The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, November 13, 2015

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman

Prevailing wage prevails in D.C.

WASHINGTON, DC - Only a handful of Republicans in the Michigan Legislature support prevailing wage. In our nation's capitol, it's quite a bit more popular.

On Nov. 4, a congressional amendment to H.R. 3763 - the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015 - would have repealed the Davis-Bacon Act, which is the prevailing wage law on federal projects. A record 54 Republican members joined with 184 Democrats to defeat an amendment sponsored by Representative Steve King (R-IA).  The amendment was defeated by a vote of 188-238.

"Once again, a substantial and bi-partisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives has rejected an effort to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act," said North America's Building Trades Unions President Sean McGarvey. "This strong bi-partisan vote is a testament to the fact that repeal of prevailing wage repeal statutes have never resulted in taxpayer savings, but they do result in accelerating a 'race to the bottom' economic model in the construction industry that is damaging to workers, their, families, and to the community at large."\

"This vote once again reinforces the sentiment held by every Congress since the Davis-Bacon Act was enacted over 80 years ago that federal construction projects should not be the vehicle through which local community wage and benefit standards are undermined by 'low road' contractors that seek competitive advantage through the deployment of a low-wage, low skill, easily exploited workforce."

We need do their own jobs

File this under the heading of rampant corporate chutzpah.

At a time when low-wage workers nationwide, including retail workers, demand a living wage and the right to organize without employer interference, "trendy" retailer Urban Outfitters wants them to work for free.

Not kidding.

An internal company memo, leaked to Gawker and posted by the Economic Policy Institute, shows Urban Outfitters "calls for volunteers" to come to their jobs in its rural Pennsylvania warehouse during the upcoming holiday rush.

"October will be the busiest month yet for the (fulfillment) center, and we need additional helping hands to ensure the timely shipment of orders," the memo says. "As a volunteer, you will work side by side with your (fulfillment center) colleagues to help pick, pack and ship orders for our wholesale and direct customers."

Said the Economic Policy Institute's posting: "In short, asking its employees to take time out of their weekends to commute to rural Pennsylvania and work in a warehouse -- for free. Unsurprisingly, this request is most likely illegal. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, it is unlawful for a for-profit employer 'to suffer or permit' someone to work without compensation."

That means that, other than "exempt" - i.e. highly paid -- managers, a for-profit firm can't ask its salaried or hourly workers to toil off the clock. Of course, Urban Outfitters could always ask its executives to come in on weekends to the warehouse and work for free. They're exempt, and they can afford it. As a group, they made $12 million last year, EPI noted.