Workers rights laws are again under attack in Wisconsin. Most states, including Wisconsin, have prevailing wage laws. Prevailing wage is a minimum wage that must be paid to workers on qualifying publicly funded construction projects. Because public work is awarded to the lowest bidder, the prevailing wage for construction workers on public projects levels the playing field and guarantees quality work. Without a prevailing wage, contractors could reduce wages to reckless levels in an attempt to underbid government work.
Prevailing wage is not necessarily “union scale.” Prevailing wage is an average wage and benefits in a market that may include union and non union pay.
Prevailing wage does not drive up the cost of public projects, it simply helps insure that the work is done by responsible workers and contractors.
According to a report in ThinkProgress, legislators in Wisconsin plan to repeal our over hundred year old prevailing wage law for public works. In their standard response to any question regarding ideological law changes, they claim it will make Wisconsin more competitive and create jobs.
Proponents of the prevailing wage law say its kept quality construction jobs and safe projects all these years. Without a prevailing wage, government entities who are generally required to accept the lowest responsible bid on a project, will hire contractors who pay lower wages to less qualified workers.
There are two other public policy considerations in support of prevailing wage laws. First, its in the public interest to have workers, members of our society, who can earn a fair living wage for working. It is not good for society to drive down wages solely for the benefit of the company’s profits. The argument that it will create more jobs is phony; all it does is put more money in the owner’s pockets. Second, prevailing wage helps responsible employers and unions provide proper training for new tradesman. Paying the lowest possible wage does not allow for consideration of worker training.
McCormick Law Office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin supports construction workers, prevailing wage laws, and workers rights laws. We drive on the same freeways, enjoy the same water and sewer utilities, and visit the same public buildings and offices the rest of us do, and we all appreciate a safe and secure infrastructure.
For workers compensation, prevailing wage makes a big difference. If a construction worker, ironworker, welder, carpenter, boilermaker, or tradesman is hurt on the job, the prevailing wage will help get higher workers comp benefits. Workers compensation benefits for neck surgery or back surgery due to a work-related herniated disc almost always result in permanent disability benefits and we never settle a case without also reviewing for loss of earning capacity and vocational retraining benefits.