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Majority of Speakers at WV Committee Hearing Remain Opposed to Prevailing Wage Reform

Sen. Manchin was among the speakers at the latest prevailing wage hearings

Sen. Manchin was among the speakers at the latest prevailing wage hearings

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A West Virginia house committee heard testimony from nearly 30 people — including U.S. Senator Joe Manchin — about a controversial compromise bill that would dramatically alter the state’s prevailing wage system.  The bill started in the Senate as an outright repeal of the prevailing wage before the Republican hand was forced following intense negotiations.  But at the hearing a majority of speakers remained against changing the law at all.

This group included Senator Joe Manchin who reminded the committee that prevailing wage laws were born from a bipartisan effort to ensure solid wages for workers during the great depression. Speaking to members of the House Government Organization Committee, Manchin said:

“You’ve heard labor and business talking and working together wanting to find adjustments to be made which makes this a better piece of legislation. They’re wanting to do that. Seize the opportunity here to put something together that’s good. Don’t let the toxic atmosphere of Washington permeate into West Virginia. We’re better than that.”

Among the proposed changes under the compromise bill are a raise in the threshold that triggers the wage (meaning fewer projects would be governed by it) and changes to the way the wage is calculated. James Carney of Oval Construction of Charleston argued that the new threshold would hurt his business. “This bill is going to do serious damages to my business and businesses like mine,” he said. “Ninety percent of my work is under the $500,000 threshold. That number seems arbitrary to me.”

Kenneth Perdue, President of the West Virginia AFL-CIO, also argued against the higher threshold,suggesting the number of projects that cost between $100,000 and $500,000 is too great.

“With the threshold being at $500,000, that leaves an open void for contractors that bid on those projects between $100,000 and $500,000. That’s going to have an effect on a lot of contractors as to whether they’re going to be able to stay in business.

Others were concerned that given the language of the bill, Workforce West Virginia would not be able to implement the new standards in time. If passed, Workforce West Virginia would have to develop new methodology for calculating wages by June 1st and implement them by July 1st. Steve White of the Affiliated Construction Trades told the committee, “There’s not enough time in the bill to do what needs to be done to find the true market wage.”

The House Government Organization Committee has yet to place the bill on any future committee agenda.


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