The case for maintaining the Prevailing Wage Law
By JAMES BEAMER
Your editorial Oct. 15 backing the end to the prevailing wage law is full of misinformation based upon regurgitated talking points from ideological talking heads.
Some things to consider:
Wages are usually a maximum of 30 percent of a project. How does an entity save the entire cost of labor by paying lower wages? Do the employees work for free on non-prevailing wage projects? Are the workers just as productive?
Big city wages? I’ll use my trade: Electricians
Philadelphia County wages and benefits: $70.99 per hour.
Lycoming County wages and benefits: $45.23 per hour.
These figures include wages, retirement, vacation, sick pay, holiday pay, health care coverage, etc. because in construction you are only paid for the hours you work.
How about legislature pay? That looks like big city wages to me across the board.
Contractors don’t bid Prevailing Wage because they lack bonding capabilities for projects of that size.
They lack the cash flow or credit to purchase the materials
They lack experience in the large Commercial, Institutional, or Civil arena.
They employ an untrained workforce that is not capable of producing at a competitive level
They are afraid their workforce will want to earn family sustaining wages all the time
The majority of the paperwork associated with Public Funded projects has to do with building and material specifications. The paperwork associated with compliance with Prevailing wage amounts to two pieces of paper, notarized, indicating hours worked, classification worked (laborer, electrician), amount paid in cash, amount paid as benefits. All those items are functions of normal payroll. Public buildings are not designed or built to the same specifications as private buildings.
Higher wages attract better craftsman-union or non-union. Who do we want to build our schools and roads? Skilled craft workers or anyone who can hold a hammer?
The contractors who perform work in the public sector have qualifications that the others do not-union or non-union. The average Mom and Pop contractor can’t meet the rigorous demands of construction on that scale. They often employ the workers who cannot perform in public sector construction. Do we want to take the low road all the time? If you were on trial and facing prison, would you seek out the cheapest attorney? Do you price shop your cardiologist?
The facts from other states show that the cost savings never materializes when prevailing wage laws are eliminated. Wages go down, reworks increase, safety slides, and projects experience delays. It is fine to speculate on some proposed savings by solely looking at numbers and statistics absent any real world or human influences. That doesn’t make them obtainable
I am a union electrician. You may be surprised to know that we perform work for the same wages and benefits in the private sector. We compete with non-union contractors on these projects and are competitive. Our wages and benefits are higher than the non-union workers. What factors could there be that allow us to ever have the lowest number?
What evidence has anyone presented where a state has repealed prevailing wage and actually achieved the projected savings? I can’t seem to find anyone offering anything but speculation. Are you so niave that you believe taxpayers will get more or the state will save this money?
Beamer is business manager of IBEW Local Union 812.