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“Prevailing wage” to be an issue before new Legislature

The Michigan State Capitol
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Pay rates for workers on publicly funded construction projects could be an issue this year in the Legislature. Bills to repeal Michigan’s 50-year-old law that requires contractors to pay union-scale wages on public projects were among the first to be introduced this year.

Republican leaders in the Legislature support the repeal. But Governor Rick Snyder does not. He says prevailing wage encourages people to consider careers in the building trades. 

Jeff Wiggins is with the Associated Builders and Contractors. It’s a trade group for non-union builders. He says there’s still time to negotiate and come up with a strategy.

“We’re just getting started,” Wiggins said. “This is the third week of the first month of the first year of a two-year legislative term. If this were a football game, we’re just kicking off, so there’s a whole lot of game to play.”

Wiggins’ group spearheaded a petition drive in 2015 that would have allowed the Legislature to repeal the prevailing wage law without the governor’s approval. That fizzled after the signature-gathering company botched the effort by collecting too many duplicate names. He says the group is hoping for better luck this year.

“The enthusiasm and the desire to do this has never been stronger among the legislators that we’ve been talking to, so it’s one of those things we can have a discussion now,” he said. “We have a new Legislature, so let’s have the discussion.”

Wiggins says another petition drive remains an option. That would circumvent Governor Rick Snyder, who supports the prevailing wage law. He says it makes careers in the building trades more attractive.

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