Stand up for vets by rejecting prevailing wage repeal

Josh Wallis
Published 7:23 p.m. CT April 15, 2017

Despite all the election year rhetoric about lifting wages and taking care of veterans, Missouri legislators are considering doing just the opposite by repealing our prevailing wage law.

A repeal of prevailing wage will hurt Missouri veterans, our economy and the construction industry. It won’t save money, either.

This is not hyperbole. It is literally what the research tells us.

Prevailing wage is a minimum wage for publicly funded skilled construction work. In fact, it is the local market rate, based on surveys that reflect what workers in different skilled trades actually earn in the community. Prevailing wage laws were enacted by Republicans more than 80 years ago to promote local hiring and quality workmanship. When it comes to tax dollars and our critical infrastructure, both of these virtues are important.

Construction skills are also vital to the work our military does in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Our service men and women are trained for project leadership, maximizing productivity, and as members of teams that depend on efficiency. In addition to fighting, we also help rebuild schools, roads and bridges.

In fact, the military provides more than one in five registered apprenticeships in the U.S. today. So, not surprisingly, veterans are far more likely to pursue careers in the skilled construction trades than non-veterans. Prevailing wage standards actually increase these trends by making these occupations more than jobs – but genuine middle-class career pathways.

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Rep. Pocan: Repealing Wisconsin’s Prevailing Wage Laws Will Take Money Out of People’s Pockets

State Senate proposal will do little to improve Wisconsin roads and could undercut wages throughout the state

Apr 25, 2017 – Press Release

MADISON – U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-02) released the following statement after the Wisconsin state senate heard arguments on a bill to repeal the state’s prevailing wage laws.

“Once again, Governor Scott Walker and Wisconsin Republicans are putting corporate cash and the 1% ahead of working families. This bill to eliminate prevailing wage requirements for public projects will literally take money out of people’s pockets and could allow companies to bring low-wage workers from out of state, undercutting wages throughout our state.

“We also know this legislation will do little to improve Wisconsin’s roads, which are ranked as one of the worst in the country. I hope my former colleagues in the Wisconsin legislature see this for what it is, another boost for big business that winds up costing working Wisconsin families, and reject it.”

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Prevailing wage repeal: Hurting blue-collar wages or saving tax dollars?

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.

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Contractors Make Case Against Prevailing Wage Repeal

Published by Frank Manzo IV, MPP
APRIL 3, 2017

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Union and non-union contractors are voicing their opposition to a Missouri House proposal to eliminate a minimum wage requirement for public works projects.

The Coalition of Construction Contractor Associations, representing around 100,000 Missouri workers, told reporters in Jefferson City Wednesday what a proposed repeal of the prevailing wage could mean for workers.

Currently, local government organizations must pay workers more than the state’s $7.70-an-hour minimum wage for construction projects. Prevailing wage is determined by the Department of Labor and is based on the number of hours worked and the wages paid to contractors.

Wages are unique for each county. A general road construction laborer would be paid $31 an hour in St. Louis, but $25 in the northwestern corner of the state.

The main concern construction contractors have is that repealing prevailing wage will encourage companies to hire cheap, out-of-state labor, taking away jobs that would normally go to local contractors.

Government construction contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, and without a prevailing wage requirement, out-of-state contractors could potentially bid much lower than those in Missouri.

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Repealing prevailing wage laws hurts construction workers

Posted March 24, 2017 at 3:21 pm by Ross Eisenbrey and Teresa Kroeger

Though they have protected construction workers’ wages for decades, 20 states have removed prevailing wage laws and several more have weakened them. Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia do not have any prevailing wage laws. Wisconsin no longer applies prevailing wage protections to local public construction projects, but still does for state highway projects. Arkansas and Missouri are currently both debating repeal.

Unsurprisingly, median construction wages are far lower (21.9 percent) in the 20 states that have no prevailing wage law than in the states that still do protect prevailing wages. Even after taking into account cost-of-living differences, median wages are almost 7 percent lower in states where there is no prevailing wage law. If state officials want to hit construction workers in the pocketbook, while folding to business interests, repealing prevailing wage laws is an effective way to do it.

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Two Top U.S. Research Organizations: Repealing Davis-Bacon Act Would Save 0%

MARCH 9, 2017
Published by Frank Manzo

The Brookings Institution and Wilson Center are two of the top 10 research organizations in the United States.

Together, these nonpartisan organizations have relaunched The Fiscal Ship, an online “game” that challenges people to put the federal budget on a sustainable course over the next 25 years. Picking from the menu of tax and spending options can be pretty eye-opening for many Americans.

Embedded in the game is one interesting policy option called “repeal federal construction wage law.” Picking this option means that you’d repeal the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires that workers on federally-assisted construction projects be paid the local prevailing wage. The posited argument for repeal is that it would save the government money. The argument against repeal is:

“This is just another way to push down wages of hard-working folks. Davis-Bacon blocks out-of-town firms from parachuting in with low-paid workers and under-cutting local contractors. It could lead to lower-quality work by less-skilled workers.

Interestingly, if you play the game and only choose to repeal the federal prevailing wage law from the list of tax and spending options, your plan results in a 0% change in federal revenue and a 0% change in federal spending. The game gives you a positive mark if your goal is to shrink government but a negative mark if you goal is to reduce inequality.

Ultimately, your plan gets declined as not helping to fix the budget.

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Veterans Urge Walker, GOP To Abandon Prevailing Wage Repeal

Wisconsin American Legion Argues Repeal Would Cost Veterans Jobs

Wednesday, February 22, 2017, 1:45pm
By Laurel White

Veterans are calling on Gov. Scott Walker and GOP lawmakers to abandon their proposals to repeal prevailing wage laws in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin American Legion representatives said Wednesday veteran jobs could be lost if state lawmakers move ahead with repealing the prevailing wage. The group says a large number of veterans work in construction after returning from service.

During the last legislative session, lawmakers removed prevailing wage, which sets minimum salaries for workers, on local construction projects. Now they want to end the prevailing wage for state projects.

“Why is it that always the budget is balanced on the backs of veterans,” said Daniel Seehafer, department commander with the Wisconsin American Legion.

Seehafer and his colleagues cited a 2016 Midwest Economic Policy Institute study that contends 2,000 veteran jobs would be lost if the wage repeal becomes law.

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Ky. Legislative update (KY)

By State Rep. Chris Harris
JANUARY 9, 2017

I fought hard during this first week of the 2017 session of the Kentucky General Assembly to protect the interests of Kentucky’s working families against a rising tide of wealthy corporate interests, but in the end, our best efforts were blocked by the new ruling majority in the Kentucky House of Representatives. This week will go down in Kentucky history as one of the most damaging to working people.

Never before in modern times has a legislative session been used to do so much harm in so little time with so few opportunities for public input or debate. No time was wasted by Republican majorities in the House and the Senate to repeal prevailing wage standards in the construction of public projects and to enact what I call “right to work for less” legislation. These measures – affecting thousands of working families in Kentucky, both union and non-union – passed despite our strong objections and repeated attempts to slow the process long enough to let the voices of the people be heard during the legislative process.

Numerous studies and overwhelming data show workers’ wages go down when so-called “right to work” legislation, is passed. There’s a long list of other ills associated with right to work states – less health insurance coverage, poor workplace safety records, and less per capita spending on education, to name a few.

Repealing prevailing wage standards also lowers wages for building and tradesmen, like electricians, pipe fitters, plumbers, and steamfitters employed in public construction projects. These repeals also negatively affect the quality of construction and encourage out-of-state, fly-by-night contractors with employees of questionable training, skills and citizenship.

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Productivity slides without prevailing wage laws Larry L. Roberts

DECEMBER 30, 2016 12:36 PM

Recently, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Dave Adkisson penned a column with his Christmas wish list of low-road pro-business issues he expects the GOP to address in the 2017 General Assembly.

While I am not surprised by Adkisson’s support for repeal of Kentucky’s prevailing-wage law, I am surprised he relied upon a flawed draft report to substantiate repeal of something as important to the economy as prevailing wage.

The report he referenced was not adopted by the Kentucky legislature’s Program Review and Investigations Committee at its Dec. 16, 2014 meeting for a variety of reasons. The report was not an accounting of construction costs; it was a back-of-the-envelope hypothetical calculation about wages – and wages only.

There was no consideration of whether or not projects were completed on time. There was no consideration of cost overruns. There was no consideration of productivity of low-wage contractors and there was no consideration of downstream maintenance cost.

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Prevailing wage repeal a con job | Frank Manzo IV

Frank Manzo IV, Guest Contributor
7:46 a.m. EST December 19, 2016

The dictionary defines a “con job” as an act of “swindling or duping” to get one’s way.

Kentucky voted overwhelmingly to elect Donald Trump President, along with historic GOP majorities in both houses of the Legislature. To win, Trump and Kentucky Republicans campaigned on a lot of promises–including to “create jobs,” and “lift the wages” of working people.

Early next month, the Kentucky Legislature is expected to do just the opposite, by repealing the state’s prevailing wage law.

Prevailing Wage is the minimum wage for skilled construction work on state-funded projects. There are over 82,000 Kentuckians working in occupations affected by its state prevailing wage-carpentry, plumbing, electrical, pavers, roofers, painters and more. A repeal of prevailing wage would be a state-mandated pay cut for these workers.

Recent research by the Midwest Economic Policy Institute and renown Economist Dr. Kevin Duncan shows that prevailing wage repeal will cost 1800 of these workers their jobs, drive almost 6,000 into poverty and onto public assistance, cost another 6,000 their employer-sponsored health insurance, and will eliminate pension plans for another 10,000 workers. And because lower wages translates to lower spending by workers in their communities, prevailing wage repeal will cost Kentucky another 1100 jobs across other economic sectors.

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