State Rep. Kristina Roegner has sponsored a bill (HB163) that would make using prevailing wage on public works construction jobs optional for local governments. For this, Matthew Szollosi, executive director of Affiliated Construction Trades (ACT) Ohio, is in disagreement. Who is right?
Ohio's prevailing wage law dates back to 1931, Under it, state bureaucrats determine what the prevailing wage should be for a given public project in a given area. This is essentially a price fixing scheme designed to offset the competitive advantage non-union shops have over unionized ones. Under current law, this typically results in securing most, if not all, the lucrative government construction business for unionized firms.
The downside of prevailing wage is that the cost of public construction projects is inflated. This puts an extra burden on the taxpayer. It also also results in some public works projects not even being initiated because of this added cost.
Rep. Roegner's bill is eminently fair. It increases local control of government by allowing municipalities to decide whether or not they want to keep the prevailing wage mandate in place for their respective bailiwick. Note, this labor reform doesn't eliminate prevailing wage for the local government entities that wish to keep it.
And to clear things up a bit more, a comparison should be made between Rep. Roegner and Mr. Szollosi. She represents the community and its interest while he represents a narrow, special-interest group, the construction trade unions, and their interests (1). Which of the two do you think seeks the common good?
Mr. Szollosi's objection to HB163 and its companion bill in the state senate SB72 is understandable. For it as the Upton Sinclair, journalist, author, and activist once said, "You can't get a man to understand something when his paycheck depends on him not understanding it."
Peter Skurkiss, Stow