Workers protest petition to repeal Michigan prevailing wage law

Workers protest petition to repeal Michigan prevailing wage law. (Stephen Wozny)

Construction and trade workers stormed the state capitol on Wednesday to protest an initiative to repeal the Michigan prevailing wage law.

A campaign initiative to overturn the Michigan prevailing wage law is in the process of gathering signatures for a vote on the November ballot.

“I am angry that we have to be back here protesting this kind of crap out of the capitol,” Gretchen Whitmer said.

Construction and trade workers arrived in Lansing to send a message to lawmakers: don't touch prevailing wage.

Trade workers and Democratic leaders believe big business is trying to mine the middle class for money.

"It's important we stand up for our rights,” Lindsy Lemier said.

"Right now I see a sign that says, ‘Hey Michigan, don't bite the hand that builds you.’"

Gabe Burdy, an electrician, held a sign reading, “Hey Michigan, don’t bite the hand that builds you.”

"That's basically what they are doing if they repeal prevailing wage,” he said.

Burdy said Michigan’s prevailing wage law covers construction workers who are employed on state projects. Their wages are set on collectively bargained agreements, which Burdy says are under attack.

He said, "As a union member, I feel like we kind of set the high bar for wages for people who may not be union members.”

Burdy says prevailing wage also helps non-union worker wages, like those who worked on Michigan State University’s solar panel project.

"The non-union guys who did the majority of the work for MSU were getting paid a lot more than they usually did,” he said.

Republican State Rep. Steve Johnson says the 1965 law is outdated.

"It's actually costing taxpayers millions of dollars. I support repealing it, savings taxpayer’s money,” he said.

Johnson says prevailing wage is costing taxpayers $100 million.

"That's real money. That's not going after anyone,” Johnson said. “That's trying to protect the taxpayers. That's what I was elected to do."

If lawmakers or voters repeal prevailing wage, Patrick Devlin says it will be even harder to attract people to go into skilled trade careers.

"At a time when we are at a need for more workers in this industry, the timing couldn’t be worse to cutting peoples wages,” Devlin said. “That's exactly what this legislation does."

If the Michigan State Board of Canvassers finds the campaign initiative to end prevailing wage has enough valid signatures, the state legislature could vote on the matter instead of sending it to voters.

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