The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, May 29, 2015

Save your wages: Time to contact state representatives

By The Building Tradesman

LANSING - With the threat of prevailing wage repeal one step closer to reality with the Michigan Senate's vote on May 14, it's "all hands on deck" for building trades union leaders and members. It's too late in the Senate, but state House members need to hear from our members and their families about the wage, education and safety benefits made possible by the Michigan Prevailing Wage Act.

It's time to contact your state House member: go to for information on how to do so.

Keeping a close eye on the prevailing wage testimony, politics and voting in our state capital is IBEW lobbyist Todd Tennis of Capitol Services. Here are a few of his observations:

*"Prevailing wage repeal now goes to the House, and there are still a lot of representatives there who are still on the fence," Tennis said. "It's important to let the membership know that they're being heard, their phone calls and e-mails matter. Every contact is a reminder to the lawmakers that there are constituents out there paying attention. Now it's true that a lot of Republican lawmakers have made up their mind, but enough of them haven't, so making those contacts can still make a difference."

*"It's hard to say whether we have enough votes in the House to stop the repeal effort. Arms were twisted hard in the Senate, and will be in the House, by a lot of powerful people with a lot of money who want this repeal to happen. There isn't necessarily a lot of unanimity in the Legislature on prevailing wage repeal, but the pressure in the Senate was too much to overcome. Before the House vote, I would be a lot more comfortable if I knew the membership in the building trades was putting pressure on their lawmakers to vote no on repeal."

*Tennis said the Senate Republicans' "refusal to listen to the facts" was one of his most frustrating takeaways from the prevailing wage repeal vote. "These people are willing to believe what they want to believe, in the face of cold, hard facts that say otherwise," Tennis said. "They tell you that prevailing wage repeal will save hundreds of millions of dollars, but we've already seen what happened to Michigan when it was repealed in the 1990s. They should be able to document any savings, but they can't. They're listening to the Chamber of Commerce and the ABC (Associated Builders and Contractors), who are saying the money we're going to save with repeal is going to fall from heaven. But there won't be any savings. This is what happens when politics trumps policy."

*Will Gov. Rick Snyder continue to not support prevailing wage - and then veto any repeal bill that comes to his desk? Tennis said that Snyder continues to point out that prevailing wage repeal will not help the economy.  In January Snyder said "I don't support making a change in prevailing wage" because of the harm it could do the construction industry, and he hasn't changed his tune since.

Just after the repeal vote in May, Senate Majority Leader Arlen Meekhof (R-West Olive) had this to say about Snyder's veto threat: "He didn't intend to ever support right-to-work either, but now he actually uses it and touts it when... he's out touting the great turnaround in Michigan. He uses it, so maybe he will use this as well."

Keep up with those emails and phone calls to your legislators, folks.