LANSING - A great majority of the state's Republican lawmakers want to repeal the Michigan Prevailing Wage Act of 1965.
A great majority of people in Michigan: perhaps, not so much.
A statewide poll by Glengariff Group Inc. and released June 16 to The Detroit News and WDIV-TV found that 59 percent of likely voters support maintaining Michigan's prevailing wage, easily twice as many as the 25 percent of voters who want the law overturned.
"I don't think this issue has risen to a level where a lot of voters are aware of it," said Richard Czuba of the Glengariff Group Inc., which conducted the poll, to The News. "Even strong Republicans are split on this issue."
The June 9-11 survey of 600 likely voters found that even among "strong" self-identified Republicans, 42.3 percent favor keeping the law and 40.5 percent support repeal.
A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof' (R-West Olive) said the senator "does not base his decision on polls, but rather on the district he represents."
The public may or may not be tuned into prevailing wage, but the pollsters are. This was the second poll conducted in the past month to gauge the public's attitude toward the law, and as we reported in our last issue, an EPIC MRA poll in May of 400 likely Michigan voters found that 49 percent believe the law should be kept as is, and 29 percent said it should be repealed or eliminated, with the rest undecided or refused to answer.
"It's true that most people in Michigan aren't aware of what prevailing wage is or does," said Patrick Devlin, secretary-treasurer of the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council. "But most people in the state also aren't as ideological as are many of the conservatives in our state Legislature. People don't want to see their neighbors' wages cut, they want them to do well. If the hardcore right-wingers in our Legislature would do a little more listening to their constituents, rather than their big-money campaign backers, our state would be better off."
The battle over prevailing wage this year will take place in court of public opinion - at least, as it pertains to individuals' willingness to sign a petition this summer that could ultimately lead to the law's demise.
Protecting Michigan Taxpayers, which is backing the statewide petition, needs a minimum of 252,523 valid voter signatures for the prevailing wage repeal to be placed before the Legislature. That group, backed by billionaires like the Devos family, are expected to use virtually unlimited resources to pay for the work of petition gatherers. "Getting signatures in this day in age is not a problem - you buy those," Czuba said.
Once sufficient signatures are collected and validated by the state Board of Canvassers, the state Legislature can then vote on the issue without any veto ability by the governor. If the Legislature doesn't enact the petition into law, the prevailing wage repeal issue would be placed on the November 2016 statewide ballot.