Missouri Republicans target repeal of prevailing wage

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JEFFERSON CITY, MO (KTVI) – Missouri Republicans have already pushed a major priority in right-to-work across the finish line, but they've still got another item left on their labor agenda. Lawmakers have proposed repealing the prevailing wage, it's a minimum wage paid to thousands of construction workers who work on state projects.

The prevailing wage is unique to each county as the state’s Department of Labor takes in a bunch of data collected on public projects like schools and roads and then sets a floor for what workers should be making in that area.

For example, the minimum for a carpenter in the Springfield area is about $25 an hour, while it's about $37 an hour in St. Louis County.

Republicans have filed proposals to do away with the prevailing wage and let the minimum wage serve as the floor for workers on public projects. Republicans have backing from lobbying organizations representing school boards and cities across the state on this idea, because they believe it will lower labor costs for public projects.

State Rep. Warren Love (R-Osceola) said he believes it will open up a piece of the pie to non-union workers who haven't bidded on these projects in the past.

"They have gotten all of the public works projects carved out to themselves through the law and they're usually the only ones qualified to bid on it because of the way the system works,” he said. “All I want to do is remove that and let qualified workers work."

However, a State Senator Jake Hummel, who also happens to be a union member, said a repeal of the prevailing wage would cause workers in communities to lose jobs to lesser skilled workers.

"If you're in a county where the average wage is 12 to 13 dollars an hour, well then that's what you should bid that package at,” Hummel said. “Undercutting those local contractors that depend on that work is doing nothing more than having a race to the bottom."

Prevailing wage is expected to move out of a Missouri House committee this week and see floor action in the both the House and Senate soon.

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