By TIM ROWDEN
In a move that will ensure St. Louis firms and workers have a fair shot at winning St. Louis County construction work, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page signed an ordinance last week requiring payment of prevailing wages on all projects using county tax incentives.
And he went one step further, creating by executive order, the position of Prevailing Wage Enforcement Coordinator, to ensure compliance with the county’s prevailing wage laws and consistent enforcement across county government.
“This is a great step forward to make sure tax-incentivized projects will be built by the trained, skilled workers St. Louis County taxpayers deserve,” said John Stiffler, executive-secretary treasurer of the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council.
“This ordinance shows the county cares about the quality of the contractors it hires and how they treat their workers. It’s not only a positive for the workers, it will help the local economy by keeping out-of-state contractors from flooding the county with low-paid – and usually low-skilled – labor in an effort to undercut the union contractors who keep our members working.”
Page requested the County Council create the ordinance in September imposing prevailing wage on all county incentivized projects.
“An investment in working men and women and their families through prevailing wage requirement is ultimately an investment in St. Louis County and an investment in economic development,” Page said. “Prevailing wage requirements lead to better supported workers, stronger local economies and more efficient projects. This bill protects workers by promoting retention of a highly skilled workforce, guaranteeing equal and equitable pay and encouraging healthcare benefits.”
Page said the bill will also empower workers by giving them a platform to raise concerns, shielding them from retaliatory contractors and promoting apprenticeships to improve and build their skill sets.
“This bill supports the continuing economic development of our communities by placing local workers on local projects, protecting the local labor market and circulating the dollars back into our communities,” Page said.
He added that the prevailing wage requirement will also benefit the county budget by improving labor productivity and efficiency and reducing safety risks and injury costs, which will help keep the total costs of projects lower without sacrificing workers’ wages.
“This is the first and only prevailing wage ordinance in St. Louis County for incentivized projects,” Page said. “Coupled with minority- and women-owned business participation policies, this supports our working, middle class minority workers in St. Louis County. Signing this bill into law supports the economic mobility of our workforce and bolsters the St. Louis economy.”
EVENS PLAYING FIELD
Pat White, president of the St. Louis Labor Council, said the bill would even the playing field for local contractors that pay good, living wages.
“This puts our contractors, who are the best contractors around, on the same playing field as contractors that may come from out of state and try and undercut them,” White said. “It means a lot when the good contractors we have out here like Alberici and McCarthy and Clayco, can come in and be on an even playing field.”
Having a prevailing wage ordinance doesn’t necessarily mean non-union contractors will be shut out of bidding on county work, White said, “but they do have to live up to the standards that our good building trades have built up over the years.”