The Republican-led Michigan Legislature has voted to repeal a decades-old law that guarantees higher "prevailing" wages for construction workers on state-financed projects.
Gov. Rick Snyder opposes the bill, but it is veto-proof because it was initiated through a ballot drive. The repeal measure was approved 23-14 by the Senate on Wednesday and 56-53 by the House, mostly on party lines.
Michigan is the fifth conservative-led state to annul its prevailing wage law since 2015.
Republicans say the law costs taxpayers more when school construction and other government projects could be done for less money. Democrats, union contractors and others say the repeal initiative is an attack on workers and the 1965 law ensures they are paid fairly and quality work is done.
"Well, it's a sad day obviously for the working men and women of Michigan," said Justin Pomerville, president of Tri-County Building Trades. "It was an ultra-wealthy attempt to attack the middle class again and they have the numbers right now and that's exactly what they did."
Pomerville said prevailing wage allowed workers, union and non-union, to receive competitive wages on state taxpayer funded projects.
Opponents of the repeal said workers will not be paid less, quality of work will suffer and workplace safety will be compromised.
Supporters of the repeal, like Jimmy Greene, disagree. He is the CEO for Associated Builders and Contractors.
"The problem is the kind of propaganda has proven not to be accurate. And I think it created quite frankly, I know it created the wide disclosure on this issue," Greene said.
Greene believes the repeal will save the people of Michigan money and the quality of the work on state funded construction projects won't suffer at all.
"I think what you'll see in the long run are the same quality, the same timelines met, the same safety standards met, but I think you're going to see a better use of taxpayer dollars on those kinds of projects," Greene said.
As for Pomerville, he said he is disappointed and upset over the repeal. He wants supporters of the defunct prevailing wage law to remember those lawmakers who ended it when they vote in November.
"The best that we can do is we continue to be in search of more members and skill trade members that want to make a fair wage and we organize and we try and remember this in November when it goes to the ballots again," Pomerville said.
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