By State Representative, Leon D. Young
Succinctly stated: Repealing the prevailing wage doesn’t save the state money. , it costs the state JOBS! With that being said, let’s examine the truth about the prevailing wage law that Republicans refuse to admit and don’t want you to know. Repealing prevailing wage has in effect:
• Shipped millions of dollars across the border to companies in states like Florida and Kentucky.
• Caused great economic harm to countless, hard-working Wisconsin workers and their families. Moreover, a closer look inside the numbers reveals the following:
• More than one in four workers in Wisconsin made less than $11.56 per hour, which is considered a poverty-wage job, according to COWS (The Center on Wisconsin Strategy) with UW – Madison.
• Low-wage jobs don’t offer good benefits. Workers in low-wage jobs are less likely to receive health insurance through their employer, according to COWS.
• Repealing prevailing wage hurts veterans who work in the construction industry. According to a 2016 study from the Midwest Economic Policy Institute, approximately 2,000 veterans are likely to separate from their jobs by 2018 because of the repeal of prevailing wage laws.
o This will result in a total decline of veteran construction workers’ wages of $113 million, according to the same study.
o Additionally, more than 200 veterans will earn less than the official poverty line.
o This would, according to the Midwest Economic Policy Institute, result in more veterans relying on government assistance programs that would cost taxpayers more money.
• The Midwest Economic Policy Institute also noted that the “repeal of prevailing wage will reduce earnings and shrink consumer demand, resulting in fewer dollars spent in local economies at grocery stores or on health services or on buying homes.”
In 2015, the state legislature ended prevailing wage for local projects and that enacted legislation took effect this year. Now, Republicans are back with new legislation aimed at eliminating state prevailing wage for state projects. (Prevailing wage is used to determine the average hourly rate a worker should be paid.)
It’s most intriguing to note that this latest attempt to gut the state’s prevailing wage law was initially advanced not as standalone legislation, but under the cover of the state budget, which is the only bill that must be passed every two years. However, the Republican plan of outright deception was thwarted when lawmakers sitting on the Joint Finance Committee opted to strip all 82 non-fiscal provisions from the governor’s budget proposal.
If repealing the prevailing wage is such prudent public policy, then why did Republicans try to bury it in the budget? The answer is obvious: It is typically more difficult to pass controversial legislation as a standalone bill than as part of the state budget. Hence, Republicans were trying to take the easy way out, in terms of hoodwinking the public. Not to mention the fact that Republicans are attempting to hold Wisconsin construction workers hostage, while politically insinuating that they are somewhat responsible for the current transportation shortfall more than $1 billion.
In closing, the truth is this regarding the prevailing wage:
• Wisconsin workers deserve good paying jobs.
• When workers are paid well, they can take care of their families, their communities, and themselves.