Declare mom on current wage policy as construction group backs down
The Whitmer administration’s announcement last year to reinstate prevailing wages on state projects costing more than $50,000 quickly won support from union construction companies while opposing contractors called the policy waste of public funding.
“That the state is wasting taxpayers’ money to pay a premium for serving unionized stores doesn’t seem fair or appropriate to me,” EV Construction Co. President and CEO Mike Novakoski said MiBiz. “We pay a fair wage and do all the training necessary to have highly qualified and competent workers.”
Michigan Associate Builders and Contractors — a trade group representing about 900 construction companies across the state — made its objection formal last week when it filed a lawsuit in the State Court of Claims against the Department of Technology, Management and the state budget. The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation joined ABC of Michigan in the lawsuit challenging state policy that union wages must be paid to contractors working on state projects costing more than $50,000.
The lawsuit claims Whitmer violated the separation of powers by illegally reinstating a policy that was repealed by voter-initiated legislation in 2018. Michigan’s ABC led the process of collecting signatures to put the measure on the ballot in 2018, an effort that cost commerce. association more than $3 million, said Michigan ABC President Jimmy Greene.
“We’ve been asking for this response from the moment (Whitmer) raised the issue in October,” Greene said. “None of this makes sense to me and the question is, can the governor override state law? If it’s decided that she can, then for us at ABC, we need to go back and close any loophole that allowed her to be able to.
Whitmer announced plans to return wages to union rate for state projects at a press conference on October 21, 2021. The current wage requirements were posted on the Department of Technology’s website, management and budget on March 1, 2022. Greene says the new policy is part of two contracts so far for new state projects.
Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget (DTMB) officials, as well as the governor’s office, did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
“By restoring prevailing wages, we are ensuring that workers are treated with dignity and respect, which starts with fair wages,” Whitmer said in a statement announcing the policy in October. “As Governor, I am proud to stand with workers and unions who have built the middle class. By restoring prevailing wages, we’re ensuring workers can earn a decent standard of living, saving taxpayers money and time on critical infrastructure projects, and providing Michigan with a workforce highly skilled people to rely on when we build our roads and bridges, replace lead pipes, install high-speed internet, etc.
Tom Lutz, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrightspreviously applauded Whitmer’s decision to reinstate existing salary requirements on some state projects.
“This decision protects Michigan’s infrastructure investments because when prevailing wages are expected, contractors must compete on a level playing field based on the quality of their skilled work, not the exploitation of their workers.” , Lutz said in a statement after Whitmer. announcement in October.
The Detroit News also cited two attorneys at the time who believed Whitmer had the authority to adopt the state’s DTMB discretion-based policy to obtain “best value” when awarding contracts.
Greene said Michigan’s ABC has yet to hear a response from the state since Whitmer’s October 2021 announcement about reinstating prevailing wages for state projects. Freedom of Information Act requests have also been filed for answers, so far without success, Greene added. Filing a lawsuit against the state was a “last resort”, he said.
Greene said about 10 to 20 percent of Michigan’s ABC members work on in-force salary projects. He added that the state requirement still allows ABC members to bid on projects, but companies that are not currently using prevailing wages would have to increase their costs by 30-40% to handle all of the bids. class categories to adopt the new operating structure.
“The idea that non-union workers earn below average wages is nonsense,” Greene said. “They vary from occupation to occupation, it’s impossible to determine what the variances are. It’s a cheap way for people to advance a political statement. Eliminating the going wage doesn’t lower construction standards. We are not talking about a lack of quality, timeliness or safety. We believe the job should go to the lowest qualified bidder.
Novakoski echoed Greene’s comments, adding that union shops are just as competent as non-union contractors. EV Construction occasionally participates in prevailing salaried jobs, which tends to cause tension within the company because workers are paid at different rates, he said.
“People feel offended that they can’t get to this higher paying job and no one really understands why, they just see it as free money,” Novakoski said. “It creates challenges in our own ranks and rosters of upset employees.”
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