Pro­tect pre­vail­ing wage law

The Detroit News - - Front Page - BY MIKE JACK­SON

Last week, an or­ga­ni­za­tion funded by the As­so­ci­ated Builders and Con­trac­tors de­liv­ered sig­na­tures to the Sec­re­tary of State for a pos­si­ble bal­lot ini­tia­tive that would re­peal pre­vail­ing wage. Sim­ply put, pre­vail­ing wage is a min­i­mum wage for skilled trades­men and women build­ing pub­lic con­struc­tion projects.

Be­cause of this po­ten­tial bal­lot ini­tia­tive and the se­vere short­age of skilled trades work­ers right now we are likely to hear a lot about pre­vail­ing wage in the next few months. While pol­i­tics makes ev­ery­thing more com­pli­cated than it has to be, the is­sues sur­round­ing pre­vail­ing wage are pretty sim­ple.

Re­peal­ing pre­vail­ing wage doesn’t save tax­payer dol­lars. Michi­gan re­pealed pre­vail­ing wage in the ’90s. We didn’t save tax­payer dol­lars. Wis­con­sin and In­di­ana both re­pealed pre­vail­ing wage in the last cou­ple years. They haven’t saved any tax­payer dol­lars. Time and time again, the end re­sult is the same: Re­peal­ing pre­vail­ing wage doesn’t save tax­payer dol­lars, and it won’t if we try it again.

The rea­son for this is sim­ple. Low­er­ing wages leads to lower-skilled work­ers and more mis­takes. And mis­takes in con­struc­tion are re­ally ex­pen­sive — and in some cases, dan­ger­ous. Mis­takes lead to de­lays and de­lays are re­ally ex­pen­sive, too. Qual­i­fied pro­fes­sion­als in con­struc­tion do it right the first time. We trained for four-year ap­pren­tice- ships. We have hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence. And we have the proper cer­ti­fi­ca­tions to en­sure that we de­liver on time and on bud­get. This isn’t IKEA fur­ni­ture. These are the bridges we drive on and the schools our kids at­tend. We need them to be built right.

Re­peal­ing pre­vail­ing wage also cre­ates se­vere skilled worker short­ages. When you don’t pay skilled work­ers enough money to live on, they move away in search of bet­ter jobs. Ten years ago, we paid teach­ers well and we had enough of them. Then, we cut their wages and now, we have a teacher short­age.

The same is true in our in­dus­try. Michi­gan al­ready has a se­vere skilled worker short­age. If we re­peal pre­vail­ing wage, we will make the skilled worker short­age a skilled worker cri­sis. This is ex­actly what hap­pened when we re­pealed pre­vail­ing wage in the ’90s. It will be even worse this time.

Why would any­one want to re­peal pre­vail­ing wage? That an­swer is sim­ple, too. Some com­pa­nies don’t want to pay peo­ple what they are worth and want to side­step taxes by pay­ing work­ers un­der the ta­ble. And it’s easier to do that if you get rid of pesky laws like pre­vail­ing wage. Then or­ga­ni­za­tions like the As­so­ci­ated Builders and Con­trac­tors don’t have to com­pete with com­pa­nies that pay their taxes, pay peo­ple for their work and play by the rules.

Mike Jack­son is ex­ec­u­tive sec­re­tary-trea­surer of the Michi­gan Re­gional Coun­cil of Car­pen­ters and Mill­wrights. Con­tact us: Phone: (313) 222-2292 | Email: let­ters@de­troit­news.com | Fax: (313) 496-5253 Detroit, MI 48226 ; Please in­clude home and work phone num­bers and city of res­i­dence

| Mail: 160 W. Fort Street, The mem­bers of The Detroit News edi­to­rial board are Jonathan Wol­man, Nolan Fin­ley, In­grid Jac­ques and Kait­lyn Buss. The Detroit News edi­to­rial pages op­er­ate in­de­pen­dently of the pa­per’s news cov­er­age, of­fer­ing our opin­ion and ad­di­tional commentary on is­sues of pub­lic in­ter­est. Nolan Fin­ley can be reached at nfin­ley@de­troit­news.com.

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