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Call to the Hall! Ohio Carpenters To Rally Against Tax Fraud at Columbus City Hall

Ohio carpenters & their families will rally outside of the Columbus City Hall on Monday, April 15th from 11 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. to shine a spotlight on the corrupt practices of illegitimate contractors who steal billions of dollars from our communities – money that should be spent on education, public safety, and infrastructure. Tax fraud is just one aspect of the illegal business practices plaguing the Ohio construction industry, along with wage theft, independent contractor misclassification, and workers’ compensation insurance fraud.

The Indiana Kentucky Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters (IKORCC) will join area members in the fight to crack down on these destructive and illegal business practices at the Columbus City Hall. The IKORCC hopes the event will bring awareness of the damage tax fraud causes in Ohio and encourage the Columbus City Council to take action to stop it.

The fraud comes when workers are paid off the books by shady subcontractors and labor brokers, who are hired by contractors to underbid law-abiding businesses. Fraud happens on all types of projects, including taxpayer-funded projects —, which means we all lose.  Rampant cheating in the construction industry makes it difficult to repair roads, bridges and schools, care for veterans and shore up Medicare and Social Security.

Construction industry tax fraud and related crimes and violations are happening every day on large-scale projects, costing Ohio communities an estimated $248 million dollars in state and local taxes.

Recovering unpaid tax dollars in Ohio could pay for:

  • 7,937 teachers
  • 325 miles of resurfaced highways
  • 49% increase in school construction/ renovation

The April 15th rally in Columbus is part of the nationwide Construction Industry Tax Fraud Days of Action by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America to raise awareness and generate action against tax fraud and related crimes.

‘Worker misclassification’ seen as growing threat by contractors, unions in the Region

Andrew Steele andrew.steele@nwi.com, 219-933-3241
Sep 3, 2017 Updated Sep 8, 2017

As companies strive to increase profits amid a changing economy and consumer habits, the discussion often centers on challenges posed by the “gig economy” and its impact on work and employment.

Upstart companies like the Uber ride-sharing service tend to be the focus of concern; recent reports of such companies’ drivers speaking out against perceived company efforts to trim their pay bear this out.

Online story on NWI Times

But the growing use of short-term contracts in industries such as construction is threatening traditional employment in a way some say has reached a critical phase.

The fight is over what’s commonly called “employee misclassification” — or payroll fraud, in the view of unions and contractors. It involves an employer hiring workers as freelancing contractors who should be full-time employees, thereby allowing the employer to avoid paying payroll taxes, and worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance premiums, among other costs.

“It’s a problem that’s been around for many decades,” said Dewey Pearman, executive director of the Construction Advancement Foundation of Northwest Indiana. “But it’s becoming epidemic.”

Officials with the Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters visit job sites frequently to talk to carpenters, said Scott Cooley, senior representative at the union’s local headquarters. He said he often talks to contract workers who he believes should be formal employees.

“We run into it all the time,” Cooley said. “It’s just a regular occurrence.”

Some workers in question receive a federal 1099 form at the end of the year, but others aren’t reported at all, and are just paid cash for their work.

‘No magic’ in defining employment

Classifying employees properly isn’t an exact science. It involves several variables, including the degree of company control over the employee; the financial arrangement, including who provides tools and supplies; whether there are benefits such as a pension and insurance; and whether work performed is a key component of the business’ activity.

The Internal Revenue Service lists 20 factors to consider, and states in its guidance on the matter that “there is no ‘magic’ or set number of factors that ‘makes’ the worker an employee or an independent contractor.”

But contractors and the carpenters’ union say some building projects are rife with contract workers who clearly are misclassified: their hours and duties are assigned by their employer, their tools and supplies are provided, and their work is a core function of the company — all factors that generally make one an employee, not a contract worker, in the eyes of the law.

Quantifying the problem

A 2010 study commissioned by the Indiana Building & Construction Trades Council and the Indiana, Illinois, Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracting argued that a company’s use of these workers gives employers who use the practice a decided, but unfair, competitive advantage.

The report, by economists from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, estimated 72,299 employers, 8,052 of them in construction, had misclassified employees in 2008. It said 15.3 percent of employees were misclassified, totaling 377,742 workers, of whom 24,323 were in construction.

The practice also has implications for governments at all levels, the study found. For the state in 2008, $30.4 million in unemployment insurance taxes were lost, $2 million of that from the construction industry.

Between $134.8 million and $224.6 million of income tax revenue went unpaid, with $10.6 million from the construction industry.

Local income tax losses statewide totaled $91.2 million, $7.2 million of that from the construction industry, according to the study. Also, $26.3 million of worker’s compensation premiums were not properly paid, with $4.6 million of that from construction, according to the report.

Ultimately, the University of Missouri report estimated the costs to the state of Indiana, at a high end, of about $406 million annually.

But a precise evaluation of the cost to government is elusive. Several state agencies charged by the state’s Pension Management Oversight Commission with doing a study of their own in 2010 disputed the methodology and assumptions of the university study.

They estimated 8 percent of workers, not 15.3 percent, are misclassified, and that the state loses $14 million to $20 million annually in tax revenue, “of which (the Department of Revenue) could be expected to recover a substantial portion.”

The report, by the state departments of Workforce Development, Labor and Revenue and the Workers’ Compensation Board, also questioned the impact on the workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance system.

Finally, the report’s writers argue that misclassification often is an innocent misunderstanding of the law. “Heavy-handed penalties will have little impact on these employers,” the report concluded.

But contractors and unions dispute these conclusions, saying the effect on their work is clear and stronger enforcement is key. When a state legislative study committee investigated the issue last year, more than 40 contractors wrote letters contending that the misclassification problem has grown to the point that it threatens the viability of construction companies that abide by the rules.

The companies included Northwest Indiana’s Berglund, Gough, Larson-Danielson, Precision, Prodigy, Solid Platforms, Specialty, Superior, and Pangere.

Misclassification “gives cheating contractors a 30 percent advantage in bidding, undermining the legitimate contracting community through low-ball bids that do not represent the cost of conducting lawful business,” wrote Timothy Larson, president of Larson-Danielson Construction Co.

Enforcement elusive?

The carpenters’ union recently had success when it filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board regarding a LaPorte hotel under construction. The complaint alleged that misclassification of workers impeded their ability to act collectively and form, or join, a union.

The complaint resulted in a settlement requiring the contractor to reclassify the employees and to inform them of their rights under federal law. But union officials called that settlement “a slap on the wrist” and, along with the contractors, have urged greater enforcement.

“There are laws on the books right now; the problem is they’re not enforced,” Cooley, of the tri-state carpenters’ council, said.

Efforts on the state level have included a law that took effect in 2010 requiring the Labor, Workforce Development and Revenue departments, along with the Worker’s Compensation Board, to share information on possible worker misclassification in the construction business.

The state also maintains an email address to receive tips, wagehour@dol.in.gov.

But further efforts to bolster enforcement have met with resistance, according to the state senator behind a bill proposed in the last session.

“We’ve got all these different departments, and they’re supposed to share this information, but it doesn’t always happen,” said Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes.

Tallian authored a law that would have created a Payroll Fraud Task Force made up of representatives of the four state agencies. The law would have required hiring an investigator dedicated to investigation and enforcement. The bill had one committee hearing but never received a vote.

“We recognize there’s a problem. We just don’t know how big the problem is, and we don’t know for sure how to fix it,” said the Pensions and Labor Committee chairman, Crawfordsville Republican Phil Boots, when he concluded the Feb. 1 committee hearing on it.

Tallian said the state government has downplayed the problem and the state agencies’ potential to address it.

“It keeps getting worse,” Tallian said. “This bill will be filed again. We’re going to keep pushing it.”

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

By  – May 2nd, 2017 09:18 am

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.”

In the video obtained by One Wisconsin Now, Republican Soliday also mocks the outrageous claims about savings made by right-wing organizations like the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity. In Indiana, anti-worker groups claimed prevailing wage repeal would save taxpayers 22 percent on construction costs. Both the Wisconsin Americans for Prosperity and the Bradley Foundation-funded MacIver Institute have claimed prevailing wage repeal would save 23 percent in costs.

“The exaggerations in those hearings that we were going save 22 percent,” Soliday says. “Well, total labor costs right now in road construction is about 22 percent, and I haven’t noticed anyone who’s going to work for free. [They claim] there’s some magic state out there that’s going to send all these workers into work for $10 an hour and it’s just not going to happen. There’s not 22 percent savings out there when the total cost of labor is 22 percent. It’s rhetoric.”

Soliday adds, “So far, I haven’t seen a dime of savings out of it.”

Wisconsin’s independent Legislative Fiscal Bureau reported no fiscal impact nor budget savings for taxpayers by repealing prevailing wage laws.

One Wisconsin Now is a statewide communications network specializing in effective earned media and online organizing to advance progressive leadership and values

The House just passed a bill that affects overtime pay

by Julia Horowitz @juliakhorowitzMay 2, 2017: 10:42 PM ET
“Do you get paid for overtime work? The House of Representatives just passed a bill you may want to know about.

The measure, backed by Republicans, would let employers give workers paid time off instead of time-and-a-half pay the next time they put in extra hours. The vote tally was largely along party lines, with no Democrats voting in favor of the bill. Six Republicans also voted against it.

G.O.P. leadership has touted the legislation, called the Working Families Flexibility Act, as an attempt to codify flexibility for employees.

“I don’t think there’s anything more powerful than giving them more control over their time so that they can make the best decisions for themselves and their families,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington said Tuesday morning in a press conference held by Republican leaders in the House.”

Read More

National Poll: Most Voters Support Prevailing Wage on Public Infrastructure Projects

SMART CITIES PREVAIL
APR 26, 2017

“While voters may have disagreed on many issues this past November, they agree that prevailing wage laws should be preserved by a wide margin,” said pollster Brian Stryker. “Only 21% of voters want to eliminate prevailing wage laws—even after hearing a commonly referenced argument for doing so. And support for prevailing wage extends to large majorities of Democrats, Republicans, Independents and Trump voters.”

Read More Here

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

GUEST COLUMN
Feb 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.

Wisconsin legislators are threatening a rollback of the prevailing wage law that would mean a significant cut in wages for anyone — union or non-union — working in construction. The Wisconsin American Legion understands the seriousness of the situation and recently passed a resolution calling for veterans to receive employment preference for projects that receive state, county and municipal grants and contracts. It also calls for wages to be paid at a family-sustaining level (as set by federal guidelines mirroring our state prevailing wage law) to prevent the financial exploitation of veterans.

When I came back from the Vietnam War, I was one shot-up man. Almost exactly 49 years ago, our helicopter was shot down near Ap Dong An, and I lost one of my arms. My crew members were either dead or soon-to-be dead, because the helicopter was on fire and the enemy had us pinned down. I grabbed the ’copter’s machine gun and returned fire with my one good arm. I survived that day with a few others and was awarded the nation’s highest award for valor by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

When I came back, a career in the operating engineers offered me training, a community and a good living. Transitioning to civilian life was hard, but having a job to support a family helped make that transition easier. I operated heavy machinery with one arm for 40 years.

In Wisconsin, veterans make up 8.3 percent of the construction workforce, which is significantly higher than the percentage of veterans in the general workforce. Employment in the construction industry is projected to grow by over 14,000 jobs between now and 2022. In other words, Wisconsin has a real opportunity to put veterans to work in an industry they already gravitate toward.

Opponents of prevailing wage policies argue that repeal saves money. They claim a low-skilled, undertrained construction worker making rock-bottom wages will produce the same product as a higher-skilled, professionally trained craftsman. I can tell you from experience that is simply not true.

What low-road contractors save in labor costs never materializes as savings for taxpayers. That’s because taxpayers end up footing the bill for reduced worksite efficiency, higher injury rates, and the prospect of needing to go back and fix work that wasn’t done right the first time by a contractor who by then is long gone, resulting in higher material and energy costs.

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.

Wetzel, of South Milwaukee, is a member of Legion Post 434 in Oak Creek.

Ex Vice President of ABC Government Affairs to be US DOL Cheif

by Justin Elliott
ProPublica, Feb. 8, 2017, 11:42 a.m.

The president has cultivated a relationship with the building trades unions. But early hires at the Department of Labor are opponents of wage standards for construction contracts.

Last month, President Donald Trump hosted the chiefs of several building trades unions at the White House in a meeting notable for how friendly it was given that they had endorsed Hillary Clinton in the campaign.

In a particularly glowing statement after the meeting, Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, said Trump “has shown that he respects laborers who build our great nation, and that they will be abandoned no more.” That was in response to the administration’s effort to restart two controversial pipeline projects.

But the recent hiring at the Department of Labor of Geoffrey Burr, the former chief lobbyist of the construction industry’s trade group, has worker advocates alarmed.

It also highlights the dilemma of the building trades unions, the segment of organized labor that has been most friendly to Trump: They largely support his agenda on infrastructure and trade even as he is assembling a Department of Labor team that is hostile to unions and cherished wage standards on government contracts.

“What does it mean that we are putting people in charge of the Department of Labor, which is meant to be the strongest advocate for workers within the administration, who built their careers around advocating dismantling protections for workers?” asked Karla Walter, director of the American Worker Project at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.

Burr, now a member of the Trump beachhead team at the Department of Labor, spent seven years as the vice president for government affairs at the Associated Builders and Contractors.

The group is a fierce opponent of the law that gives workers on government construction contracts the right to be paid in line with local prevailing wages — a rate determined by the Department of Labor. The idea of the Depression-era law, called the Davis-Bacon Act, is to protect workers from being undercut by lower-paid, less-skilled workers from other areas of the country.

Republicans and companies have argued the law inflates government spending and other costs. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, introduced a bill last month to repeal it. Unions champion the law on the grounds that it protects good jobs and incentivizes higher productivity.

Disclosure records show that in 2015 Burr and his colleagues lobbied the House on a bill to repeal Davis-Bacon as well as on an amendment to “prohibit use of funds to implement, administer, or enforce the prevailing wage requirements under what is commonly known as the Davis-Bacon Act.”

Burr and his colleagues also lobbied the Department of Labor itself on Davis-Bacon-related surveys that set prevailing wage levels for jobs in different regions of the country.

As a member of the Trump beachhead team, Burr is now engaged on Davis-Bacon matters at the department, according to a staffer familiar with his work.

A Department of Labor spokeswoman declined to elaborate on Burr’s role and the future of Davis-Bacon. “It would be premature to speculate any policy decisions till the secretary is confirmed,” Jillian Rogers said.

(There is still no hearing date for Trump’s nominee to run the department, Andrew Puzder, who recently revealed he hired an undocumented household employee. Burr is in line to be Puzder’s chief of staff, Politico reported Tuesday.)

Another member of the Department of Labor beachhead team, Nathan Mehrens, has publicly blasted Davis-Bacon. Mehrens previously was president of the group Americans for Limited Government.

Ross Eisenbrey of the Economic Policy Institute, who has testified in support of the law before Congress, says Burr’s hiring is unsettling because the Department of Labor has some discretion in the setting of prevailing wages.

“They have latitude about what they survey and how often they survey,” Eisenbrey said. “It wouldn’t take a genius to identify areas and work hard to get nonunion employers to answer the survey, and that could lower the prevailing wage.”

The Department of Labor is also tasked with enforcement: Contractors that violate the law can be barred from getting future contracts. Bloomberg BNA reported in December that some management-side lawyers are already expecting the Trump Labor Department to ease up on enforcement.

The unions who met the president last month do not seem eager to pick a public fight with the Trump administration. Spokespeople for North America’s Building Trades Unions and the United Association of Plumbers and Fitters declined to comment on Burr’s hiring at the department. The Laborers’ International Union of North America and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters did not respond to requests for comment.

It’s not clear where the president himself stands on Davis-Bacon. One union leader told The New York Times after the meeting last month that the issue had been raised with Trump, but that the president had avoided taking a position.

Have information or ideas about labor policy under the Trump administration? Email justin@propublica.org.

Construction Wage Rollback Bill Lands in Senate

By Tyrone Richardson
January 25, 2017

Construction businesses would be allowed to trim wages on federally funded infrastructure projects under a bill Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) introduced Jan. 24, he said during a Senate hearing.

The legislation, the Transportation Investment Recalibration to Equality (TIRE) Act, would suspend the Davis-Bacon Act’s prevailing wage requirements for transportation and other infrastructure projects. The 86-year-old law requires construction businesses to pay their employees a prevailing wage set by the Labor Department for work on public infrastructure contracts. The union-level wages are as much as 22 percent above market rates, according to studies.

“The bottom line is, every time Davis-Bacon applies to a federal project, less money is going to construction and more money is going to meet onerous wage requirements,” Flake said on the Senate floor.

This legislation marks the latest Republican attempt to limit or repeal the Davis-Bacon Act. It will need the backing of at least some Democrats to get the 60 votes to avoid a filibuster in the Senate. The bill didn’t have any co-sponsors as of late afternoon Jan. 24. It stands to get some resistance from labor unions and some Democrats who have lauded the law as a means to offer strong wages for the industry.

Democrats Willing to Agree?

That includes Democrats such as Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who told Bloomberg BNA Jan. 19 that he wouldn’t support “efforts to chip away at worker protections and wages.”

Brown’s comments could be echoed by many other Democrats since the legislation is a “stand-alone measure,” Paul DeCamp, an administrator of the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division under President George W. Bush, told Bloomberg BNA Jan. 24.

“Its only effect would be to remove the prevailing wage requirement from future federal highway projects, without any countervailing provisions to address Democrats’ policy preferences,” he said. “But if this bill gets packaged with other measures, such as a commitment to a certain level of infrastructure funding, then perhaps the chances of passage improve.”

Republican Attempts to Alter Davis-Bacon Act

There have been numerous attempts to undo the measure throughout the years. One of the most recent came in July 2015, when Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced the Davis-Bacon Repeal Act, which was co-sponsored by eight other Republicans. The proposed legislation never moved out of committee.

Flake’s office released a written statement Jan. 24 arguing the benefits of suspending the prevailing wage requirements. It said research by the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University found that Davis-Bacon wage mandates “drove up labor costs by more than $2 billion dollars in 2016 alone. That figure amounts to nearly 10 percent of all federal construction spending for 2016.”

A 2008 study by the institute concluded that wages mandated by the Davis-Bacon Act were about 22 percent above market wages.

Flake told Bloomberg BNA Jan. 17 that he is confident he can rally support for the bill from both sides of the aisle. The measure is designed to curry favor with President Donald Trump, who has made infrastructure spending a key priority, he said.

Flake reiterated the importance of shrinking expenses during his speech Jan. 24.

“Fixing our nation’s crumbling infrastructure is a top priority for many in Congress, and the new administration has touted a large infrastructure package as one of its major agenda items,” he said. “However, despite the bipartisan consensus on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue for infrastructure investment, visions for the road ahead diverge.”

Officials with the Trump administration weren’t immediately available for comment Jan. 24.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Opfer in Washington atcopfer@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino atmaulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Christopher Opfer atcopfer@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Sources: Trump labor pick Andrew Puzder has voiced second thoughts about nomination

By John King, CNN Chief National Correspondent

Updated 1:48 PM ET, Tue January 17, 2017

Washington (CNN)President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to be labor secretary has voiced second thoughts in recent days, because of a relentless barrage of criticism from Democrats, labor unions and other liberal groups, a business ally and GOP sources tell CNN.
Andy Puzder is the CEO of the company that owns the Hardees and Carl’s Jr. fast food chains.

“He may be bailing,” said a Republican source plugged into the Trump transition effort. “He is not into the pounding he is taking, and the paperwork.”

A Trump transition spokesperson declined to comment, but later pointed to a tweet made by Puzder after CNN’s report, which said: “I am looking forward to my hearing.”

Democrats and their allies have launched an aggressive campaign against Puzder, who opposes key Democratic workplace priorities, including the goal of a $15 federal minimum wage.

His required ethics and financial paperwork also has not yet been posted by the Office of Government Ethics, which makes the filings public after nominees for top federal positions detail how they plan to comply with federal ethics rules regarding financial holdings.

Puzder’s confirmation hearings was initially scheduled for this week. It is now on hold, and likely will not be held until next month.

It is not unusual for nominees from the private sector to be taken aback by the harsh political climate that often greets new presidential appointees.

To that end, two Republican sources did not dispute but cautioned against reading too much into word of second thoughts. One of them added that “Trump loves it and wants the fight,” and said it was his information that senior transition officials were aware of Puzder’s concerns and urging him to stay in the fight.

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

BY JOHN CHEVES AND JACK BRAMMER
jcheves@herald-leader.com

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.”

House Bill 1 will let workers avoid paying union dues even if they get the benefits of a union-negotiated workplace contract. House Bill 3 will repeal the prevailing wage, a minimum salary paid to construction workers on local government projects. And Senate Bill 6 will require workers to “opt in” to having union dues withheld from their paychecks.

Taken together, these bills will make life tougher for blue-collar workers in Kentucky, protesters said Saturday.

“These are just union-busting bills. They’re not going to improve the economy any. They just bust up the unions and make it harder for workers to be represented,” said Vernon Soder, 42, a member of Local 20 of the International Union of Elevator Contractors in Louisville.

The union workers said they already represent a small and shrinking part of the state’s labor pool. Union members made up 11 percent of the workforce in Kentucky in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Why would they want any more of our pie? Why do they need to break us up any more?” Kendall said. “There’s not even many union jobs available. You have to really want one to get one because they’re so competitive.”

Repealing the prevailing wage, which guarantees a base rate of $20 to $30 an hour for skilled construction workers depending on their job and location, will cut workers’ pay nearly in half, Kendall said.

“The prevailing wage is a minimum wage for skilled workers,” Kendall said. “If you do away with that, that’s gonna cut the pay of all your skilled workers, union and non-union, on public construction projects and private. It’ll just come down to where you have the illegals and other unskilled labor doing the work as cheaply as possible, and it won’t be half as good.”

“These are just union-busting bills. They’re not going to improve the economy any. They just bust up the unions and make it harder for workers to be represented,” said Vernon Soder, 42, a member of Local 20 of the International Union of Elevator Contractors in Louisville.

The union workers said they already represent a small and shrinking part of the state’s labor pool. Union members made up 11 percent of the workforce in Kentucky in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Why would they want any more of our pie? Why do they need to break us up any more?” Kendall said. “There’s not even many union jobs available. You have to really want one to get one because they’re so competitive.”

Repealing the prevailing wage, which guarantees a base rate of $20 to $30 an hour for skilled construction workers depending on their job and location, will cut workers’ pay nearly in half, Kendall said.

“The prevailing wage is a minimum wage for skilled workers,” Kendall said. “If you do away with that, that’s gonna cut the pay of all your skilled workers, union and non-union, on public construction projects and private. It’ll just come down to where you have the illegals and other unskilled labor doing the work as cheaply as possible, and it won’t be half as good.”

Bill Londrigan, president of the Kentucky AFL-CIO, said some union members who came to the Capitol in recent days to protest legislation are social conservatives who voted for Republican politicians. Now they’re watching a newly Republican-led legislature pass measures that will cut their paychecks, Londrigan said.

“Believe me, we’re well aware that many of our members went to the polls last November and voted the straight Republican ticket to elect Donald Trump, not thinking about who else they were putting into local and state office and how that was going to impact their families,” Londrigan said in an interview.

“So that’s why we’re bringing them up here now, so they can see the consequences of their actions,” Londrigan said. “And maybe the next time they will believe their unions when we tell them to vote for their own economic interests.”