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Unions protest Jacobsen's prevailing wage legislation



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February 23, 2011 - Union members from Operating Eagles Local 324 descended into the Village of Oxford to get the word out about State Rep. Brad Jacobsen's, R-Oxford, plan to repeal Michigan's prevailing wage law.

The group passed out flyers and talked with people downtown, informing them the repeal of the prevailing wage law could open the door for unskilled illegal immigrants to work on state-sponsered infastructure sites.

Jacobsen introduced the repeal to the House of Representatives on Feb. 10.

The Michigan Prevailing Wage law covers construction workers currently working on projects where the state or a school district is the contracting agent and is either financed or financially supported by the state.

The purpose of the law is to establish hourly pay rates for construction workers on state-sponsored worksites.

Lisa Canada, spokesperson for the union, said prevailing wage was a good state and federal law and "it's on the books for a reason."

"They are highly skilled, highly trained drug-tested tradesmen who know how to do their job and know their work," Canada said. "If we get rid of an important law like this, we are going to end up with unskilled, untrained and unsafe workers on our infastructure sites, and we don't want that."

Jacobsen says the bill has nothing to do with illegal immigrants and that the bill deals with "reducing artificially high wage rates to save taxpayers money."

"At a time when our unemployment rate remains high, our state cannot afford to overpay for construction projects due to these outdated laws," Jacobsen wrote in a statement. "Prevailing wage laws prevent equally skilled non-union construction workers to compete for state-supported construction projects."

Jacobsen noted how much the state of Ohio saved when they exempted school construction projects from Ohio's prevailing wage law in 1997, saying over a five-year period, the state of Ohio saved $487.9 million.

He added that $109 million would have been saved on school construction projects in the state of Michigan in 2002 if the prevailing wage laws had been eliminated.

In 2002, Michigan public school districts spent $1.32 billion on construction project.

Jacobsen wrote in the column the repeal was "long overdue."

"Laws that tie the hands of job creators make the reinvention and success our state desperately needs impossible...our state is in a crisis and we can't continue down the same path. It's time to save our taxpayers money before more construction jobs are lost in Michigan," he wrote.

Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.
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