Prevailing Wage Laws, and Construction Workers Pay and Benefits, are not the problem

Ryan Pheifer is Corporate Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Pheifer Brothers Construction Company, Inc., in the state of Wisconsin.  He also happens to be a former Republican candidate for the Wisconsin State Assembly.

Recently, he took to the pages of The Daily Reporter newspaper to express his views on attempts to eliminate Wisconsin’s prevailing wage law, after WI Department of Transportation Secretary Dave Ross addressed a group of construction workers and employers.

Here’s an excerpt:

What was also welcome to the group was the frankness with which Ross discussed the governor’s proposed repeal of Wisconsin’s prevailing-wage laws. Ross repeatedly told the crowd that construction workers were not overpaid and “were not the problem” and even directly took on State Sen. Duey Stroebel’s fictitious “example” of flaggers in Wisconsin making $100,000 a year.

That’s right, less than 24 hours after the governor rolled out his plan for the state, which involved slashing wages for blue-collar, middle-class construction workers, his WisDOT secretary told an audience representing that very industry that they were not the problem and that construction workers are not overpaid. As you can imagine, the 100-plus people in attendance that day and I left the room scratching our heads. Now, we continue to wonder aloud why the governor is hell-bent on pursuing this destructive path for Wisconsin’s construction industry.

Pheifer is right to point out the confusing fact that WI Governor Scott Walker has defended slashing wages for middle-class construction workers by saying the purported savings will create more jobs, while also pointing to Walker’s recent contention that having fewer manufacturing jobs would not be such a bad thing for Wisconsin, as long as the wages for the remaining jobs were increasing.

Specifically, Walker, when challenged about the loss of more than 4,000 manufacturing jobs in the 12 months leading up to last September, said, “It’s not just how many jobs — it’s are those jobs paying at a significant level?” He continued, “If we see wages go up in manufacturing, to me, that’s my ultimate goal.”

So, which is it governor — higher wages or more jobs at lower wages? I can tell you what Wisconsinites want — both more jobs and higher wages. Unfortunately, this budget, with its lack of sustainable transportation funding and cuts to worker wages, accomplishes neither for the blue-collar construction worker who is trying to remain in the middle class and support a family.

As someone who is responsible for running a construction business, I can tell you that recruiting qualified candidates is exceedingly difficult. As a life-long Republican — I even ran for political office — I can tell you from experience that waging a battle against blue-collar, middle-class workers and cutting wages are not ways to make recruitment easier for Wisconsin businesses.

Pheifer also notes that the non-partisan Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau concluded there would be no budget savings by repealing Wisconsin’s prevailing-wage laws. Likewise, Walker’s 2017-19 budget cannot and does not assign any budgetary savings to the proposed elimination of prevailing wages on state projects.

Let me repeat that — the governor’s budget does not, because it cannot, assign any savings to his proposed repeal of prevailing wages. So, what does Walker’s proposal accomplish? Lower wages for Wisconsin’s construction workers, out-of-state workers taking our jobs and our money, and subpar projects that will need to be repaired or completely redone.

Read the full story here: