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Prevailing Waste: New Wage Calculations Show How Utterly Ridiculous WV GOP’s Political Games Are

Sen. Blair

Sen. Blair

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On Wednesday, WorkForce West Virginia filed the new prevailing wage with the Secretary of State’s office, ending a months-long battle for a recalculation of what state funded projects would pay.  The result? The GOP’s tampering with the old standard seems to have been a complete waste of time.

The new numbers were based on more than 500 contractor surveys and data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Critics immediately argued that the numbers had not changed sufficiently:

After several months of research, the Tomblin Administration WorkForce West Virginia released its new tables Wednesday.  Some of the newly calculated wages are lower and a few are higher, but overall they are very similar in most of the 28 categories.

For example, a carpenter in Kanawha County would be paid the equivalent of $45.41/hr. under the new formula ($29.48 in wages, $15.93 in fringe benefits), while under the old formula he would make $45.68/hr. ($29.05 in wages, $16.63 in benefits).

WorkForce Director of Research Jeff Green said that the numbers were slightly lower than the old wages, but mostly evened out: “58.4 percent of them (wages) were lower than previous rates, 41 percent were slightly higher.”

Speaking to the Register-Herald, Green added, “These numbers accurately reflect the going rate of wages of people who do this type of work, that is people who work in non-residential construction.”

The fact that workers would not be paid less angered many Republicans, who immediately shifted their focus to the calculation methodology. Sen. Craig Blair (R-Berkeley), the sole sponsor of the original legislation to alter the prevailing wage, wants to go for the jugular (wallet): “I’m going to come back next session with a full repeal bill, and be done with it.”

Blair won’t rest until West Virginia’s construction workers are universally dirt poor:

“I think the numbers are artificial. It’s a flawed methodology. That why I was opposed to using surveys to begin with. There was no need to waste time and money doing surveys. The survey showed what wages are being paid and there’s no change. Let the free market take care of it.”

The state’s building trades, who vehemently opposed the original attempt for a repeal, find the new wages acceptable despite being slightly lower.  Steve White, State Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation Executive Director, said he was “generally pleased” and believed the numbers were fairly accurate.  “Workforce did a tremendous job in getting a ton of data in here,” he added.

West Virginia AFL-CIO President Kenny Perdue complimented WorkForce for setting a “sound, stable wage.”  He defended the prevailing wage, saying, “It allows honest employers to come and do honest bidding with a quality workforce.”

Perdue is no fool, though. He considers it a matter of time before the state GOP makes another attempt for full repeal of the prevailing wage:

“I don’t think they had any intent of keeping prevailing wages.  They’re playing politics with people’s lives in West Virginia, those 30,000 construction workers.”


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