Set stage for low-wage out-of-state companies to take Missouri jobs
By TIM ROWDEN
Jefferson City – The Republican-majority Missouri Legislature can’t dismantle unions and trample on the rights of working people fast enough.
Aside from making a show this year of investigating their own corrupt Governor Eric Greitens, it is virtually all they’ve worked on in recent legislative sessions.
House Republicans have officially passed a repeal of Missouri’s prevailing wage law that affects public construction projects.
The House voted 89-62, mostly along party lines, to send the legislation to the Senate.
Prevailing wage laws ensure that public sector construction jobs are bid based on equipment, materials and overall project management, rather than on the wages of the employees.
Missouri’s current law requires construction workers to be paid state-set minimum wages on taxpayer-funded projects, county by county, based on voluntary annual wage reports submitted by contractors. The law requires nonunion workers to be paid the same wages as union members on public works projects, including roads, bridges, schools and other public buildings.
A FLAWED ARGUMENT
The repeal measure –– a combination of three bills from Republican representatives Jeffery Justus (R-Branson), Holly Rehder (R-Sikeston) and Warren Love (R-Osceola) –– is premised on the argument that contractors in rural areas don’t report their wages paid, which skews worker pay toward urban areas, where contractors do report their wages and the cost-of-living and wages are higher.
That argument, of course, ignores the fact that if local contractors were required to report the wages they pay, the prevailing wage would better reflect local economies.
Representative Doug Beck (D-Affton), a member of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562, said local communities would be better served if contractors were required to report their worker pay.
Passing the repeal, he said, will result in out of state companies taking over local public works projects with their own low-pay workers, just as has happened in other states that have repealed prevailing wage.
“We will have out of state companies that will come in here and start doing the work in Missouri,” said Beck. “They will bring their workers with them. These are facts. These are not scare tactics. It’s happened in Indiana. It’s happened in Arkansas. It’s happened wherever they’ve repealed prevailing wage.”
Repealing prevailing wage has been a priority for certain Republicans in the Missouri Legislature for years. A prevailing wage repeal bill passed the House in 2017 but stalled in the Senate amid GOP-infighting.
POSSIBLE SENATE COMPROMISE
The Senate is working on competing prevailing wage legislation, which many view as a compromise.
Representative Kevin Engler, a Farmington Republican who voted “no” on the House prevailing wage measure, predicted the House bill would die in the Senate, where he once served.
“It’s not going to pass the Senate,” Engler said. “It’s a bad bill.”