Don't Drink the Tea. Think With the WE.

The Prevailing Wage Isn’t a Union Issue, It’s a Worker Issue

In Pennsylvania, the anti-union GOP’s intention is to draw harsh divisions among voters. There, turning the 2012 election into a class war is a forgone conclusion. But not everybody believes the fabricated hype.

One such non-believer is Frank Bankard of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 542 who wrote an opinion piece chastising two Republicans who seem to have confused “prevailing wages” and “union wages.” As Bankard points out, union trades gain less than 10 percent of the prevailing wage work in Pennsylvania:

The cost of labor on most construction projects is about 20 percent. Most importantly, prevailing wages are not union wages; they are the average wage for the trade in the area work is performed.

These tradespersons have invested years of schooling and continuing education in their chosen field. And their profession should be rewarded by a decent standard of living, not by bringing in out-of-state workers who may be willing to do it cheaper, but with what type of quality?

The piece, which is a direct response to anti-union articles written by former state Rep. candidate Robert Ciervo and current state Rep. candidate Gloria Carlineo, notes that union detractors are leaving out the fact that they, too, have benefited from action taken on behalf of constituents by the federal government:

It’s ironic and hypocritical that both these individuals who blame government funding have benefited enormously off the coffers of state and the federal government.

Mr. Ciervo was educated through state-funded schools and draws a paycheck from a state-funded university. Ms. Carlineo also attended state and federally funded schools. While in school, she worked for the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. After graduation, she then worked for the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration and then as a legislative aide for a congressman. In other words, she was a lobbyist! And now she condemns others who lobby for their interest. Is this the type of hypocrite who should be representing Pennsylvania?

Bankard goes on to point out the hypocrisy of the war on unions and how it aligns with a much larger war on the middle class. As those who benefited from the height of union density are in the latter stages of retirement, enjoying the pensions they fought for during their working days, a new generation of workers must stand up for their rights or see the middle class fade away, he insists:

While union membership has diminished over the past 25 years, so has the middle class. Ms. Carlineo feels that compulsory union membership and dues are a horrible burden placed on those in this commonwealth.

If she truly believes that, would she propose legislation to abolish compulsory taxation? According to her premise, people shouldn’t be forced to contribute to something they don’t want to support. Using that rationale, shouldn’t they be able to avoid paying taxes if they don’t like their elected officials?

What would happen to our government if we had a choice to pay taxes or not? How many would pay if it was not a legal mandate? How long would it be before the infrastructure of America would collapse and chaos would ensue?

Ms. Carlineo understands that no organization can survive without income, and unfortunately, many Americans would not pay taxes or union dues if not compelled, no matter what rewards were gained.

Pennsylvania is the perfect example of a state that is likely to be at the forefront of the culture war (i.e. election) in 2012. Hardworking individuals are tired of being both lied to and taken advantage of, making them ideal targets for political spin. The Keystone State, especially in its rural most parts, is a place where people still take pride in an honest day of work for an honest wage. The idea that Republicans can sway middle class voters by attacking labor at its core is far-fetched. Or so we hope…


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