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Mackinac Center for Public Policy
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2013 Senate Bill 159: Repeal “prevailing wage” law
  1. Introduced by Sen. Arlan Meekhof (R) on February 6, 2013, to repeal the state “prevailing wage” law, which prohibits awarding government contracts to contractors who submit the lowest bid unless the contractor pays "prevailing wages," which are based on regional union pay scales that tend to be above the market rate. Senate Bill 157 contains the repeal; this bill revises the school code to reflect the repeal.
    • Referred to the Senate Government Operations Committee on February 6, 2013.


Re: 2013 Senate Bill 159 (Repeal “prevailing wage” law )  by harrynevus on February 26, 2013 


First of all, thank you so much for your intelligent, considerate, and thoughtful response, all of which are extremely rare and much needed in this forum. Your courtesy is very much appreciated.

For the most part, I can agree, or at least I feel comfortable taking your word for many of the points you make. One that I have trouble agreeing with is "a union shop is not needed to ensure decent wages." Since it is the unions that presumably set the prevailing wages, it is the law that ensures decent wages will be paid on government jobs. An earlier commenter told how his employer paid sub-standard wages until they were awarded a government contract. Then they paid the prevailing wage to the employees on that job and when they were done, their wages reverted to the previous lower wage. Without the present law in place, non-union employers will certainly not ensure decent wages for laborers and non-degreed tradesmen like carpenters, pipefitters, masons, and equipment operators. That's not to say none of them will, but you can be assured that most of them won't.  Since union wages are determined by contract, how many union employers are going to be successful in the bid process?  Secondly, as far as demonstrating the immoral and despicable mindset of the state legislative body in this fine state of Michigan, one needs only go to the top of this page, select HOME, then search legislation that contains the keyword "union".  Then review page after page of bills aimed at labor unions.  Then try "teachers" or "state employees".  You'll soon come to understand that these legislators spend an inordinate amount of time and resources to injure thousands of working families in Michigan.   For example, school districts are no longer allowed to use their computer payroll system to deduct union dues from the employees' payroll and forward them to a union.  What is the savings?  Nothing!  You and I both know it's an EFT (electronic fund transfer) from one bank account to another that involves no labor, an undetectable amount of computing time, and the money still must be paid by the school district.  It was done simply to inconvenience the union employees.  

When this bill passes, the winning bidders will be competent companies whose unskilled and semi-skilled labor wages are closest to minimum wage (or less).  There's a new Michigan law that allows employers to pay less than the minimum if the employee agrees to it.  And that means the standard of living for construction workers (not engineers and company executives) goes down and the gap between the wealthy and the poor widens regardless of the amount of ability and hard work.

Re: 2013 Senate Bill 159 (Repeal “prevailing wage” law )  by Indy2003 on February 25, 2013 
My point is that a union shop is not needed to ensure decent wages. I also fail to see why more Contract Administrators are needed. The ones we had were quite capable of handling multiple projects since they were assisted ably by subject matter experts. In my case, it was engineers of all categories. As far as lowest bidders being up to the job, I can assure you that technical people reviewing contracts for the Contract Administrator are competent in their own disciplines. Being the low bidder was not the absolute criteria. Competence was an important counterbalance. Further, the people who oversaw the construction or other services were well qualified in the areas of the jobs they inspected, whether tradesmen, architect or engineers. They followed all the standards, both construction, and in the case of electronics, electronic standards.

Throughout our history, working class did indeed advance through the ranks of the employed, either by training or education. There is no sacrosanct belief that once poor, always poor. Given ability and hard work, we can all succeed. No one has to be embedded in a low paying job.

I don't believe, and how do you prove, that there is a nefarious reasoning for passing this law. I was an engineer for 40 years and worked on many of these projects, including construction projects and rarely found that a contract was awarded to an incompetent service provider. In those rare instances, the miscarriage was corrected. I worked with union and non-union members and I found incentive from both to work towards successful completion of the task at hand, regardless of pay. I don't believe there is a monopoly on that coming out of a union hall.

Re: 2013 Senate Bill 159 (Repeal “prevailing wage” law )  by harrynevus on February 14, 2013 

 That's what I'm talking about, Indy.  Reputable companies will have the expertise because they invest in their equipment and personnel, which includes wages that reflect or exceed the prevailing wage.  They don't have to be union firms to be responsible companies.  But if the state of Michigan passes laws that require accepting the low bid and repeal prevailing wage laws, they will have effectively eliminated those responsible, reputable companies from the process. 

Then the state will need more Contract Administrators to oversee every detail.  Of course, those people are rare and the Michigan legislature won't want to pay them what they deserve.  I mean, they've already disbanded the committee that oversaw and reviewed the construction safety standards and placed that responsibility on one person to be appointed by the governor, like maybe his old community college roomate. 

However, the underlying reason for this has nothing to do with working conditions, expertise, or quality of work.  It's all about breaking unions, paying sub-standard wages, and suppressing the working class.  What we'll end up with in Michigan is an elite wealthy class that pays 5% of their income on Michigan taxes and the low-income working class who pay 10% or more of their income in Michigan taxes.  And from the sounds of the new sales and gas tax schemes coming out of Lansing, that disparity in taxes is about to be greatly increased.  It's also clear that this is being done intentionally and with that pupose in mind, which makes this and every other piece of legislation that comes out of Lansing even more despicable and evil.  There's just no other way to describe it or explain it away.

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