Prevailing wage is now being attacked on two fronts in Michigan.
In addition to the attacks by state lawmakers, a lawsuit was filed on April 8 in Bay County’s 18th Circuit Court seeking to overturn Bay City’s prevailing wage ordinance. Bay City’s ordinance requires the payment of prevailing wages on city construction contracts exceeding $10,000.
The legal action was taken by the Saginaw Valley Area Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors, which has a history of bringing anti-labor lawsuits before the courts. The ABC is basing its lawsuit on a 2007 Wayne County Circuit court ruling which overturned the City of Detroit’s living wage law. The living wage law set a base wage for workers, higher than minimum wage, whose employers contracted with the City of Detroit.
The ruling overturning the Detroit living wage law basically said that the city did not have the home rule authority to legislate in the area of labor. The Wayne County judge’s ruling was upheld by a state Appeals Court panel.
So what does all that have to do with overturning Bay City’s prevailing wage law?
“Ever since that (Wayne County Circuit Court) ruling, we’ve been expecting the ABC to file a lawsuit somewhere in an attempt to overturn local prevailing wage laws,” said Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council attorney John Canzano. “Everybody knew that ruling was going to put local prevailing wage laws at risk. But we have some good arguments to support local prevailing wage laws, and we’re confident we will prevail.”
Canzano said for one, “prevailing wage is not living wage, and we’re going to point out all the differences.” Secondly he said the Wayne Couty’s judge’s ruling was not published, so it was not legally binding for other judges in the state to follow.
The ABC likely brought its case against Bay City as part of a legal strategy. Canzano said if the ABC wins the case, it would likely invalidate prevailing wage in the 20 or so cities in Michigan that have such laws.