Has West Virginia really benefited from laws that make it difficult for working people to improve wages and working conditions? Sometimes, conservative lawmakers seek to save money, but end up making things worse in the process.
A recent study showed that the 2016 repeal of West Virginia’s “prevailing wage” law has not made school construction cheaper. It has also cost West Virginia good jobs, opportunities for apprenticeships, and more.
There is nothing 'conservative' about that.
In arguing for the repeal of the prevailing wage, lawmakers claimed that five schools could be built for the price of three. The prevailing wage law, in place since 1933, did not allow construction projects for public schools to hire cheap labor and undercut our well-trained workforce with out-of-state contractors.
It turns out the claims were false. Among other findings, the report found:
- Inflation adjusted hourly wages for carpenters, electricians and operating engineers have fallen.
- Wage growth in construction was up to 8 percent, a slower rate than neighboring states with prevailing wage laws.
- Apprenticeships fell by 28 percent relative to neighboring states.
- On-the-job construction worker injury rate increased by over 25 percent.
- Repeal has had no statistical impact in inflation-adjusted school construction costs.
A true conservative would see that not every effort to cut corners serves the public good. Our West Virginia workforce deserves good pay and benefits, and we should be willing to pay them to build quality schools for our children.
Tell your legislators to show their loyalty to West Virginia workers and bring back the prevailing wage law in the next regular session.
IMAGE: Courtesy of this link