Sunday, September 17, 2006
Ruestman bill not necessary
Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, pushed her bill to eliminate the prevailing wage law during a McDonald County Board of Education meeting last week. The wage law, which requires that construction workers on taxpayer-financed projects be paid the prevailing wage in their county, has for years been the whipping boy for runaway costs on these projects.
No doubt it is unfair for Joplin-area construction projects to pay workers the same rate they would receive if the projects were being done in the Kansas City or St. Louis areas, but the Ruestman law is not the way to handle the problem.
The reason there is not a lower rate in rural areas, as you might expect, is because the bureaucrats in charge of determining the wage have not done their job. I recall an interview I did in the late 1980s with the person in charge of determining the rates for this area. He said all companies were sent surveys asking them what the prevailing wage was for various jobs. No one from this area ever returned the surveys so the state set the wage based on information provided by unions in the larger cities.
"Why don't you just pick up the phone and call the companies and see what the prevailing wage is," I naively asked, believing that this little bit of extra work might actually provide a more realistic prevailing wage.
"That is not my job," he replied angrily. "I don't have the time to do that."
My guess is none of those who followed this man in that position have ever done it either.
That has allowed people with anti-union agendas to continue to push for revocation of this bill and allowed them to make the unions appear to be the enemies of public education.