By ED FINKELSTEIN
With the Republican-led Missouri Legislature focused on repealing or drastically modifying Missouri’s prevailing wage law, ProtectMOFamilies is not waiting for the legislature to reconvene next year, or for Governor Eric Greitens to call yet another special session this fall.
The organization is continuing to push an aggressive public awareness campaign with TV ads that are running statewide as well as online, aimed at educating middle class working families about Prevailing Wage and how repealing this important law will not only hurt building trades workers but seriously impact veterans.
The campaign comes on the heels of a television ad campaign the coalition ran in the spring when House Republicans, hoping to build on the Legislature’s approval of their anti-worker “right-to-work” law, approved a plan to repeal Prevailing Wage on public works projects in the state. The bill died in the Senate, but legislators are already working on a new measure to introduce next session.
As reported in the Aug. 24 edition of the Labor Tribune, the Senate Interim Committee on Labor Reform, heard testimony in early August and reviewed data to determine if, and how, the Legislature could repeal or seriously modify the state’s Prevailing Wage law in the next session, or sooner if the Gov. Greitens decides to call yet another special session.
Repealing the wage-protecting Prevailing Wage law would not only hurt construction workers in Missouri, but it would have a disproportionate impact on veterans, ProtectMOFamilies reports.
Veterans make up 10.5 percent of Missouri’s construction workforce and 6.7 percent of the state’s overall workforce.
Missouri legislators are not alone in eying Prevailing Wage repeal. Prevailing Wage laws have come under attack in at least 11 states recently, including Illinois, where Governor Bruce Rauner had proposed repeal at the local level as part of his “Turnaround Agenda.”
DEVASTATING IMPACT ON VETERANS
A recent report by VoteVets.org reveals the disastrous impact Prevailing Wage repeal would have on veterans nationwide:
Nationwide, repeal of Prevailing Wage would impose a $3 billion pay cut on veterans and increase the number of veteran construction workers living in poverty by 50 percent.
“It is appalling to see so many politicians who profess to ‘support veterans’ actively fighting to cut their wages,” said VoteVets Chairman Jon Soltz, an Iraq war veteran.
“Prevailing wage laws help more veterans translate battlefield skills into middle class careers in their communities. With too many post 9/11 veterans struggling to find work, we need to be strengthening these laws, not weakening them.
“In the debate over these measures, the vast majority of peer-reviewed studies by reputable economists have concluded that prevailing wage laws do not increase public construction costs,” Soltz said. “(But) missing entirely from the debate over these laws is who they would impact the most – military veterans, (who) pursue employment in the construction trades at substantially higher rates than non-veterans.”
Prevailing Wage laws, Soltz added, result in more local hiring, job growth across all economic sectors, safer worksites, higher quality workmanship and productivity, less spending on materials and fuels, and less poverty among blue collar construction workers.
MISSOURI VETERANS SPEAK OUT
In two of the ads, which are posted to YouTube and were recently shared by VoteVets.org, an Army veteran and a Navy veteran, both members of the St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council, speak out against the legislative effort to hurt their families.
Danny Burlison, a U.S. Navy veteran, proudly talks of working on Kickapoo High School in Springfield where two of his sons graduated and a daughter is currently enrolled.
“You can bet that union guys like me are going to make sure these buildings are well built and safe,” he said. “After all, they are the buildings our friends and family use every day.”
Noting that it’s out-of-state billionaires who are funding the anti-prevailing wage campaign, Burlison says repealing Prevailing Wage would “make it harder for me and my family, and will take money out of the community.”
Eric Phillippe, an Army veteran and volunteer fire fighter, speaking over video of Governor Eric Greitens’ infamous ad where he shoots a large caliber machine gun at nothing in particular, said, “When Eric Greitens said he was going to change politics as usual, folks like me didn’t think the first thing he would do as governor was take dead aim at our jobs and our families’ livelihoods by working to repeal Prevailing Wage.”
Both ads urge viewers to call Gov. Greitens and urge him to finally stand up for working families and protect Prevailing Wage. The Governor’s phone number is 1-573-751-3222.
In Missouri, the Prevailing Wage is set by the Department of Labor for different trades within each county. It applies to public works projects constructed by or on behalf of state and local public bodies and establishes a minimum rate that must be paid to workers on state-funded construction projects.
Existing law requires contractors and subcontractors hired for taxpayer-funded public construction projects to pay a fair wage based on local standards, thereby ensuring that public sector construction jobs are bid based on equipment, materials and overall project management, rather than on the low wages of the employees.