By ED FINKELSTEIN
The campaign to talk sense to Missouri Republican legislators over the prevailing wage issue that will badly hurt Missouri construction companies and workers intensifies this week as the Legislature heads into its Spring Break March 20.
Bills to kill prevailing wage are sitting on the House and Senate calendars and are not expected to come up this week, so making your phone calls, emails and personal contacts right now even more critical. Action on them is expected quickly when legislators return March 27.
The media and digital campaign to get construction workers and all union members to call their state reps and senators urging them to oppose any effort to destroy prevailing wage moved into high gear recently:
CALLS – A series of 800 numbers have been set up to simplify the contact process:
- Your Missouri Senator – 1-800-208-3499
- Your State Representative – 1-573-751-2000
- Governor Eric Greitens: 1-573-751-3222
When you call and enter your zip code, you will be connected to your state senator or representative with the push of a button.
EMAILS – A digital campaign was launched this week via email. Go to protectmowages.org and there’s an option for a pre-written message or space to write your own message to your elected officials. Once you put in your zip code, the appropriate official will get your email.
SPREADING THE WORD – Everyone is encouraged to ask your family, friends and neighbors to participate by making a call and sending an email, then posting on your Facebook page and spreading the appeal via your own email networks.
PUBLIC EDUCATION EFFORT continues with a series of 15- and 30-second radio commercials airing across the state to encourage the public to talk with their legislators about this critical issue.
“On top of the phony “right-to-work” that’s about to take effect in Missouri in August unless we can stop it with our petition campaign, killing prevailing wages will add to the misery of Missouri’s workers everywhere, driving down wages and killing benefits in every sector of the economy, including our construction industry,” said John Stiffler, executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building Trades Council.
ONSLAUGHT AGAINST CONTRACTORS
There are at least 10 bills to destroy prevailing wages introduced in the House and three in the Senate where there are also five House bills being considered.
“Yes, killing prevailing wage will badly hurt our construction workers, but it will destroy our Missouri contractors and subcontractors,” said Senator Gina Walsh, a retired member of Heat and Frost Insulators Local 1 and president of the Missouri State Building Trades Council.
“This is an anti-construction business bill, and it’s going to hurt local construction businesses big time. And that means construction workers, and the state’s economy, will suffer as well.”
The Senate bill under consideration, SB 20, will totally destroy the prevailing wage law that establishes a base pay rate by counties that all contractors on public works jobs have to pay their workers, thus ensuring fair competition by requiring contractors to bid on their skill, expertise and productivity of their workers rather than who pays the lowest wages, quality of work be damned.
“Without it, contractors from the South who pay next to nothing in wages and provide no benefits, have lesser skilled workers which ultimately means inferior work, will be able to come into Missouri and underbid Missouri contractors, killing the state’s entire construction industry, commercial and residential,” Walsh predicted. “How state lawmakers don’t understand this is beyond me.”
STUDY MAKES THE POINT
Over the years, the Labor Tribune has published numerous stories of how union contractors have had to come behind non-union contractors to fix major construction problems they created, thus increasing the overall cost to owners.
A recent study by the University of Missouri-Kansas City, predicts Missouri will lose over $488 million in economic benefits if the prevailing wage law is killed. (See sidebar below.)
“If prevailing wage is destroyed, our state’s economy will be hurting, big time,” Stiffler added. “If the governor thinks he has financial problems now, if this happens it’s a disaster compounding the state’s budget disaster that’s already here.”
Missouri has a lot to lose with loss of prevailing wages
Missouri has nothing to gain but a lot to lose if its prevailing wage law is repealed, a new study by the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) warns.
“The Economic Impact of Repealing Missouri’s Prevailing Wage Law” examined more than 150,000 construction projects in 12 Midwestern states, including Missouri, from 2003 to 2010. The current report is an update of its initial findings in 2010.
In comparing prevailing wage and non-prevailing wage states, the study makes a number of key findings:
KEY FINDINGS: NOT GOOD
Among the UMKC findings:
- Prevailing wage states delivered projects $9.74 a square foot cheaper.
- A repeal of prevailing wage would reduce middle class wages, severely impacting consumer spending and contributing to as much as $488.2 million in lost annual economic benefits in Missouri.
- Repeal would drastically reduce or eliminate health and retirement benefits, creating more dependence on taxpayer-funded state welfare.
- Repeal would flood the state with unskilled, unsafe construction workers, significantly increasing overall construction costs and risk management issues while exporting wages out of the state.
PREVAILING WAGE DELIVERS
“Prevailing wage supports a highly skilled and safe workforce that delivers construction projects more cost efficiently while supporting the overall economic health of Missouri, its citizens and businesses,” notes the St. Louis Construction Cooperative.
Like its predecessor, the latest UMKC study is produced by the non-profit Council for Promoting American Business.