Several local legislators rejected a bill that would eliminate the prevailing wage provisions on public construction projects passed by a mixed vote in the Missouri House Tuesday.
House Bill 104, sponsored by Osceola Republican Warren Love, would eliminate what is described as minimum wage for workers on public construction projects.
The bill passed with an 89-60 vote with 19 Republicans voting against the bill.
Local State Reps. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann, Nathan Tate, R-St. Clair, and Bart Korman, R-High Hill, all voted against the bill.
Kirk Mathews, R-Pacific, was the lone yes vote from this area.
Tate, who represents a highly union district, said he vowed to vote against repealing prevailing wage when he was campaigning last fall.
“I voted the way I felt my district wanted me to,” Tate said. “I knew going in it would pass, but there were several other people who felt the way I do.”
Tate said aside from the unions, having prevailing wage in place assures public projects are done correctly and it doesn’t necessarily make projects less expensive.
“How can you be guaranteed?” Tate asked. “How skilled are the laborers? How safe are they? What happens if it’s done wrong and you have to redo something?”
Full passage of the would allow more local companies to bid on public jobs, because profit margins would be higher and they would have much less government paperwork to fill out, which sometimes scares smaller businesses away.
Alferman said he voted against the repeal because he thinks the system needs to be fixed instead of scraped.
“There has to be a better way forward,” Alferman said. “These projects involve local tax dollars and I want them to stay within my local workforce.”
He added there is little chance the bill in its current form will pass the Senate and he hopes to see other legislation in the future to fully reform the prevailing wage process.
“There hasn’t been any reform of the prevailing wage system,” Alferman said. “I’d rather keep what we currently have and fix it down the road than to repeal it completely. It will take union and non-union companies coming together to get this done.”
According to the Missouri Department of Labor, the lowest prevailing wage rate for projects in Franklin County is $26.42 per hour for a tile or marble finisher. The highest hourly rate is $46.04 per hour for an elevator constructor. Other skilled tradesmen in 34 other categories all have hourly wages averaging about $35 per hour on public jobs.
Opponents of the bill, mostly trade unions, argue the bill would cheat workers out of a fair wage, but supporters say the repeal would save municipalities money.
Gov. Eric Greitens said he would sign the bill if it makes it through the Senate and to his desk.
In February, Greitens signed ‘Right to Work’ legislation into law, after it passed both legislative houses in just 30 days after the start of session on Jan. 4.
Under Right to Work, employers are barred from requiring employees to become, remain or refrain from becoming a member of a labor organization or pay dues or other charges required of labor organization members as a condition of employment.