Time to bring back prevailing wage

It was Labor Day weekend, but due to prevailing wage repeal, West Virginia contractors and construction workers didn't have good reason to celebrate. And according to a recently released study, West Virginia taxpayers don't have much to celebrate, either.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Midwest Economic Policy Institute looked at the effects of prevailing wage repeal since its implementation in 2016. The study finds the state failed to save any money on new school construction, validating an earlier report by the West Virginia School Building Authority (SBA). The SBA study also found there has been no taxpayer saving for building new schools since the repeal.

What is the prevailing wage? It's the going rate used by quality contractors in the private sector as well as the federal government for construction projects. It assures quality construction is completed by skilled craftspeople and that construction workers are paid fair wages with benefits.

Leaders in the West Virginia Legislature thought they could save money when they repealed the prevailing wage. But according to this new study, it costs West Virginians dearly. Local jobs have been replaced by out-of-state labor. Area contractors are losing work to contractors from out of state. New schools are currently being built with substandard construction, and many aren't completed on time.

As if all this isn't bad enough, the prevailing wage repeal has reduced the number of new apprentices learning a construction trade. This means fewer West Virginians are gaining a skillset to earn better pay with good benefits. Workplace accidents are on the rise while money is leaving our local communities and benefiting other states.

It's not hard to figure about why West Virginia wasn't celebrating this Labor Day weekend. Let's bring back the prevailing wage and change all of that.

Matt McComas

Organizer, West Virginia Appalachian Laborers District Council



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