Pages tagged "Economic Development News"
Charleston Daily Mail - The Legislature is looking to end free bargaining in West Virginia by adopting a so-called “right-to-work” law.
The result would be cutting wages and benefits for the state’s working families. West Virginia already has the highest share of low-wage jobs in the country.
The principle aim of right-to-work laws is to diminish the ability of workers to collectively bargain freely without the interference of government. This is precisely why Milton Friedman, the godfather of “free market economics,” adamantly opposed right-to-work laws.
Under right-to-work, it would be illegal for a union and a business to freely enter into a contract that requires every employee to pay for the benefits they are receiving under the agreement.
This means that if a worker who does not pay a union representation fee is fired, the law requires that the union represent that worker through an appeals process. Non-dues paying workers would also receive other substantial benefits like workplace protections and higher wages and benefits.
Right-to-work laws have nothing to do with forcing people to join a union or contribute to political causes they don’t support — that’s already illegal under federal law. The only freedom workers would receive is the ability to get something for nothing.
The requirement to pay a representation fee as a condition of employment is nothing unique to collective bargaining agreements.
For example, if an attorney wants to appear in court in West Virginia, he or she has to pay dues to the West Virginia Bar Association. Or if you want to work for United Parcel Service, a condition of your employment is to wear a brown uniform. No one is talking about banning employers from these practices.
What tends to happen in right-to-work states is that non-union members who get a “free ride” — while receiving all of the benefits contained in the collective bargaining agreement — opt out of becoming union members. This results in less money through dues and a weaker union, which ultimately strengthens the employers’ hand in bargaining for lower pay and benefits.
A case in Kentucky further illustrates this “free-rider” problem with RTW laws. Several years ago, the local Building Trades Council in Owensburg, Ky., asked the local Chamber of Commerce if it could withdraw its membership and still receive all of the benefits. The Chamber responded by stating: “It would be against Chamber by-laws and policy to consider any organization or business a member without dues being paid. The vast majority of the Chamber’s annual revenues come from member dues, and it would be unfair to the other 850 plus members to allow an organization not paying dues to be included in member benefits.”
The one thing proponents and opponents of right-to-work laws agree on is that these laws are intended to lower wages and benefits, decrease unionization, while aiming to encourage outside investment in the state. While this might make West Virginia a cheap place to do business, it doesn’t make it a good place to do business if there is less consumer demand in the local economy and additional need for public assistance.
Instead of using the power of the state to reduce the power and income of workers, policymakers should be focusing on moving more people into the middle class.
The State Journal - A bill that would repeal the prevailing wage was advanced to a third reading with the right to make amendments in the West Virginia Senate Feb. 11. Read
Senators said they wanted to reach a compromise before passing the legislation, which would eliminate prevailing hourly wage requirements for the construction of pubic improvement projects.
"We've been working on some provisions of the bill we can get some agreement to," Hall said. "We're trying to fix the issue of whether it's falsely inflated or not."
Sen. Daniel Hall, R-Wyoming, said prevailing wage is about being smart with the state's money.
"We are working on those issues, and I would think we'll be ready by tomorrow for a vote," he added. "We can always lay it over another day if we need to."
Previously, and when the bill was first introduced, several groups stood against the measure. A policy analyst group, West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, released a study as to why repealing the law would be a bad idea.
West Virginia Public News Service - At least 100 West Virginia contracting companies have written to state senators opposing the repeal of the state's prevailing wage law, according to state lawmakers. Read
Many of the letters say the law keeps local contractors on a level playing field with out-of-state firms.
John Strickland, president of the Maynard C. Smith Construction Co. of Kanawha City, says the prevailing wage has given West Virginia contractors space to develop a skilled and productive workforce.
He says without it there's nothing to stop outside companies from bringing in out-of-state, minimum-wage workers – and undercutting 300 to 400 local businesses.
Charleston Daily Mail and Huntington Herald-Dispatch - Over the next few weeks the Legislature will consider repealing or sharply scaling back the state’s prevailing wage law. Read
In place since the 1930s, West Virginia’s prevailing wage law requires jobs on public construction projects pay a minimum wage based on occupation and area, typically from $15 to $30 per hour.
Many state legislative leaders say repealing this law will lower public construction costs and save the state money, despite the lack of any credible evidence showing that this is possible.
While we can all agree that is it important for government to be good stewards of the public purse, repealing our prevailing wage law is not going to get us there.
In fact, it could hurt our state’s economy, make our workforce less skilled and our workplaces less safe, and do nothing to lower construction costs. At least this is what the credible evidence shows.
In an extensive review of the research on state prevailing wage laws, Nooshin Mahalia finds that the weight of the evidence shows no adverse impact of prevailing wage regulations on government contract costs and that “the studies that have found otherwise use hypothetical models that fail to empirically address the question at hand” or take into account the positive benefits of prevailing wage laws.
For example, some studies, like those mentioned by Dr. Cal Kent, fail to distinguish between public and private construction. It turns out, it costs more to build a school than it does a house, regardless of the prevailing wage.
Others, like the study from the conservative Public Policy Foundation, never get around to actually measuring total construction costs, and instead rely on hypothetical “what-ifs.”
Why is that important? Because when studies actually compare public construction costs in states with and without prevailing wage laws, they find no difference. Only by avoiding that obvious data, can a study claim otherwise.
It’s telling then, that the only two studies that have compared school construction costs in West Virginia with other states have found that West Virginia’s construction cost are lower than several nearby states that don’t have prevailing wage laws.
According to a recent analysis by Dr. Michael Kelsay, West Virginia’s average square foot construction costs of elementary and secondary schools were lower than Ohio, Virginia, and North Carolina, all states that do not have prevailing wage laws on these projects.
These findings mirrored an earlier study analyzing school construction costs in Maryland and five other mid-Atlantic states, including West Virginia. The Maryland study also found no statistically significant increase in construction costs associated with prevailing wage regulations.
So, why is there not a big difference in construction costs between prevailing wage and non-prevailing wage states?
For the most part, it is because you get what you pay for. States that have prevailing wage laws usually have a more skilled, productive and experienced labor force. This means public construction projects are completed more efficiently and on time, creating lower costs for the state.
Some proponents of repealing prevailing wage have advocated that wages should be set in the ‘free market.” Pushing aside the fact that government policies already artificially drive up wages in high-level professions like doctors and lawyers, if the prevailing wage is the use of government purchasing power to increase wages and create good paying jobs, then its repeal if the use of government power to cheapen labor and drive down wages. Neither scenario describes a free market, but only one is a good investment for the state.
If West Virginia is interested in saving money on public construction costs, the best thing to do is undertake projects when the construction market is soft and demand is not high.
When demand is down in the construction industry, contractors usually bid lower. Costs savings can also be realized when borrowing costs are low (like now).
West Virginia’s prevailing wage helps ensure that those bidding on public construction projects are competing based on skill, productivity, experience, and quality, rather than who can provide the cheapest labor.
And it also helps ensure that taxpayer-funded construction jobs go to local workers who keep their wages in their community, strengthening our local economies, and not to low-wage workers brought in from out of state.
West Virginia needs policies that create more middle-class jobs, not get rid of the few that we have.
Charleston Daily Mail - Hundreds of contractors and laborers lined the halls of the west wing of the state Capitol as lawmakers discussed and advanced a bill which would repeal the state's prevailing wage rates for the first time during two separate Senate committee meetings on Tuesday. Read
With a committee room pushed beyond capacity — filled with orange-shirted contractors, attorneys, journalists and businessmen and women — Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, dedicated the majority of the first of two Senate Government Organization meetings to testimony from eight different speakers discussing both sides of the controversial bill.
Blair, who introduced the repeal bill in the Senate last Thursday, asked speakers to provide testimony that will help lawmakers decide on whether or not to advance or amend the bill.
Charleston Gazette - Coalfield communities struggling with mounting job losses as the nation's energy markets restructure would receive hundreds of millions of dollars in new money to help create jobs and plan economic diversification programs, under the new budget proposed Monday by President Obama. Read
The administration is proposing $1 billion in new spending over the next five years to clean up abandoned strip mines and $2 million in tax credits aimed at spurring innovation on technology to capture carbon pollution from power plants. Obama's proposal also includes $3.9 billion over 10 years to protect health and retirement benefits for retired coal miners, officials said.
Obama is also asking the Republican-controlled Congress to provide $56 million in new money for existing programs at the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Department of Labor and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help laid-off workers and to assist coalfield communities with economic development.
West Virginia Public News, Hampshire Review, Gilmer Free Press - People pushing to end West Virginia's prevailing wage law say the move is intended to cut the cost of building schools and other public construction projects. But several new studies warn that a repeal would raise costs instead. Read
The prevailing wage law mandates that construction workers on public projects make the going rate for their specialty in a given area. Sean O'Leary, policy analyst with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, says his group's analysis of the new research shows repealing the law would actually cost the state in the long run.
"Our construction costs are actually lower than a lot of our neighboring states, like Virginia, Ohio, that don't have prevailing wage laws," says O'Leary.
Sunday Gazette-Mail - Debates about "right to work" legislation are likely to heat up in West Virginia during coming weeks. Read
Last Tuesday, a bill called the "Creating Workplace Freedom Act" was introduced in the state Senate.
The bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, would prohibit requiring workers to join unions in workplaces covered under union contracts.
Right to work legislation allows employees, working under a union contract, to choose not to pay union dues, but those employees would still enjoy pay raises and fringe benefits negotiated under those contracts
West Virginia Public Broadcasting - At the legislature today, when their party took over control of the House and Senate, Republicans promised tort reform. Watch Sean O'Leary on the Legislature Today talking about the state's prevailing wage law.
Several bills are moving through the legislative process including one about nursing home administrators that was up for amendments on the senate floor today. And we'll find out more about West Virginia's prevailing wage law. It's also a target of the majority.
We'll talk with a fiscal policy expert and one of our statehouse colleagues covering the issue on The Legislature Today.
Charleston Gazette - Nearly 100 people, including dozens of union workers, packed a committee room Thursday as the state Senate began an effort to repeal West Virginia's prevailing wage law, only to see the repeal abruptly dropped from the committee agenda, pushed back to next week. Read
The prevailing wage law requires that state-funded construction projects pay a minimum hourly wage similar to rates paid by the private sector for similar work.
Repealing or changing the law has long been a priority of Republicans, who this year regained control of the Legislature for the first time in more than eight decades.
The bill (SB 361) that was to be discussed Thursday in the Senate Committee on Government Organization is very simple and only one page long. It would repeal all of section 21-5a of state code, the prevailing wage law.