The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, June 14, 2019

Muskegon County, city, rescind prevailing wage

By The Building Tradesman

MUSKEGON - The Muskegon City Commission on May 28 removed a prevailing wage requirement from contract language involving the construction of a new $19.5 million convention center in the city. Removing the requirement was in concert with prior action taken by the Muskegon County Board of Commissioners to repeal the county's prevailing wage requirements. The government actions allows bidding on the project to proceed.

The prevailing wage requirement was removed, but inserted was contractual language by the city which will give preference to hiring local workers on the project. “What we were able to do is hone in on what we need to do to ensure local labor and focus less on the wages that are paid," Muskegon City Manager Frank Peterson told WZZM 13. 

The action taken on both the city and county levels was forced by the West Michigan Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors, which threatened legal action and contended that the policy violates state law restricting local prevailing wage requirements. Their argument was that with the state Legislature's rescinding of the Michigan Prevailing Wage Act last year, there is no longer a prevailing wage to refer to. Building trades union representatives, supporting the prevailing wage language, argued that federal prevailing wage rates under the Davis-Bacon law could still apply. 

Even though the state prohibited local units of government from enacting prevailing wage laws, the new state law does not apply to municipalities, like Muskegon County, that had such a law already in place and grandfathered in. But the Muskegon County Commission in April voted to remove all prevailing wage requirements.

"Obviously, we're absolutely disappointed, more with Muskegon County than with the city," said Ryan Bennett, business manager of Plumbers, Pipe Fitters and Service Trades Local 174. "We appreciate the City of Muskegon’s effort to get the local preference language for workers inserted."

The City Commission also voted to reduce the main 20,000 square-foot convention floor space by 2,500 square feet to keep the project under budget.

The convention center is planned to be built on Fourth Street between West Western Avenue and Shoreline Drive. It will connect with the existing Walker Arena and a Holiday Inn that is being transitioned into a Marriott property.