Don’t try to tell us 2016 was the worst of it when Wisconsin workers are staring down the barrel of a loaded legislative gun.
State Rep. Rob Hutton has introduced a bill that would block local governments from requiring Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) on public construction projects. Instead, Hutton said he would like to “leave that up to the contractor.”.
“We’re basically eliminating the ability for a municipality to require that a contractor enter into a project labor agreement for collective bargaining around labor and labor wages,” the Brookfield Republican said in an interview Thursday.
“We don’t want government either to prohibit or require a project labor agreement,” Hutton added.
Co-authored by state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield), the bill is ostensibly aimed at reducing costs on pubic construction projects, particularly in the transportation sector. But as Manitoba Building Trades & Allied Hydro Council CEO Sudhir Sandhu points out, PLAs can actually end up saving tax-payers a lot of money:
Project labour agreements prevent fly-by-night contractors from bringing poorly trained and unqualified labour to critical infrastructure projects…We have seen ample examples of projects that experienced extreme remediation costs due to poor workmanship at the outset.
The difference is non-union organizations want access to skilled workers without having to pay for the associated training costs. Of course, that gives those organizations a cost advantage on which to compete, [which] will remove the incentive for unions and their private-sector business partners to continue investing in a skilled workforce essential to Manitoba’s economic prosperity, eventually leaving taxpayers on the hook.
PLAs aren’t the only labor-friendly policy under attack in Wisconsin. Republican lawmakers have a well-known distate for a decent living and have targeted the prevailing wage time and again, most recently this month. Via Watchdog.org:
In a constituent newsletter sent on Friday, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos announced that he is in favor of repealing Wisconsin’s prevailing wage proposal. “A full prevailing wage repeal should be considered as part of a comprehensive transportation funding package,” the newsletter said.
Just last month, Vos said in a memo that a complete repeal of the state’s prevailing wage law would save only an average of 1 percent on project costs…A partial repeal of the law for local road projects takes effect on Jan. 1, 2017.
Dismantling labor law and trampling workers’ rights has little to do with protecting taxpayers. Instead, it forces an uncompromising pro-business agenda by offering handouts to large firms that line political coffers. Perhaps Hutton and his cohorts will finally push Wisconsin workers over the edge. Perhaps, one day, they’ll pay for it in the voting booth.