Prevailing wage repeal wrong

Another attack on hard-working families is on the horizon. This time, the Republican-controlled legislature is going after the wages of our construction workers by repealing the state’s prevailing wage law.

Enacted in the 1960s, Michigan’s prevailing wage law ensures that local union and non-union construction workers on publicly financed projects are paid fair wages and benefits. These are the folks who build our schools, roads and other vital infrastructure right here at home.

Supporters of repealing the prevailing wage law will tell you that paying higher wages drives up construction costs. That is not the case. We’ve seen this before, in 1994, when the state suspended prevailing wage. The results showed no significant reduction in construction costs. Aside from lower wages and reduced benefits for our construction workers, a repeal of the state’s prevailing wage law will lead to a less-trained work force and higher injury rates on the job site that truly drive up the costs of our public construction projects.

Currently we have a shortage of skilled trades workers across of the state. We’ve done a lot on the state and local level to bolster educational opportunities for our children to learn a skilled trade. Why would we lower wages for skilled trades jobs when we do not have enough skilled workers to fill these jobs?

What Michigan’s prevailing wage law does is promote competition and rewards quality work and productivity rather than solely focusing on those who pay the lowest wages. It helps our hard-working men and women on public construction projects earn a living wage so they can put food on the table and support their family. It directly benefits our local economy from our small businesses to helping us grow our local tax base so we can provide adequate essential services.

By repealing our prevailing wage law, we put our future at risk. I voted against any repeal of prevailing wage because we need to keep good-paying jobs and a highly trained workforce right here in the U.P. so we can grow our economy.