentucky’s tax dollars going to out-of-state or foreign contractors. Veterans, who populate construction trades at a higher rate than non-veterans, would be particularly impacted if Kentucky were to repeal its prevailing wage standards.

DECEMBER 16, 2016

The report was authored by economics professor Kevin Duncan, PhD and Frank Manzo IV, MPP- Policy Director of the Midwest Economic Policy Institute, a division of the Illinois Economic Policy Institute.

Full Report: The Economic, Fiscal, and Social Effects of Kentucky’s Prevailing Wage Law.

Fact Sheet #1: One-page summary of the report.

Fact Sheet #2: One-page summary – version 2.

The preponderance of peer-reviewed economic research finds that prevailing wage laws do not increase construction costs, including three-fourths of all studies over the past two decades. This finding directly disputes the claims of those who advocate for repealing Kentucky’s 76-year-old prevailing wage law. Unfortunately, some prevailing wage opponents are either really bad at math, or they expect the people of Kentucky to work for poverty-level wages.

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Understanding the economic impact of prevailing wage

By Kevin Duncan

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

 

As a practicing economist for the last 30 years, I have spent much of that time studying the impact of prevailing-wage policies. And I was heartened to see that George Hawkins had looked at some of my recent work.

Mr. Hawkins rightly notes that too often, the debate over the merits of prevailing-wage policies has devolved into ideologically based arguments and conspiracy theories – neither of which is rooted in fact or data-driven analysis.

Peer-reviewed economists enjoy no such luxury, and that’s what has made a series of new impact analyses about prevailing wage – analyses that for the first time model the impact of these policies on broader economic factors such as job creation – so important, and so discomforting for those who oppose these standards.

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[PR Watch addresses forces behind prevailing wage repeal]

ALEC, NFIB Push Prevailing Wage Repeal

Posted by Jody Knauss on March 24, 2015

Lower Wages for Workers, No Savings to Taxpayers

Studies have consistently found that prevailing wage laws do not increase government contracting costs, and repeal of prevailing wage laws does not save taxpayer money, primarily because higher-wage construction workers are much more productive. An exhaustive study using a database of 150,000 construction projects over the period 2003-2010 compared the eight Midwestern states with prevailing wage laws to the four without and found per-square-foot construction costs to be equal or lower in prevailing wage states. Taxpayer savings associated with the absence of a prevailing wage law: zero.

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