Leroy Miller: Repealing prevailing wage will hurt vets (WI)

Leroy Miller
7/19/17

I love my country. I’ve fought for my country. My brothers and sisters have died for this country. I want to continue to serve my country.

I am a heavy-equipment operator, happily and dutifully building new infrastructure for Wisconsin communities.

My concern is, and has been, what state legislators are proposing in a full repeal of the state’s longstanding prevailing wage law. This is the law that protects Wisconsin workers from low-wage-paying, out-of-state contractors who will be free to pay their workers substandard wages in the interest of undercutting Wisconsin contractors and effectively stealing jobs here. And guess what? It’s working.

Last legislative session our elected leaders in Madison partially repealed prevailing wage for municipal-funded projects, which went into effect this January. Since then, a state review of projects to-date found there has been a more than 53 percent increase in out-of-state contractors securing Wisconsin work. Those are Wisconsin jobs being lost, Wisconsin tax dollars leaving the state and hard-working Wisconsin families being hurt. You don’t have to be a political wonk to understand how and who this hurts – Wisconsin workers.

Why as a proud veteran am I involved? Many of us veterans are drawn especially to two lines of work after our service – law enforcement and construction. I’ve chosen construction because I want to continue to serve my country in a meaningful way but lacked the necessary skills to make the transition. Thanks to many of the construction trades in Wisconsin they have specifically designed apprenticeship programs for veterans to provide them the necessary training and skills to transition into the construction industry.

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Frank Manzo IV: Lawmakers should consider the social cost of construction wage cuts

June 28, 2017
Frank Manzo IV | Policy Director
Midwest Economic Policy Institute

According to the conservative Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WTA), state legislators and Gov. Scott Walker may soon act to cut the wages of private construction workers by as much as 44 percent.

How? By repealing Wisconsin’s prevailing wage law – the minimum wage standard on state-funded construction projects such as highways, bridges, and other critical infrastructure.

What they haven’t told you is that their own numbers suggestthat this could actually cost taxpayers more than $300 million per year. This is the social cost of wage cuts that would remove thousands of Wisconsin’s working families from the middle class.
The math is really quite simple.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data on which WTA’s analysis relies, the skilled construction workers who would be affected by prevailing wage repeal earn an average of $51,000 per year. The 44 percent savings scenario that WTA and their allies in the Legislature and Walker administration have promised would require that average wage to drop to about $29,000 per year.

When you add up all of the health-care, home-heating, and food subsidies for which these workers and their families would then qualify, as well as low-income tax credits and the lost income tax revenue that the state would have to find from other taxpayers, the total cost of Wisconsin’s wage cut exceeds $300 million annually.

How can any legislator – especially those who campaigned on promises of lifting wages and fiscal responsibility – defend such a position?

The short answer is by ignoring basic math, the fundamental realities of the construction industry and the economy, or both.

Construction is dangerous work. When it comes to the things the public relies on – schools, roads, transit systems and water facilities – having well-trained professionals on the job matters. By establishing criteria that reflect local market standards and incentivize contractors to invest in workforce training, research shows that prevailing wage laws dramatically increase local hiring, productivity, efficiency and safety on the worksite. In doing so, they simultaneously reduce waste, and reduce spending on fuels, materials, equipment and purchased services.

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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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Democrats, Veterans Continue Battling Possible Prevailing Wage Repeal

GOP Proposal Would Eliminate Prevailing Wage On State-Funded Construction

Tuesday, June 20, 2017, 3:55pm
By Laurel White

Democrats and veterans groups are continuing to fight a repeal of Wisconsin’s prevailing wage laws.

The laws set minimum salary requirements for workers on government-funded construction projects. In 2015, GOP lawmakers repealed those requirements on local projects. This session, they’ve introduced a bill that would extend that to state-funded projects.

At a state Capitol press conference Tuesday, Democratic lawmakers argued the change would lower wages in a field that employs a proportion of veterans.

Matt Bell, an Army veteran and owner of a contracting business in McFarland, said the repeal of prevailing wage would hurt his business.

“If you create a work environment that suppresses wages, drives people from a meaningful career in construction and encourages out of state construction companies to take Wisconsin jobs, you will drive people of out their jobs that they love and deny them the ability to provide for their families,” Bell said.

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Prevailing Wage Repeal Could COST Wisconsin Taxpayers Over $300 Million Per Year

Analysis of studies cited by advocates of prevailing wage repeal highlights massive social costs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 19, 2017
Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Madison: While critics of Wisconsin’s prevailing wage law have long claimed that repeal would save money by cutting the wages of blue-collar construction workers, a Midwest Economic Policy Institute (MEPI) analysis of two reports frequently cited to support the claims of prevailing wage critics shows that repeal could actually cost Wisconsin taxpayers over $300 million each year.

For its study, MEPI examined how construction wage cuts would affect overall state tax revenues and reliance on five different government assistance programs utilizing the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance’s recent claim of a 44% cut, and a 2015 Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau analysis that suggested repeal of prevailing would reduce wages by 14.1%.

“If an entire segment of Wisconsin’s blue-collar workforce faced a wage cut of 14% to 44%, it would mean thousands more Wisconsin workers would be on government assistance, and Wisconsin’s state government would have significantly less tax revenue to pay for these benefits,” said MEPI Policy Director Frank Manzo IV. “Using the wage cut figures promised by the law’s critics, we can assess that prevailing wage repeal would impose a potential social cost to Wisconsin taxpayers of hundreds of millions of dollars each year-without producing any real savings in total project costs.”

The current average wage for skilled construction workers, on which MEPI’s analysis is based, is $51,600 per year. The 44% wage cut claimed by the Wisconsin Taxpayer Alliance would reduce this average to less than $29,000 per year for those employed on public works projects. This would leave affected construction working families of four eligible for well-over $16,000 per year in government subsidized health, food and heating assistance, plus another $5,000 per year in Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC). The reduction in wages would also reduce their state and federal income tax payments by an average of $4,800 per year, for a potential annual social cost of more than $26,000. Similarly, a 14% wage cut would result in a potential social cost of over $17,000 per year for a family of four.

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(Full PDF of Report)

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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Chowdhury: Repeal of prevailing wage would hurt Wisconsin economy

Abdur Chowdhury
10:17 a.m. CT June 6, 2017

Out-of-state companies received $32 million in contracts for municipal projects in Wisconsin between January and April of this year, up from about $21 million during the same period in 2016. That represents a 53% increase.

Contracts that should be going to Wisconsin companies are now being given away to out-of-state companies from Florida, Kentucky and Missouri. The difference? No prevailing wage protection on municipal projects.

In 2015, the Wisconsin Legislature voted to end prevailing wage in local projects – a provision that took effect this January. Republicans in the Legislature are now considering a full repeal of the state’s prevailing wage law.

This law requires that construction workers on state construction projects be paid the wages and benefits prevailing for similar work in or near the locality in which the construction project is to be performed. The concept arises from the concern that unbridled competition among employers to pay low wages in low-bid public construction environment would lead to a less-skilled and less-productive workforce and to shoddy construction practices and unsafe public buildings and infrastructure.

While the Legislature was debating this issue in 2015, many of us had expressed concern that eliminating the law would cut wages and invite so-called “gypsy contractors” from out of state to bid on Wisconsin projects. Research conducted by Frank Manzo and his co-authors indicated that the amount of construction work that would be leaked to neighboring states would cost Wisconsin 6,700 jobs and $40 million in tax revenue, and reduce economic activity in the state by $1.1 billion. For every dollar of construction value that is completed by an out-of-state contractor, economic activity would decrease by $2.26 in Wisconsin.

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Construction workers walk off Omni Louisville site protesting wage discrepancy

By CAITLIN BOWLING
May 24, 2017 12:53 pm

 

Some of the construction workers who are helping erect the more than $320 million Omni Louisville hotel and luxury apartments walked off the site this morning.

Roughly 100 workers who have been installing metal studs and hanging drywall at the Omni claim that they are being paid roughly $20 less an hour compared with other construction workers on the job, WDRB News first reported.

Marco Cruz, one of the workers who walked off the construction site, told Insider that he is not so much upset that they are making less than other workers as he is troubled by the fact that they were told they’d earn $24 an hour but are only receiving $17 to $20 an hour.

“I saw that that’s not right,” he said. “We feel like they are taking advantage of us.”

Louisville labor attorney Dave Suetholz told Insider in a phone interview that the construction workers, most of whom are Hispanic immigrants, were told that their wages were lowered because Gov. Matt Bevin repealed Kentucky’s prevailing wage statute this year.

Suetholz, an attorney with Kircher, Suetholz & Associates PSC, argued that construction on the Omni “started before the repeal of the prevailing wage,” making the argument invalid.

“Their employer has lied to them,” he said. “It’s all immigrant workers. They are the only ones being paid lower rates. …Just on the face, it looks very bad.”

The prevailing wage law required construction workers to be paid a wage and receive benefits comparable to what workers receive on average construction sites in the area. It applied to public construction projects, according to an article by Stites & Harbison attorney Joseph L. Hardesty.

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Video: Indiana GOP Leader Admits Repealing Prevailing Wage ‘Hasn’t Saved a Penny’

With Senate Committee Set to Vote on Repeal Bill, April 24 Video Debunks Prevailing Wage Supporters’ Claims about Savings
PRESS RELEASE · MAY 2, 2017
MEDIA CONTACT | MIKE BROWNE
DEPUTY DIRECTOR

MADISON, Wis. – With the Republican-controlled Senate Labor Regulatory Reform Committee poised Wednesday morning to vote for a misguided repeal of prevailing wage laws for public works projects, video has surfaced from a forum April 24 in Milwaukee where Republican Indiana House Assistant Majority Leader Ed Soliday angrily reveals that similar legislation passed in Indiana which went into effect in 2015 “hasn’t saved a penny.”

“We got rid of prevailing wage and so far it hasn’t saved a penny,” Soliday says during the question and answer session last week hosted by the Wisconsin Transportation Development Association in Milwaukee. “Probably the people most upset with us repealing [prevailing] wage were the locals. Because the locals, quite frankly, like to pay local contractors and they like local contractors to go to the dentist in their own town.”

One comprehensive analysis showed repealing Wisconsin’s prevailing wage laws will result in a projected $500 million in construction value being completed by out-of-state contractors on an annual basis and a yearly total of over $1.2 billion being lost due to reduced economic activity. A second analysis revealed 885 public construction jobs left Indiana after repeal of prevailing wage and 770 jobs popped up across the border in Kentucky.

One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross said he “wasn’t surprised the Wisconsin Republicans are using lies and deception to level yet another attack on Wisconsin workers.” Ross said the list of Republican co-authors on the bill was “a who’s who of Wisconsin’s anti-worker extremists.”

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(See a Copy of Video Here)

Prevailing wage repeal fails, contractors pleased

May 14th, 2017
by Philip Joens

Contractors around Jefferson City felt relieved Friday night after the General Assembly failed to approve a bill that would’ve repealed Missouri’s prevailing wage law.

Currently, construction workers are paid a state-set minimum wage on state and local construction projects in Missouri because of a state law created in 1959. House Bill 1o4 proposed to repeal that law. It was passed the House in March and had the support of Gov. Eric Greitens before it stalled in the Senate. While local contractors feel relieved, they also know the bill may come up again in next year’s session.

“We have been very concerned about losing prevailing wage,” said Greg Schrock, a local electrician and president of the Jefferson City union International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 257. “It could make or break us.”

Meyer Electric Vice President Craig Linhardt said he hopes this will give assembly members time to reflect on the issue.

“Hopefully this will give the legislature and the people of the State of Missouri time to reflect on the long term ramifications of how this law affects the working families of Missouri,” Linhardt said.

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

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