LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Mike Shirkey and the Michigan Legislature on Wednesday approved a ballot initiative to repeal Michigan’s prevailing wage law.
A ballot by labor interest group Protect Michigan Taxpayers received a sufficient number of signatures to be either considered by the Legislature for approval into law or to be included on the November ballot for voter approval. The proposal passed both chambers of the Legislature.
The prevailing wage law was a requirement that labor costs for government-funded projects must meet the local wages and benefits customary to the area where the construction is taking place.
The law has been criticized for its cost-inflating effects, which can raise the price of a public construction project well above that paid for private sector work. Estimates show that costs can increase by 10 to 15 percent on a given project, and that prevailing wage has cost Michigan schools and universities an extra $200 million per year.
“The purpose of a union is to negotiate fair wages for their members,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “If the prices have been fixed by prevailing wage this whole time, what have the unions been doing besides kicking up their feet and taking cuts of their members’ paychecks?”
Others have criticized the exclusionary effect of prevailing wage, saying it shuts out inexperienced tradesmen and adds barriers to workers who didn’t or couldn’t get a union construction job.
Shirkey said that while this law had negative statewide repercussions, local governments and school districts were the most hurt by its extra costs.
“Construction workers pay taxes, too,” Shirkey said. “They should be just as offended by careless spending that raises their taxes and hurts the credit health of their local communities by making the municipalities take out bigger loans at higher interest to pay for the public construction work.”
The procedure of legislative initiatives does not require the governor’s signature, so the changes to this law take effect immediately.