Our Editorial: Dems play politics with prevailing wage

The Detroit News

The two Democrats on the Board of State Canvassers sent a clear message last week to the nearly 400,000 Michigan voters who signed a petition to ban prevailing wage: They value union interests over the will of the people. And that’s something concerned citizens shouldn’t let slide.

The only thing that the canvassers should consider is whether enough of the signatures are valid. That’s hardly a partisan question. It shouldn’t be, at any rate.

Prevailing wage is fiercely defended by unions and Democrats. The law has been on the state books since the 1960s, and mandates union-level wages for publicly funded construction projects, even if the workers aren’t union members. That means taxpayers pay the price for more costly schools and other government buildings.

Just three days before the canvassers deadlocked in their decision (the two Republicans voted to approve the petitions), the Michigan Bureau of Elections recommended certification of the initiative, which would then go on to the Legislature for a vote. The Democratic canvassers claimed they were concerned about the validity of some of the circulators’ addresses.

“This is the first time in a long time that they have ignored the staff recommendation,” stated Jeff Wiggins, president of Protecting Michigan Taxpayers, which spearheaded the petition drive.

In fact, it’s been at least 10 years since the canvassers last went against the recommendation of the Bureau of Elections, says Tony Daunt, executive director of the Michigan Freedom Fund, a group that supports repealing the prevailing wage.

“This is a delay tactic by the unions and Democrats,” Daunt says.

Once the measure reaches lawmakers, the GOP-controlled Legislature is expected to overturn the law. Gov. Rick Snyder has maintained he doesn’t support repealing prevailing wage because that could deter interest in the skilled trades. But he can’t veto a citizens initiative passed by the Legislature.

Many Republicans believe the governor’s concerns are overshadowed by the inflated costs forced on to taxpayers.

Before the canvassers took the failed prevailing wage vote, they took a 4-0 vote in favor of the petitions to legalize recreational marijuana. Many of the paid circulators of these petitions also gathered the prevailing wage signatures.

The two Democratic board members both have strong union ties, so their opposition to the proposal is no surprise. But their personal views are not supposed to come into play.

Commissioner Julie Matuzak is the retired political coordinator for the American Federation of Teachers Michigan and Jeannette Bradshaw is recording secretary for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 58 in Detroit.

Lawyers with Protecting Michigan Taxpayers have already asked the Court of Appeals to intervene, and it should do so in expedited fashion.

Circulators who forge addresses or other information should face penalties. But since the Bureau of Elections has said it has a “100 percent confidence level” in the majority of the signatures, two labor friendly appointees shouldn’t subvert the will of thousands of Michiganians.