Prevailing wage laws are the single most important tool we have for protecting ironworker wages. These laws require contractors to pay fair wages on construction projects that receive government funding. Federal, state and local governments spend hundreds of billions of dollars on construction every year. Prevailing wage laws ensure that this taxpayer money is used to fund safe, quality work and isn’t used to take advantage of workers.
Prevailing wage laws provide a level playing field for union contractors. Without these laws, governments award construction contracts to the lowest bidder - often exploitative companies who save money by underpaying workers and skimping on safety. This race to the bottom drives down industry standards across the country and devastate ironworker wages.
Anti-union interest groups spend millions of dollars every year spreading misinformation and working behind the scenes to repeal prevailing wage protections. Rather than pay workers a living wage, these contractors prefer to use their profits to influence our political system to pass laws that hurt working families like repealing prevailing wage.
Since 2015, special interest groups have doubled down on their efforts to attack prevailing wage, adding Indiana, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Arkansas and Michigan to the list of states that have repealed their prevailing wage laws. These attacks have led to a decline in construction wages, and construction wages adjusted for inflation are now lower than they were in 1970.
Construction workers in states without prevailing wage laws make 21 percent less on state-funded projects and construction wages in Indiana have already fallen by 8.5 percent since the state repealed its prevailing wage law in 2015, thanks to then-Governor and current Vice President Mike Pence. Repealing prevailing wage results in lower paychecks, forces skilled tradespeople to seek work elsewhere, and leads to an influx of cheap, out-of-state contractors with less-skilled employees.
At a time when contractors are struggling to fill construction jobs, families are struggling to make ends meet and companies are seeing record profits, we should strengthen our prevailing wage laws, not repeal them.
Now more than ever, we must fight to protect and strengthen prevailing wage laws around the country so ironworkers and all workers in the construction industry see the benefit of our growing economy. We must continue to build on the bipartisan support in Congress for the federal prevailing wage law known as the Davis-Bacon Act and fight back against the attacks in states.