Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who resisted efforts to pass prevailing wage reform in the last legislative session, is touting it as one of the GOP’s major accomplishments, and himself as a “leader” who helped shepherd the reform through to passage. Vos’ comments on prevailing wage follow Representative Andre Jacque’s announcement that he was stripped of his Labor Committee Chair for allowing a full repeal of prevailing wage to come up for a vote, where it passed 5-4. Jacque says Vos told him he lost his two committee chairs that he held last session because he had to “be punished” and “be made an example of” for pursuing the bill. Vos’ office did not respond to a request for comment on Jacque’s claims. Yet Vos said in the news release:
The first of 16 Assembly GOP wins is being released today. The implementation of prevailing wage is the first accomplishment highlighted. This reform that eliminates a set wage for local government construction projects officially goes into place on January 1, 2017. “As one of the leaders who helped shepherd through the reform, more taxpayer dollars can be saved by eliminating the prevailing wage in state projects,” said Speaker Vos. “A full prevailing wage repeal should be considered as part of a comprehensive transportation funding package.”
Vos said at the time that the Labor Committee voted for the bill that he supported the concept but didn’t believe there were enough votes in the Assembly for passage of full reform. Vos also said there was no widespread support for the bill and that talk show host Charlie Sykes was the only one talking about it.
Vos may very well have an opportunity to take a leadership role on prevailing wage reform in the next session. State Representative Rob Hutton said recently that he intends to reintroduce the bill fully repealing prevailing wage at the start of the session. And Hutton intends to partner that bill with one which would reform Wisconsin’s project labor agreement (PLA) laws. Hutton says while each PLA law is different, examples of the usual restrictions require a construction project to be awarded only to contractors and sub-contractors that agree to:
- Only hire employees from the local union hiring hall, even if the company has employees who
are not members of the union.
- Pay into the union pension fund, even though its employees may never receive a union pension
- Recognize unions as the representatives of their employees on that job.
- Use the union hall to obtain workers.
- Obey union apprenticeship and work rules.
Hutton says “the intent of the legislation is not to ban PLAs outright as that is the right of builders and project owners to use if they want. Rather, the legislation prohibits the state or local municipalities from requiring the bidder to enter into a PLA in order to win or be considered for the bid. Like eliminating prevailing wage, this will allow for the opportunity for more contractors to bid on projects and provide the best rate for their completion.”
Hutton says that combined the measures would continue to give taxpayers a voice by finding ways to fund projects as cost effectively as possible. Republicans will have their largest assembly majority in 60 years, 63 members, when the session begins in January. Vos said the day after the elections that “”Wisconsin citizens have spoken and they want people who get things done.” Vos now says he supports prevailing wage reform for statewide projects. Vos’ reaction to Hutton’s bills will determine if Vos considers prevailing wage elimination and PLA reform among the things Wisconsinites want done without conditions put on them by the Speaker.