Well, this is happening right under our noses on a much larger scale, and it’s costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
Under Michigan’s Prevailing Wage Act, projects financed with state funding, such as bond issues, require that union wages and benefits be paid by non-union contractors. This increases the cost of a project 10 to 15 percent, with no appreciable benefit to taxpayers.
The law acts as a “super minimum wage” that sets wages much higher than local construction wages determined by fair competition in the free market.
Projects that fall under this archaic act include any state buildings, highways and school projects being funded by bond issues. There is also a separate federal prevailing wage law that covers all federal construction projects.
When companies bid on these projects, they have to figure in prevailing wages, supplied by the state, for the masons, electricians, plumbers and others — making the project considerably more expensive.
Especially in a time when government and schools are strapped for cash, it is ridiculous to have them pay millions more than necessary on construction projects.
State Sen. Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, has once again introduced legislation to repeal the law. It has been co-sponsored by several other senators.
Meekhof’s favorite example is an Allendale school project from the time the senator first entered office. Of the project's $59 million price tag, 10 percent was attributed to the prevailing wage law. Over the course of a 30-year bond, that cost the district $12 million, according to the senator.
Hudsonville Public Schools is presently accepting bids on an $80 million bond issue. The prevailing wage law is expected to cost the district more than $8 million.
Unions argue that the law ensures high-quality work and protects employees from exploitation. But state labor laws and bidding requirements should meet those goals.
There is no evidence to show any difference in the work between private and union construction, except the cost.
We commend Sen. Meekhof for bringing this up again. It should be voted out of committee, passed by both chambers and signed by the governor. It only makes sense.
Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.