September 06, 2018 10:41 PM
(ABC 6 News) -- When a construction worker goes to work on a project with a private contractor, the contractor decides what workers will be paid. However, when they work on a government-funded project, workers must be paid “prevailing wages.”
President of South Eastern Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council Nate O’Reilly says for every construction project funded by the state, workers must be paid a minimum base rate called “prevailing wage.”
"When public dollars are being spent...it creates that level playing field to ensure the public expenditures reflect the local area standards for wages and benefits," said Nate.
In the private construction industry, the lowest bidding contractor almost always gets the construction job. Executive Director of the Fair Contracting Foundation Mike Wilde says prevailing wage is intended to protect local workers and ensure they get paid fairly. This prevents the job from going automatically to whoever can do it the cheapest, which Mike says is often workers from out of the area.
"You want people that live in the area, perhaps reside in the housing, and support the economy. You want them to be your workforce, as opposed to people who might come in and do unskilled, unsafe, and insufficient work and perhaps take the wages out," said Mike.
President of Superior Mechanical Jim Gander says he still has some concerns about prevailing wage.
"Prevailing wage requires me to pay all my plumbers no matter what level of experience they have one day or 30 years of experience the exact same amount of money on a government-funded job," said Jim.
Jim adds that with the strong construction and small workforce, workers aren’t getting disadvantaged by unfair wages anymore.
"The competitiveness of what we have to do to retain our employees demanded that wages be high, and benefits are high and the necessity of this law that dates back over 75 years isn't deliverable anymore," said Jim.
However, Mike argues that prevailing wage continues to be important because it keeps money in the local economy.
"The regular taxpayer is gonna see an efficient, skilled worker, more likely than not lives right down the street and oftentimes works for a local contractor who might attend the same church or work for local contractors in the area,” said Mike.
In Rochester, with the DMC Expansion and the state-funded construction projects, prevailing wage will remain a big topic.
Created: September 06, 2018 10:41 PM
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