A group of construction contractors and trade unions is pushing back against an effort at the state Capitol to repeal prevailing wage requirements on many publicly funded projects.
State and local prevailing wage rules require contractors to pay union-level wages on schools and other public building projects. A petition drive led by non-union builders has gathered signatures to put the question before the Legislature.
The non-union builders say banning prevailing wage rules would save taxpayers money. But unions and the firms that work with them say there would be unintended consequences that would result in fewer skilled workers, more litigation, and fewer apprenticeship and training opportunities.
“It’s going to end of costing Michigan some of our skilled workforce,” says Herb Spence, a construction company owner. He says repealing prevailing wage standards would make careers in building trades less attractive as the industry already faces a worker shortage.
Governor Rick Snyder also opposes a ban on prevailing wage rules. However, he would not have veto power over an initiative that was placed before the Legislature by a petition campaign.
Vince DeLeonardis is the president of an employee-owned construction firm in Oakland County. He wants the Legislature to reject or ignore the initiative if it’s certified by state elections officials. He also says it would make careers in the building trades less attractive and less available.
“The loss of prevailing wage jobs would adversely affect the funding for these training programs, and then the opportunities for these apprentices to work in the trades.”
But a chief proponent of forbidding prevailing wage says opponents are simply trying to shut out competition from non-union builders.
“It’s no surprise that Big Labor and big union contractors support wasteful prevailing wage red tape and regulation,” says Chris Fisher of the Associated Builders and Contractors. “…They are making a killing off the backs of taxpayers and at the expense of all other Michigan employers.”
State elections officials hope to have their review of the petition signatures wrapped up by Thanksgiving.