In a relatively narrow 22 to 15 vote, Michigan's Senate passed three bills last Thursday to repeal Michigan's prevailing wage laws. Five Republicans and all of the Democrats in the Senate voted against the bills. The bills have now been sent to the House of Representatives (which is also controlled by Republicans) for a vote.
Michigan's prevailing wage laws require contractors to pay union-scale wages on construction projects that use state funds. This law primarily affects the construction of schools and government buildings. Since the vast majority of road projects use federal funds, they would generally be unaffected by these bills due to the Davis-Bacon Act – the federal equivalent of the prevailing wage law.
Proponents of repealing the prevailing wage law contend that the law drives up construction costs and prevents contractors from paying their employees according to their skill and experience. Opponents contend that repealing prevailing wage laws will depress construction workers' wages, eliminate the level playing field between union and non-union contractors, discourage individuals from learning skilled trades in a time when there is a high industry demand, and reduce the quality of workmanship and increase the number of claims.
Michigan's House of Representatives has not yet voted on these bills. If the House passes the bills, there is a question whether Governor Snyder, who has indicated that he supports the prevailing wage laws, will veto the bills. Clark Hill will forward another Alert on this important issue as soon as there is definitive action in Lansing.