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Oct
2015
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Contractors: Prevailing Wage Repeal in MI Will Crush Workforce, Training Opportunities for Youth

A Detroit News poll found broad support for the prevailing wage in Michigan

A Detroit News poll found broad support for the prevailing wage in Michigan


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On Monday, members of Michigan Prevails, an organization of construction and trades groups, held a press conference to push back against prevailing wage repeal. They called for the public to be given the chance to decide the law’s fate while contractors predicted the downfall of workforce development.

The press conference coincided with state officials checking the authenticity of signatures gathered for a ballot initiative that would ultimately prevent Governor Rick Snyder from vetoing repeal, which Snyder has promised to do.  The ballot initiative is backed by the anti-union Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), who spent the summer collecting signatures.  With the help of their big business buddes, who collectively make up the group Protecting Michigan Taxpayers (PMT), $1 million has been pumped into the ballot effort.  The legality of the signature gathering, however, has repeatedly been called into question.

MLive explains how things could shake out despite the governor’s opposition:

By collecting at least 252,523 signatures in a 180-day window, PMT can send its repeal bill to the GOP-led Legislature, which could vote to enact it into law without a signature from Snyder.

Industry experts disagree completely with claims of cost savings related to repeal.  One recent report, “The Cost of Repealing Michigan’s Prevailing Wage Policy,” estimated that repeal would cost the state 11,000 jobs, $1.7 billion in state GDP, and $700 million in new construction investment (that would move out of state). 

Those in attendance at Monday’s press conference reminded onlookers of the state’s previous foray into prevailing wage repealing, which occured between 1994 and 1997. The savings were offset by the flaws found in the work that was being done by less skilled workers, contractor Mike Stobak of Barton Malow construction explained:

“A bunch of the safety issues where, maybe people got hurt and then they just end up suing everyone. It was because of lack of quality where we weren’t accepting the work and contractors were pushing back and it became a litigation issue.”

Vince DeLeonardis, President of Pontiac-based George W. Auch Company, argued that a worker shortage would ensue should the prevailing wage be repealed, as training would be cut.

“The loss of prevailing wage jobs would adversely affect the funding for these training programs,” DeLeonardis said, “and then the opportunities for these apprentices to work in the trades.”

Herb Spence, of Spence Brothers in Saginaw, agreed, saying, “It’s going to end up costing Michigan some of our skilled workforce.”

Bart Carrigan of Associate General Contractors is especially concerned with young Michiganders losing apprenticeship opportunities in the event of repeal:

“We know loss of prevailing wage will make it so that employee will quit and go to other industries. It’s hard to keep people in the construction industry because the work is so cyclical so in order to keep them we have to pay them.  The construction industry is a good industry for your children to get involved in and they can earn while they learn through apprentice programs and have no loans.

These arguments echo the one being made by Gov. Rick Snyder, who has led the Republican-back splintering of the anti-wage effort. From the beginning, he has sought to make the construction trades a more attractive option for young Michigan workers.  Residents should know by Thanksgiving, when the signature validation process is complete, if that goal will be kneecapped.

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