Missouri Contractors Oppose Elimination Of Wage Requirements For Public Work Projects

Union and non-union contractors are opposing a proposal in Missouri to eliminate the minimum wage requirements for public works projects. In an interview with reporters in Jefferson City last Wednesday, the Coalition of Contractor Associations that represent 100,000 Missouri workers explained what the repeal of prevailing wages will mean to workers.

Emily Martin of St. Louis Electrical Contractors Association says that repealing the prevailing wages will encourage companies to hire cheap labour from out-of-state. It will take away jobs that are supposed to go to local electrical contractors. In most cases, government construction contracts are awarded to contractors that have the lowest bid. Without a prevailing wage requirement, electrical contractors from out-of-state can bid much lower than those from Missouri.

If the state of Missouri allows outside competition, cost cutting and shoddy workmanship will be encouraged. Missouri is very likely to see electrical contractors from Texas or Arkansas and from other places that do not have the standards and qualifications required for the project. The repeal will result into an upsurge of unskilled workers to complete projects.

According to Martin, the lack of qualifications is not just a matter of safety but money moving out of the state. This could possibly reduce tax revenues because migrant workers usually send their money to their family living in another state.

Leon Keller of Jefferson-based Meyer Electric said that his stance against the proposal is based on 50 years experience in the construction industry. In some states where the prevailing wages were repealed, significant erosion in local contractor base was particularly noticeable because they basically quit bidding for certain types of projects.

On the other hand, proponents say that if the prevailing wage provisions were repealed for public works projects, costs will be reduced for the state. It will also reduce project cost burden on small municipalities that have limited tax funds.

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