By DAVID EGGERT/Associated Press
LANSING, Mich. (AP) – Majority Republicans in the Legislature announced Thursday that repealing Michigan’s law guaranteeing union-level wages on public works projects is a priority in the new two-year session, reviving legislation that does not interest GOP Gov. Rick Snyder.
The three House bills and three Senate bills are the first being proposed in both chambers.
Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, said prevailing wage laws are an “unnecessary burden” on schools and municipal government, and it makes no sense for public construction projects to cost more than other construction.
“The extra costs of prevailing wage laws siphons money away from other community priorities,” he said in a statement.
Rep. Amanda Price, of Ottawa County’s Park Township, said projects funded with state money should be bid at fair market value.
“When less than 20 percent of workers statewide on these projects are unionized, it no longer makes sense to keep this regulation in place,” she said.
Snyder, who in 2013 called the repeal of prevailing wage laws a “very divisive” issue just a couple months after he signed right-to-work laws that made union fees voluntary, said Thursday: “I didn’t support it in the first four years and I’m not going to support it in the next four years.”
Democrats, who support the higher wages for workers and say the 1965 law ensures high-quality work is done, expressed confidence that the legislation will never win Snyder’s signature as part of their agreement in December to help pass road funding measures and put a proposed sales tax hike on the May ballot.
“It’s extremely disappointing that the first priority of Republicans is to lower wages and have people work for less,” said House Minority Leader Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills. “It’s just another example of Republicans’ relentless push for cheap labor.”
Asked if he had agreed to stymie prevailing wage legislation in exchange for Democratic support of the $1.3 billion transportation package, Snyder did not say.
But Charles Owens, director of the National Federation of Independent Business’ Michigan branch, earlier this month criticized the “horse trading” that he said led Snyder to indicate he will veto any prevailing wage bill.
“This last concession is a major handout to construction trade unions at the expense of merit shop and small business contractors,” he said.
Douglas Stockwell, business manager for the Michigan Operating Engineers union, countered that prevailing wage legislation would open the door to “unskilled, untrained and in many cases undocumented workers from outside Michigan taking jobs away from Michigan workers.”
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