MAY 2011, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News
Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act again under attack in Harrisburg
BY PAUL TUCKER
REGION, April 2nd- Republican House of Representatives in Harrisburg are again attempting to repeal the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act.
The Prevailing Wage Act was implemented in Pennsylvania more than 50 years ago to stop the practice of out-of-the-state workers, often from the South, of being brought to the North to undercut local labor on construction projects. Jobs on construction projects being funded by taxpayers were being lost to workers that would return to their home state without having any or little economic benefit to Pennsylvania. Without the legislation many local laborers wouldn’t get the jobs and unemployment within the industry increased.
The Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act was modeled after the national prevailing wage law passed in 1931.
Republican House of Representative John Bear (97th Legislative District), is a co-signer of the lastest legislation that is intended to repeal the Prevailing Wage Act.
Mr. Bear has sponored other anti-union legislation in Harrisburg including the prohibiting the use of Project Labor Agreement (PLA’s) on public projects in Pennsylvania.
A PLA is a comprehensive agreement signed by a builder and local craft unions under which a defined construction project is agreed to be completed by workers from local union halls, in return for the union’s guarantee of no strikes, a steady labor supply, and general labor peace.
Despite Mr. Bear’s obvious anti-union opinions he has always been accessible to the newspaper.
Mr. Bear stated it’s time the state Legislature repeals the prevailing wage law. “The mandate adds as extra 5 percent onto the costs of public school, municipal and state building projects compared with private sector costs.”
“Weakening prevailing wage laws is a failed policy that Pennsylvania already tried in the late 1990’s and that didn’t work. When it comes to construction work, you get what you pay for. Prevailing wage laws help ensure the use of more skilled and experienced workers on state projects,” stated Dr. Stephen Herzenberg, economist and Executive Director of the Keystone Research Center, a ecomomy think-tank in Harrisburg.
“At a time when Pennsylvania needs every middle-class job it can find, it makes no sense to weaken a law that ensures that state projects hire local workers that spend their earnings at local businesses,” added Mr. Herzenberg.
Gary Martin, Business Manager of the Bride, Structural and Ornamental Iron Workers Union Local 420 in Reading, stated a big lie about the Prevailing Wage Rate is that most people think that the “Unions” get all the work.
“I would love to see a survey about that, as there is so much cheating done by non-union contractors on wages, workman’s compensation insurance, and worker misclassification, that non-union construction companies get the overwhelming amount of Prevailing Rate work,” Mr. Martin said.
“The lack of ‘enforcing the law’ allows non-union companies to cheat so drastically, they have the monopoly on getting awarded the work because by law, the job is awarded to the ‘lowest bid’.
The State has it’s hands full, there aren’t enough inspectors to ever come close to patrolling Pennsylvania for cheating contractors,” added Mr. Martin.