Across the country, Republican legislators (and West Virginia’s governor) are pushing legislation to repeal or drastically alter prevailing wage requirements for construction projects. The effort has felt uncharacteristically coordinated since November’s elections, considering how long-standing many of these laws are. The reason? The anti-prevailing wage movement is being lead by the all-powerful right-wing lobby ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and its coalition of hard-line allies.
Notable battlegrounds include Nevada, West Virginia, and Indiana, though the victims of this organized attempt to lower construction wages could soon include residents of Wisconsin and Missouri among others.
A recent piece from the Center for Media and Democracy Senior Analyst Jody Knauss provides detail about ALEC’s allies, naming the State Policy Network, the Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC), the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy, and the Wisconsin-based MacIver Institute for Public Policy.
Knaus notes the coordinated efforts of these organizations to push anti-worker legislation in states that were former union strongholds. Labeling the midwest as “ground zero for the assault on wages,” Knauss notes that the GOP’s victories in recent elections have provided the opportunity for the right to push its agenda in the region. Often the support for such bills and the statistics and PR used to promote them come directly from the leading organizations of the right’s dark money political machine.
PR Watch breaks down the relationships between the organizations and politicians and how they have affected legislative support:
Michigan: NFIB is explicit about “teaming up with the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)” to pursue prevailing wage repeal in Michigan. ALEC stalwarts Arlan Meekhoff, who is now Senate Majority Leader, Rep. Amanda Price and Rep. Aric Nesbitt are sponsoring prevailing wage repeal as a top Republican priority despite a threatened veto from Gov. Rick Snyder. Of course, Snyder is notorious for previously claiming to oppose RTW, only to sign a word-for-word ALEC version into law with virtually no public input but “astroturf” support from Americans for Prosperity.
Indiana: NFIB and AFP were also quick to praise Indiana HB 1019, sponsored by ALEC members House Speaker Brian Bosma and Rep. Jerry Torr, which would repeal the state’s construction prevailing wage law by disbanding the wage boards that oversee it. The bill has passed the House and is now in committee in the Senate. But not, as one might expect, in the Labor Committee. Because Labor chair, Sen. Phil Boots, let it be known he was not a supporter, Republican Senate President Pro Tem David Long instead assigned the bill to the Tax Committee. Gov. Mike Pence has said he will sign the bill if it gets to him.
Missouri: Four different prevailing wage repeal bills are in play in Missouri, all with ALEC sponsors: Reps. Tony Duggar, Bill White and Bill Lant and Sen. Dan Brown. Bills to exempt school construction and certain housing construction projects have passed through committee and moved on to the full House.
Wisconsin: And the same forces that drove Act 10, Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-collective bargaining bill, and RTW in Wisconsin are gearing up for more wage cutting via prevailing wage repeal. Hearings have yet to be scheduled on Assembly Bill 32 and Senate Bill 49, the latter sponsored by former ALEC “legislator of the year,” Sen. Leah Vukmir. But the right-wing echo chamber — op-ed from the bill’s author, immediate support from allies including NFIB and AFP, partisan “research”from MacIver, appeals to “providing government with the tools to reduce costs” – is in high gear, so the push for the measure can’t be far off.