Updated: 05/23/2012 12:24:25 PM EDT
Recent anti-prevailing wage articles paint the picture of a classic business vs. organized labor dispute. It's not.
Recently, I testified at a House hearing on behalf of construction contractors who support prevailing wage law. That's right, "contractors, employers, job creators" who support the law. And, it's not just contractors that use union labor. Three of the five of us who testified are owners of non-union construction companies. We testified that the rates we pay are in line with the wage rates prescribed by the prevailing wage law. That's why it's called "prevailing wage."
So, if the dispute isn't a union vs. non-union fight, what's it really about? It's a battle between low-wage contractors and contractors who pay good wages and benefits. The Prevailing Wage Act establishes a minimum wage for work on publicly financed construction projects. It's necessary because those projects are awarded on a low-bid basis. Without the law, some contractors attempt to be the lowest bidder by paying workers as little as possible.
A study examining the effects of Missouri's repeal of prevailing wage found that out-of-state contractors were awarded more public jobs after the repeal. Why? They brought cheap labor with them. The law levels the playing field so local contractors who hire local workers aren't underbid by fly-by-nights.
You probably have neighbors or friends who have a career as a plumber, electrician or another trade. Protecting good-paying local contractors from being underbid by cheap labor importers protects their jobs.
JAMES GAFFNEY, PRESIDENT
ASSOCIATION OF EASTERN PA