Michigan Lawmakers Seek Labor Reform

0 March 22, 2011  State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

As part of a survey of the labor reforms proposed in the Great Lakes State in 2011, The Daily Caller recognized that lawmakers are also taking on government-mandated project labor agreements (PLAs) too.

Here are the highlights (Our emphasis added):

Republicans control both houses of the Michigan legislature and the governor’s mansion, but passage of any right to work bill is far from certain. Gov. Rick Snyder is lukewarm on his support. He has called right to work “a divisive, polarizing issue” and says it is “not part of [his] agenda.” While Snyder is not actively pushing right to work, he does say he will sign the bill if it comes to his desk. State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville is more adverse to the concept and has clearly stated his opposition. Shortly after taking office, state Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger voiced his support, telling both houses of the Michigan legislature that right to work would be “on the table.”

Other proposed labor reform legislation includes the repeal of prevailing wage laws and project labor agreements (PLAs) that tilt the state contracting process to unionized contractors. PLAs are essentially union-only clauses in state construction contracts. Under a PLA, a contractor can be required to hire workers from union hiring halls, acquire apprentices from union apprentice programs, and require employees to pay union dues, thus driving up infrastructure construction costs. Paul Bachman, an economist from Suffolk University in Boston, testified at a state Senate hearing in early March that PLAs can increase the cost of construction projects by over 15 percent.

A contractor working under a PLA can also be required to pay a “prevailing wage,” which the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth determines by “studying collectively bargained wage agreements in a particular region. The prevailing wage is an hourly pay rate, including wages, overtime and fringe benefit totals.”

Supporters of repealing prevailing wage and PLAs say the requirement gives union construction firms an unfair advantage and wastes taxpayer dollars. Mackinac Center Director of Labor Policy Paul Kersey says increased competition will save the state up to $250 million a year. Associated Builders and Contractors Saginaw Valley Chapter President Jimmy Greene told The Saginaw News that prevailing wages are “not designed for the worker but to maintain the bureaucracy of the union shops.”

Union officials are vowing to fight the repeal. Robert C. Anderson, business manager for Journeymen & Apprentices of the Pipefitting and Plumbing Industry United Association Local 85, told The Saginaw News, “It’s an attack on construction trades; it’s an attack on the middle class.” However, only about 13.1 percent of construction workers are unionized nationally.

Legislation to ban government-mandated PLAs in the Michigan is moving in both the state House of Representatives (H.B. 4287) and Senate (S.B. 165).  Both bills are poised for a floor vote in their respective chambers.

This is a great development for Michiganders, who can no longer afford to buy four schools, roads or other public buildings for the price of five.

Check out our earlier posts for more information on proposed legislation in Michigan to prohibit state, local and academic entities from requiring wasteful and discriminatory PLAs as a condition of performing public construction.

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