The Michigan legislature escalated its war on working families earlier this month, when it repealed the state’s prevailing wage law. This follows its passage of “right to work for less” legislation in 2012 as another blow to the living standards of all Michigan workers.
The prevailing wage repeal will send OPCMIA members and all other construction craftspeople on a race to the bottom, because it will enable contractors to gain an unfair advantage in bidding for state contracts by slashing their labor costs.
The purpose of prevailing wage laws is to prevent this vicious circle by ensuring that all contractors doing government construction work pay their workers the wages and benefits that are most common in each community. That way, contractors compete on the basis of quality and efficiency, all workers are guaranteed fair compensation, and the public is guaranteed roads, highways, bridges and other public projects that are built safely, soundly, on time and on budget.
But as Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber wrote in the Detroit News, repeal of the prevailing wage was “a vote to make us less safe, less paid and less employed on local projects.”
In fact, this vote will undermine training, job safety, and the supply of skilled construction workers. That’s because prevailing wage laws help ensure that joint labor-management apprenticeship, training and safety programs are properly funded. Without this vital protection, irresponsible contractors that skimp on training and safety — if they provide any at all — will be first in line for government contracts, while our employers will be directly harmed. “We are already facing a shortage of skilled labor,” said Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council (MBCTC) President Steve Claywell, “and thanks to this misguided vote Michigan is now lacking an essential tool to ensure quality wages that attracts top talent.”
“By voting for repeal, Michigan Republicans have opened the door to increased workplace injuries and deaths as contractors rush to hire untrained, unqualified workers in some of the most dangerous professions,” Bieber added.
Indeed, the Michigan legislature has guaranteed that costly mistakes, workplace accidents, and time and cost overruns will become the norm on public projects from this point forward.
The bottom line is that all of OPCMIA’s Michigan members need to get involved and vote in this year’s elections. By taking back the governorship and retaking control of the Michigan legislature, we can put the prevailing wage law back on the books, repeal “right to work,” and put the state’s working families on a path to higher wages and middle class living standards, for a change.
After all that anti-worker politicians have done to Michigan’s workers, there is no excuse for inaction!