Earlier this month Media Trackers published a report examining American Legion Post 139, which was featured in radio ads claiming that “Wisconsin Legislators are planning to remove job protections for our veterans.” The ads on the Packers and Badgers radio networks were paid for by Construction Business Group and Post 139 has ties to Operating Engineers local 139. In a follow-up report Post 139 Commander Michael Burt confirmed to us that the legislation referred to in the ads was prevailing wage reform. Lawmakers last session approved legislation that ends prevailing wage for local projects. That change takes effect in January. State Representative Rob Hutton has said he’ll introduce legislation in the upcoming session to repeal prevailing wage for state projects as well.
When we pressed Burt on why the ads said the legislation targeted veterans specifically, he told us that he believes it is fair to single out veterans as being particularly hard hit by prevailing wage reform because of the out sized challenge vets already face in finding good paying jobs compared with the rest of the population. But numbers from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (see attached spreadsheet) belie that claim.
The 2015 Wisconsin unemployment rate for veterans, 18 years and over was 3.6%. For non-veterans it was 4.4%. The overall Wisconsin unemployment rate at the end of 2015 was 4.6%. State jobless numbers do not support Burt’s claim that veterans have a more difficult time finding employment that the non-veteran population and do not support his rationale for claiming prevailing wage reform affected veterans differently from the general population.