Contractors make case against prevailing wage repeal

Union and non-union contractors are voicing their opposition to a Missouri House proposal to eliminate a minimum wage requirement for public works projects. The Coalition of Construction Contractor Associations, representing around 100,000 Missouri workers, told reporters in Jefferson City Wednesday what a proposed repeal of the prevailing wage could mean for workers.

Currently, local government organizations must pay workers more than the state’s hourly minimum wage of $7.70 for construction projects. Prevailing wage is determined by the Department of Labor and is based on the number of hours worked and the wages paid to contractors. Wages are unique for each county. A general road construction laborer would be paid $31 an hour in St. Louis, but $25 in the northwestern corner of the state.

The main concern construction contractors have is that repealing prevailing wage will encourage companies to hire cheap, out-of-state labor, taking away jobs that would normally go to local contractors. Government construction contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, and without a prevailing wage requirement, out-of-state contractors could potentially bid much lower than those in Missouri. St. Louis Electrical Contractors Association President Emily Martin says opening the state up to more outside competition could encourage further cost cutting and shoddy workmanship.

Proponents say removing prevailing wage provisions on public works projects will help reduce costs for the state, though it is unclear by how much. The bill’s sponsors and supporters also say that it would reduce the number of construction projects cancelled due to expenses and reduce project cost burden on small municipalities that have limited tax funds available.

After passing in the House last week, a proposed repeal of repeal of the policy is now starting it’s move through the Senate, where Republican leadership has expressed support. At a Senate General Laws Committee hearing for the bill Wednesday, Chair Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, said he was behind the move. Republican Gov. Eric Greitens would likely sign legislation repealing prevailing wage.

Read more: Missourinet

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