New law will ensure stable, well-qualified workforce in St. Louis County
By TIM ROWDEN
Earth City, Mo. – St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page has signed into law Labor legislation requiring enforcement of the county’s prevailing wage law on public works projects receiving county tax incentives.
“Prevailing wage laws ensure a stable, well-qualified workforce that produces high-quality work,” Page said during a signing ceremony Feb. 16 at Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562’s Training Center in Earth City.
“At the heart of prevailing wage laws is the conviction that government ought to use its buying power in the construction sector to enhance the welfare of workers and their families,” Page said. “Low bids that are below the area market competition come at the expense of low wages for the workers, and that can lead to a less qualified workforce and an inferior project,” he said.
‘The Prevailing Wage Enforcement Program is committed to ensuring construction industry employers comply with the rules when they receive County funds for work subject to Missouri’s prevailing wage law.”
Page signed legislation in 2019 requiring developers on economic development projects assisted by tax incentives to pay no less than prevailing wage to contractors and subcontractors on a project, and signed an executive order establishing the position of prevailing wage enforcement coordinator.
The Prevailing Wage Enforcement Ordinance, unanimously approved by the County Council, formally codifies St. Louis County’s prevailing wage program including the prevailing wage enforcement coordinator, a position held by Janson Thomas.
“Prevailing wage plays a critical role in making sure construction projects across the community are built with a well-qualified workforce,” Page said. “My administration took action early to guarantee that those who build our economy are not short-changed for their hard work.”
St. Louis County’s program provides outreach and education throughout the county to answer employers’ and contracting agencies’ questions about compliance to ensure employees receive the wages they have legally earned and level the playing field for all contractors who do business with County government.
Page was joined last week by Local 562 plumbing and pipefitting apprentices and Labor leaders, who stressed the importance of the prevailing wage law in St. Louis County.
“This local prevailing wage ordinance guarantees a robust enforcement mechanism,” said John Stiffler, executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council. “The ordinance gives St. Louis County the necessary tools to investigate potential violations by requiring contractors to provide certified payroll, allow access to job sites and post notices to keep workers informed of their rights.”
MORE DIVERSE, PRODUCTIVE
Pat White, president of the Greater St. Louis Labor Council, said prevailing wage laws provide a more diverse, productive workforce and safer worksites.
“Higher productivity lowers construction costs without lowering wages,” White said. “Prevailing wage laws benefit blue-collar workers and our communities by encouraging training, lowering the rate of injuries, promoting health care coverage, minimizing disruption to local labor markets, ensuring that minority and female workers receive prevailing wages, and encouraging their participation in apprenticeship programs.”
LEVELS THE PLAYING FIELD
“Prevailing Wage is the most important element that you can have when building government taxpayer-funded projects,” Local 562 Business Manager John O’Mara added. “It levels the playing field for everybody in the area and everybody across the United States.”
Frank Jacobs, business manager for IBEW Local 1, added: “In today’s construction market, we far too often witness a ‘race to the bottom’ mentality, and that’s nothing short of unacceptable. Our members represent the safest, most highly skilled and productive workforce.”
GOOD VALUE FOR TAXPAYERS
Jeremy Bennett, executive director of SITE Improvement Association, an independent construction contractor group representing contractors in concrete, earthmoving, landscaping, asphalt paving, highway and bridge, sewer, utility and specialty construction, said prevailing wage laws support strong wages and benefits, promote quality work and produce good value for taxpayers.
“Prevailing wage ensures that contractors bid on public works construction contracts on a level playing field. By creating a compliance program and appointing a prevailing wage enforcement coordinator, St. Louis County is committing to ensuring taxpayer funds are appropriately paid to local construction workers consistent with Missouri law affecting local contractors,” Bennett said. “They enhance state revenues, improve safety and reduce occupational injuries and fatalities, and increase the diversity of construction.”