The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, March 11, 2016

Annnd, action... good start for prevailing wage support effort

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

Petition gatherers have fanned out across Michigan, trying to collect 252,000 valid signatures in an effort to overturn the Michigan Prevailing Wage Act of 1965.

The effort is backed by Protect Michigan Taxpayers, which in turn is backed by the billionaire DeVos family and the anti-union Associated Builders and Contractors. But organized labor is combating the effort with the use of people power - prevailing wage supporters who are making phone calls, holding public education meetings and making requests for union members to contact their state lawmaker, urging them to support good wages for Michigan's construction workers.

A combined effort by the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council, interest group Michigan Prevails and the Michigan AFL-CIO is making some gains.

"The campaign has gotten off to a strong start," said Luke Canfora, a Michigan AFL-CIO organizer for the effort. " Since we launched (in late February), our team has trained over 130 members from different affiliates in the Detroit and Flint areas to successfully implement the Decline to Sign program."

He said following a successful member educational evening meeting in Detroit on Feb. 22, Decline to Sign Prevailing Wage Repeal Petition presentations are scheduled at the Michigan Trades Legislative Conference this week, as well as at upcoming United Association and Ironworkers meetings. Local building trades council presidents in various areas of the state are also being sought to round up support to attend other urgent member meetings, with the goal of getting 1,000 people through the training sessions by the end of March.

Canfora said phone banks are also working: volunteer union-backed phone banks are contacting member households, patching through phone calls to targeted state lawmakers who are most likely to support prevailing wage. Through March 2, there had been 1,258 contacts to lawmakers, via postcards, letters and patch-through phone calls.

"Educators" who are taking part in the union-backed effort, Canfora said, have identified 25 teams of petition circulators in the Detroit area alone. They are covering major public transit centers, city government agencies, and major events, and are taking video and audio evidence of what petition circulators are saying to get the public to sign the petition.

In the failed petition effort last year, petition takers lied that the prevailing wage repeal petition would lower taxes, increase workers' wages, or fix the roads. State law, however, seems to allow petition takers to say anything to get names.