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Politics & Government

Business groups divided over repealing Michigan's prevailing wage

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steve carmody
/
Michigan Radio

Michigan lawmakers are expected to vote this week on a proposal to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law.

A 1965 law requires union-scale wages and benefits on state-funded projects. But last week, a state board certified a ballot petition to repeal the law. The question would appear on the November ballot, unless state lawmakers approve it first.

Wendy Block is with the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. While the chamber did not play a role in the ballot petition campaign, Block says the chamber supports repeal. 

The chamber spokeswoman says repealing prevailing wage should reduce the cost of state funded projects in Michigan. However, Block insists repealing prevailing wage won’t necessarily significantly reduce paychecks.

“We believe that all bids will still need to be competitive simply because workers have options in a tight labor market,” says Block, “and so they’re going to work where they can get a competitive wage and benefits.”

Critics say repealing prevailing wage will send workers to other states. 

“Is the fact that you’re saying you’re going to reduce hourly wages going to entice younger people come into the trades?" asks says Michael Stobak with Barton Malow, a large construction contractor. "Or look at some other way of making a living?”

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