Yanez: Prevailing wage good for Michigan

Rep. Henry Yanez

There is a great deal of pressure in our state Legislature to repeal Michigan’s prevailing wage law. My fellow legislators must not cave under the pressure. The reality is that repealing Michigan’s prevailing wage law would harm not just those in the skilled trades, but all Michiganders.

Repealing prevailing wage would be devastating for the skilled trades, which are actively recruiting and training workers to rebuild Michigan’s crumbling infrastructure. It would be harmful to our citizens who need quality and safe roads and bridges to drive themselves and their families on. It would hurt the law-abiding businesses that will be underbid by dishonest contractors.

In the construction industry, there are contractors who play by the rules and those who don’t. Those who play by the rules hire trained craftsmen and women who perform quality work at a fair price. Studies have shown they end up saving money in the long run. Their workers are faster and better skilled, often getting done early and coming in under budget.

The contractors who don’t play by the rules are always looking to game the system. They hire undocumented workers whom they pay under the table, and treat like indentured servants. They don’t require safety equipment or proper training. They create unsafe job sites, and then they fire people who don’t want to risk their lives at work. They want to repeal prevailing wage. They are a small minority of the construction work in Michigan. But they have the support of very wealthy businessmen, like billionaire Dick DeVos, who will stop at nothing to push his radical anti-worker agenda.

Michigan’s prevailing wage law sets a level playing field so that no one is rewarded for hiring undocumented workers. With prevailing wage, there is no advantage to paying workers under the table, and there is no threat from employers, forcing people to work in unnecessary danger. With prevailing wage, workers are guaranteed a middle class income, and as taxpayers, we can feel confident that our roads and bridges will be built by a skilled, American workforce.

Michigan experimented with repealing prevailing wage in the mid-1990s. Construction costs didn’t go down as promised, but our skilled workforce did. The unintended consequences of repealing Michigan’s prevailing wage law were increased safety violations, increased litigation, skilled workers leaving the state in search of better jobs, and construction projects going over budget and falling behind schedule.

Let’s not make the same mistake twice. Call your state representative and state senator and tell him or her to keep Michigan’s prevailing wage law.

State Rep. Henry Yanez, D-Sterling Heights, represents the 25th District.