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Last legislative session our elected leaders in Madison partially repealed prevailing wage for municipal-funded projects, which went into effect this January.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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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 In 2015, GOP lawmakers repealed those requirements on local projects.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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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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The impact of repealing prevailing wage laws on military veterans

Abdur Chowdhury, Professor, Department of Economics, Marquette University
February 1, 2017

Prevailing wage laws have been the focus of public policy debate in the United States for some time now. …

The prevailing wage concept arises from the concern that unbridled competition among employers to pay low wages in construction would lead to a less-skilled and less-productive workforce and to shoddy construction practices and unsafe public buildings and infrastructure.

Attempts to repeal the prevailing wage laws in a number of states are based upon the claim that repeal will save dollars on total construction costs and will bolster state and local budgets. However, there seems to be a disconnect between what the critics of these laws are saying and the reality on the ground. For example, take the case of military veterans. Missing entirely from the debate is the fact that military veterans pursue jobs in the construction trades at substantially higher rates than non-veterans. An estimated half a million veterans are currently employed as construction workers. And this means that any effort to weaken or eliminate these laws would have an outsized impact on veterans. …

Two recent studies, Manzo et al (2016a, 2016b), have analyzed the impact of prevailing wage laws on military veterans. They have found that the economic conditions of veterans would be profoundly affected if states with strong-to-moderate prevailing wage laws were to weaken their standards. The authors showed that prevailing wage laws are vital to all construction worker wages, but are especially crucial for veterans whose post-military service work skews blue collar at a higher rate than other demographics. …

More than 75 percent of recent, peer-reviewed academic studies on this issue have concluded that prevailing wage laws do not increase the total cost of construction. Prevailing wage laws result in higher productivity and taxpayer savings on materials, fuel, and equipment costs. …

These findings in Manzo et al (2016a, 2016b) are consistent with the overwhelming majority of research indicating that the costs of building public structures, such as schools, highways, and street and sewer projects, etc., are unaffected by the presence of municipal, state, or federal prevailing wage laws.

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PDF of Study – The Impact of Prevailing Wage Laws on Military Veterans: An Economic and Labor Market Analysis

PDF of Study – The Economic, Fiscal, and Social Impacts of State Prevailing Wage Laws: Choosing Between the High Road and the Low Road in the Construction Industry

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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Opinion: How prevailing-wage laws help veterans

12/08/2016, 06:51pm
Mike Pounovich and Marc Poulos

A federal judge on Tuesday blocked an Obama administration rule to extend mandatory overtime pay to more than 4 million salaried workers from taking effect, imperiling one of the outgoing president’s signature achievements for boosting wages.

Veterans work in construction at higher rates than non-veterans. And the military invests heavily in training for these types of jobs – providing 22 percent of all skilled trade apprenticeships in the country today.

Research and our own experience inside the industry shows that the key policy driving many veterans and others into these middle-class construction careers is prevailing wage laws – the minimum wage for skilled construction work. Prevailing wage laws not only make veterans more likely to pursue a career in the trades, they also reduce the likelihood of a veteran in construction living in poverty by as much as 30 percent. They promote higher workmanship, safety, and efficiency standards on public construction projects. And by virtue of providing more working families with money to spend in their communities, they are proven to boost job creation across all sectors of the economy.

While these laws were created by Republicans and have long enjoyed broad bipartisan support, many in President-elect Trump’s party are calling for their repeal. Vice President-elect Mike Pence repealed Indiana’s prevailing wage in 2015, and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has gone so far as to hold the entire state budget hostage over a similar demand.

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Attacks On Prevailing Wage Laws Disproportionally Hurt Veterans

Report Finds That As Hundreds Of Thousands Of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Enter Work Force, Prevailing Wage Greatly Improves Economic Outcomes For Veterans

May 10, 2016 –¬†Posted by Frank Manzo IV

A first-of-its-kind study released on May 10, 2016 finds that prevailing wage greatly improves economic outcomes for veterans and that growing attacks on prevailing wage at the state level will disproportionally hurt the hundreds of thousands post-9/11 veterans who are returning to the workforce.

Exploring of the economic impact of state prevailing wage laws on veterans in the construction industry, the study was commissioned by VoteVets, the largest progressive group of veterans in America. The study was conducted by Frank Manzo IV of the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Professor Robert Bruno, and Colorado State University-Pueblo Economist, Dr. Kevin Duncan.

“The data clearly shows that veterans work in the skilled construction trades at significantly higher rates than non-veterans,” said Manzo. “The difference is even more pronounced in states with average or strong prevailing wage policies-so any changes in these laws will have an outsized impact on those who have served in the military.”

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(PDF of Study)

(Copy of Summary)

Add your name: Strong prevailing wage laws improve the lives of veterans and military families

votevets.org

Many of the veterans who come back from war return to blue-collar construction jobs or open a contracting business that benefit substantially from prevailing wage laws. In 2014, more than 400,000 veterans held such jobs.

Prevailing wage is like minimum wage for skilled construction workers and ensures those veterans can provide a good life for their families. Overturning those laws would drive thousands of Illinois veterans below the poverty line and into a crippling spiral of debt. Our nation’s heroes deserve better than that from our elected officials.

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(PDF of Fact Sheet)