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Feb
2013
13

MI Gov Statements About Prevailing Wages Eerily Similar to Those He Made About “Right-to-Work”



With both the Michigan House and Senate putting forward legislation to repeal the state’s prevailing wage, all eyes are on Gov. Rick Snyder’s response to determine the likelihood of passage. So far, however, that response has been non-committal and has recalled his wishy-washy actions on the state’s new, hated “Right-to-Work” law.

Snyder has called prevailing wage repeal “a very divisive issue” that is “not something that we’re working on.” Coming from the man who said that “Right-to-Work” was “not on my agenda” just days before signing it into law this does not hold much stock.

To quote the great Yogi Berra, “It’s like Deja Vu all over again.”

One of Snyder’s likely opponents in the next Governor’s race, Democrat Mark Schuer, is asking that the Governor promise to veto any prevailing wage repeal:

“There’s a problem now. Bills to repeal the state’s prevailing wage have been dropped in both the House and Senate. Governor Snyder’s statement on that is eerily reminiscent of his statement on right to work,”

Schuer has intimated that without a promise to veto prevailing wage repeal Democrats will not provide the needed votes to for a Michigan roads proposal:

“What a repeal of prevailing wage is is an invitation to out of state companies to pay workers less. So what needs to happen is that issue needs to be off the table. And we will gladly and enthusiastically come to the table on the road package.”

Prevailing wage repeal has been introduced every year since 2007 by State Sen. Arlan Meekhof. He told the Holland Sentinel that he will continue the fight despite Snyder’s objections, adding, “He didn’t want to do right to work either.”

GULP.

Not surprisingly, prevailing wage repeal is wholeheartedly endorsed by the conservative Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

In defense of the current system Professor Daniel H. Kruger of the School of Labor and Industrial Relations at Michigan State University argues,

[Michigan's Prevailing Wage Act ensures] that predatory contractors will not have an incentive to underbid established businesses by using unskilled or low-skilled workers imported from other parts of the country who are willing to work for less than the local labor market is paying.

As noted by Chris Savage of Electablog, the primary purpose of the prevailing wage is to protect workers “from contractors that use substandard labor that pays a fraction of what a trained professional should receive.”

Savage is not confident, however, that the prevailing wage can be defended regardless of the facts:

Since that (prevailing wage) puts a pinch on the bottom lines of men like Dick DeVos, you can be sure that when this bill comes up for a vote, a lot of Republicans will suddenly see it as the savior of our economy and when it hits Governor Snyder’s desk, he will sign it. Because that’s how Republicans roll when the Money Men come to town.

Workers and Democrats alike must prepare for a long hard fight if they want to see prevailing wages remain. In many ways, Michigan is quickly becoming the new Wisconsin: a traditionally blue state that is shape shifting under the weight of the Right’s urgency to push through an agenda before new elections bring balance back to the state.

A reminder of the importance of the true intent of prevailing wage laws is given by the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (supplied by Electablog):

Michigan’s Prevailing Wage law covers construction workers employed on state financed or sponsored construction projects. Under this act the Wage and Hour Division establishes wage and fringe benefit rates to be paid construction workers on state projects.
The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs determines prevailing rates pursuant to the Prevailing Wage Law, Act 166, P.A. of 1965. The purpose of establishing prevailing rates is to provide rates of pay for workers on construction projects for which the state or a school district is the contracting agent and which is financed or financially supported by the state.

By law, prevailing rates are compiled from the rates contained in collectively bargained agreements which cover the locations of the state projects. The prevailing rates provide an hourly rate which includes wage and fringe benefit totals for designated construction mechanic classifications. The overtime rates also include wage and fringe benefit totals. {…}

The department establishes the prevailing rate for each classification of construction mechanics requested by a contracting agent prior to contracts being let out for bid on a state project.

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