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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

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.

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

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.”

Kentucky Republicans Pass Right-To-Work, Dropping The Hammer On Unions

By Dave Jamelson and Travis Waldron
01/07/2017 12:06 pm ET

Organized labor suffered its first major legislative setback due to the 2016 elections on Saturday, when Kentucky Republicans gave final approval to right-to-work legislation and repealed the state’s prevailing wage law. Both bills are expected to be signed into law by the governor, and will take effect immediately.

Kentucky is the last holdout in the South without an anti-union right-to-work law on the books. For decades, labor unions and Democrats fended off such measures, which diminish union membership and weaken the labor movement. But when Republicans captured the state House in November, they paved the way for passage of the legislation. The law will apply to all new labor contracts, but will not affect current agreements.

Unions and Democrats mounted a last-ditch effort to stop the legislation this week, holding protests at the state capitol building in Frankfort saying the bills would drive down wages. But Republicans now have overwhelming control of both the state Senate and the House. Kentucky’s governor, Matt Bevin, is a Republican who won office in 2015.

“They’re cutting workers’ pay,” Bill Finn, state director of the Kentucky State Building and Construction Trades Council, told The Huffington Post this week. “People voted for a change in this election, but they didn’t vote for this. They didn’t vote for pay cuts.”

Right-to-work laws forbid contracts that require all workers in a particular bargaining unit to pay fees to a union. Under U.S. labor law, a union must represent all employees in a unionized workplace, even those who may not want representation. Unions argue it’s only fair that all workers share the costs of bargaining and maintaining the union contract.

By allowing individual workers to opt out of paying union fees while benefiting from representation ― an arrangement unions call “free riding” ― right-to-work laws can drive down membership and weaken unions financially and politically. The conservatives who push right-to-work laws argue that they assure workers’ individual freedoms by not compelling anyone to support a union.

Labor leaders were equally troubled by the legislature’s move to gut the state’s prevailing wage law. Such laws require that employers pay certain minimum wages on work funded by public money. Backers of the laws say they help make sure companies accepting taxpayer dollars don’t drive down wages and working conditions. Opponents argue they inflate the cost of public works projects.

The repeal means prevailing wages will no longer apply to construction workers building schools and government buildings.

Charlie Essex, the financial secretary for Local 369 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Louisville, called the measure “an attack on union people.” He estimated that the prevailing wage law applied to more than 30 percent of union construction work in Kentucky.

Backed by business lobbies, Republican lawmakers around the country have been aggressive in pushing right-to-work bills and prevailing wage repeals in recent years. When Democrats lose control of a statehouse chamber or the governor’s mansion, they are often powerless to stop them.

Long confined to the South and West, right-to-work proponents have recently made inroads elsewhere in the country, including even the industrial Midwest. Since 2012, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and West Virginia have all gone right-to-work. Kentucky will be the 27th such state, making it more the norm than the exception around the country.

House Republicans strike down prevailing wage law

Published 10:48 pm Wednesday, January 4, 2017

House Republicans passed a bill out of committee Wednesday striking down the prevailing-wage law, which requires workers be paid average benefits and wages on public construction projects.

For several years, a Democrat House majority had thwarted efforts by House and Senate Republicans to repeal the law.
Sen. Wil Schroder, R-Wilder, has sponsored a prevailing-wage bill for the last two years that would have exempted schools from paying prevailing wage on projects of $250,000 or more. The bill was defeated in previous House committee hearings when Democrats were in the majority.

Bill Finn, director of the Kentucky State Building and Construction Trades Council, told members of the House Standing Committee on Economic Development and Workforce Investment that there’s no cost increase to construction projects as a result of the existing prevailing-wage law.
Finn said the costs of paying skilled workers are offset by having the work completed by a more efficient and proficient workforce.

“When you invest in construction worker training … you get a better, more productive worker. Getting the job done right the first time, on time adds value for Kentucky,” Finn said. “The construction labor costs of a project make up about 23 percent of total construction costs. All of the wages — the way prevailing wage is determined — from previous projects the year before, the previous 12 months. It (repealing prevailing wage) is going to affect every construction worker.”

Finn said state workers will lose out on jobs to out-of-state workers who would be able to compete with different wage rates. Training programs would in turn suffer funding for construction workers raising safety concerns if out of state workers were able to compete for bids on projects not paying prevailing wage.

“Kentucky has already tried saving money by cutting wages and benefits of construction workers 35 years ago and exempted schools from paying prevailing wage. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now. Local construction workers on local projects is what we need for Kentucky contractors. A lot of working people voted for a change in this election, but they didn’t vote for this. They didn’t vote for a pay cut.”

House Republican leadership has made the bill one of its priorities as House Bill 3. The Republican majority passed the bill out of committee 16-8, despite Democrat opposition.

Opinion: How prevailing-wage laws help veterans

Chicago Sun Times

OPINION 12/08/2016, 06:51pm

Mike Pounovich and Marc Poulos

In about six weeks, President-elect Donald Trump and the two houses of Congress will own responsibility for delivering on some big promises.

Two featured repeatedly in his campaign were fixing our infrastructure and “taking care of vets” who are being treated “horribly.”

These two issues are not as disconnected as you might think

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.

Now, after many blue-collar construction workers helped deliver the White House to Trump over his promise to immediately rebuild our nation’s outdated infrastructure, the question is what will happen to the national prevailing wage law (Davis-Bacon) that’s ensured these projects are done right for 85 years.

On the campaign trail, Trump famously said, “Every policy decision must pass a simple test: Does it create more jobs and better wages for Americans?”  Most of the peer-reviewed evidence tells us that repealing prevailing wage laws fails this test spectacularly, and worse, would disproportionately hurt the hundreds of thousands of military veterans working in the construction industry today.

The beneficiaries would not be veterans or working Americans — but the wealthy “low road” contractors who have long supported anti-prevailing wage politicians like Pence, Rauner and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.  These special interests aren’t buying politicians because they are planning to send taxpayers a rebate check.  Instead, because they know a race to the bottom on safety, wages, and craftsmanship translates to less competition and higher profits for them.

Trump surely knows prevailing wage laws have almost no impact on total project costs, since construction labor only represents about 20 percent of the average project budget.

These laws also make a huge difference for taxpayers who rely on quality roads, water systems, schools and bridges that are built correctly.

How Donald Trump’s infrastructure proposal balances the more extreme elements in his party with his promise to rebuild America’s infrastructure in a way that creates  “more jobs and better wages for Americans” will help define his presidency.

Either he will keep faith with the working people and veterans he claims to represent, or he will game the system for low road special interests.

Mike Pounovich is an equipment operator and a former specialist in the U.S. Army Reserves who spent 12 months in Iraq building roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure.

Marc Poulos is the executive director and counsel of the Indiana, Illinois and Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracting, as well as a board member of the National Alliance for Fair Contracting and the Illinois Prevailing Wage Council.

Veterans In Construction Will Want To Save Prevailing Wage Law

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Written by

Study says wages will be reduced 7-10 percent if repealed

A repeal of a law going into effect in January will have a severely negative impact on military veterans.

That according to a study done by Midwest Economic Policy Institute (MEPI).

Prevailing wage, which makes sure those in construction get a livable wage on the job, is set to go away for local projects next year.

“Repeal of prevailing wage would actually reduce veterans income by 7-10 percent,” Frank Manzo, the policy director with MEPI, said. “(It) would lower the employer provided health coverage for vets in construction by 11-15 percent.”

Manzo says there is no evidence from other states that have passed this law that money has been saved.

In 2014 there was an estimated 200 veterans in La Crosse County employed as blue collar construction workers and this policy could put veterans in danger in these positions, especially since it cuts apprenticeship.

“Veterans who come home from fighting overseas,” Manzo explained, “now face an increased risk, if they’re working construction, when prevailing wage is repealed, because they’re colleagues are less trained, less invested in their community.”

The study says the law will strip 400 veterans of their health insurance. Over 8 percent of the construction workers in the state are veterans.

Manzo says if you are against prevailing wage being stopped, you should make your voice known at the polls in two weeks.

The move is expected to double the number of veterans living below poverty level.

EXCLUSIVE: Attorney General’s office recovers nearly $5.7M in owed pay for New York low-wage workers

ALBANY — State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office recovered nearly $5.7 million in owed pay and damages for more than 3,300 low-wage workers since last Labor Day, the Daily News has learned.

The recoveries are included in a third annual Labor Day report Schneiderman’s office is set to release Monday.

The recovered wages by Schneiderman’s Labor Bureau went to fast-food employees, home health aides, taxi drivers, restaurant employees and construction workers.

“As Attorney General, I remain steadfastly committed to ensuring that workers are paid for the work they do, that their pay lifts them out of poverty, and that undue obstacles aren’t placed in their path to job security and economic advancement,” Schneiderman said.

Read the full article here.