Legislative & Political

Protect Prevailing Wage, Protect Our Skilled Workers

Journal: Issue 1 - 2017


Prevailing wage repeal efforts are on the rise at the state level, where Republicans hold 69 of 99 state legislative chambers, and 33 governorships. Many states are moving legislation to eliminate or weaken state prevailing wage laws. In the last two years, prevailing wage laws were repealed in Indiana and Kentucky. Connecticut has proposed an increase in the states prevailing wage threshold for remodeling work and new construction. Michigan, Missouri, Virginia, and Wisconsin are also facing prevailing wage battles.

Opponents of prevailing wage policies claim that the prevailing wage law increases the burden on taxpayers and creates an uneven playing field for small businesses. The reality is, repealing prevailing wage would only cut workers’ wages and breed low-road contactors. A nationwide weakening of prevailing wage laws would reduce national economic output by nearly $65 billion and result in the loss of over 400,000 jobs in the American labor market, according to a recent study by Illinois Economic Policy Institute and Smart Cities Prevail.

Prevailing wage law is critical to the construction industry for both union and non-union workers. The federal Davis-Bacon law mandates payment of locally prevailing wages on projects funded by the federal government. Several states have “Little Davis-Bacon Acts” or state prevailing wage mandates. Studies show that prevailing wage laws are part of a broader set of interrelated institutional arrangements to maintain a strong construction industry, including a stronger emphasis on apprenticeship training, greater workplace safety, higher participation rates in health insurance and retirement coverage, relatively higher unionization rates, and middle-class wages that support working families.  

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