Prevailing Wage Repeal Fails in Missouri

The Missouri General Assembly on May 12th failed to approve a bill that would’ve repealed that state’s prevailing wage law.

Currently, construction workers are paid a state-set minimum wage on state and local construction projects in Missouri because of a state law created in 1959. House Bill 1o4 proposed to repeal that law. It was passed the House in March and had the support of Gov. Eric Greitens before it stalled in the Senate.

While local building trades leaders in Missouri felt relieved by this setback for repeal proponents, they also know the bill may come up again in next year’s session.

Each year, all contractors, both union and non-union, turn in the hours they work to the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. Wages differ by skill set and county. Because local unions collectively bargain wages in each county, all union contractors are lumped into the same pool.

To determine the prevailing wage in each county, the state compares the number of hours worked in each county at the collectively bargained rate and the rate non-union contractors pay. The rate with the most hours worked each year prevails and becomes the wage for each skill set in each county.

State Rep. Warren Love, R-Benton, introduced the repeal bill in January, but it died after being stuck in the Senate when session ended Friday afternoon.

Governor Greitens had called for a repeal of the state’s prevailing wage law during his State of the State Address in January.

HB 104 easily passed the House March 30, 89-60.

Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, introduced Senate Bill 30 earlier in the session.

Sen. Dave Schatz, R-St. Louis County, also introduced a compromise bill in the Senate that morning that would’ve limited prevailing wage projects to those that cost at least $500,000 and changed the prevailing wage to the average wage for workers in each county.

Both measures hit road blocks when Democrats threatened to filibuster the bill with time running out in the session.

“This is an economic issue, said Sen. Gina Walsh, D-St. Louis County and also the President of the Missouri State Building and Construction Trades Council, during debate on the Senate floor. “It’s a business issue. If we pick up full repeal or the substitute, we’re going to cut the legs off businesses men and women across the state who’ve already laid out their work for the next year or so.”

Brown pulled the bill after about an hour of debate, though Republicans and Democrats both figured it’d be brought up again before the session expired Friday. Ultimately, it never was.