Aug 29, 2007

Conservatives open even another front on the war on the middle class

The Republicans war on the middle class and unions with the right to work for less law is opening a new front with an assault on the Prevailing Wage Law.

The GOP is engaged in a race to the bottom, and the loser will be the middle class and the country. According to a story in the Detroit News, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy has released a study that says Michigan could save $250 million a year by repealing the prevailing wage law that requires union pay for all state-supported projects.

The Michigan Prevailing Wage Law, PA 166 of 1965, provide rates of pay for workers on construction projects for which the state or a school district is the contracting agent and financed or financially supported by the state.

“Paul Kersey, a senior labor policy analyst with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said the current prevailing wage law adds 10 to 15 percent to the cost of every construction job.” He further claims it “effectively boosts construction wages by 40 to 60 percent.”

But like anything else, you get what you pay for. Marty Mulcathy, editor of the Building Tradesman, the official publication of the Michigan Building and Construction Trade Council in Lansing, said that prevailing wages don't provide for any significant increase in the price tag of a construction project.

“When you're paying $8 or $10 or $12 an hour, you don't know what skill level you're getting and frequently (you) are getting illegal immigrants or people of questionable citizenship,” Mulcathy said. "You may be paying the unionized people a little bit more but you're getting a more skilled worker who pays taxes and contributes to the community.”

What do you think is done with that extra wage? It’s pumped right back into the local economy. If we win the race to the bottom the Republicans are engaged in, who are the winners?

The Republicans have bills in both the House and Senate to make Michigan a right to work for less state, and if that fails, and it will, there is a group poised to launch a petition drive to put it on the ballot. Some people from this group are the same people who ran the deceptive petition drive that that put the deceptive titled “Michigan Civil Eights Initiative” on the ballot last November. In fact, just yesterday Gongwer reported the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out appeals against the law, saying, “the plaintiffs have proven that the signature process to get the issue before voters was skewed.”

"By all accounts, Proposal 2 found its way on the ballot though methods that undermine the integrity and fairness our democratic processes," the decision said. "Nevertheless, we must be guided by law, not outrage, and it to the law we now turn."

This is what we can expect if this ballot proposal for right to work for less is launched.

It’s ironic that the Mackinac Center for Public Policy is behind this assault on the Prevailing Wage Law. Another front on the war against the middle class and unions is privatization, and we saw a recent example of the damage it can cause in Howell Public Schools with the firing of its custodial staff. If the Mackinac Center has its way every school and government function would be privatized.

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