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Non-union builders challenge local wage floors

Daniel Parks

An association of non-union construction companies has asked the state Supreme Court to strike down local prevailing wage laws. The Associated Builders and Contractors says a state law preempts the ordinances.

Nearly two dozen Michigan communities have their own prevailing wage ordinances. They’re supposed to ensure that workers on city-financed projects are paid something close to union wages.

Chris Fisher of the Association of Builders and Contractors says that’s not legal, and wants the Republican-controlled state Supreme Court to clear up a patchwork of lower court rulings. He says the ordinances can add a lot to the cost of taxpayer-funded infrastructure.

“If you make construction in the public sector more expensive, you’re going to have less construction, less investment, and that doesn’t help anybody,” he says.

Fisher’s group is specifically challenging the city of Lansing’s prevailing wage ordinance, which was upheld by the state Court of Appeals.

A spokesman for the city says the ordinance ensures workers on public projects are paid a fair wage, and is good for the local economy.

“The ordinance makes sure we share the wealth with the workers on city-financed projects,” says Randy Hannan, a top aide to Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero.

The state Supreme Court has not decided whether to take the case. If the court does agree to hear the appeal, it would be part of the court’s coming session that begins in October.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.