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Politics & Government

Building Trade Group Speaks Out Against Changes to Prevailing Wage Law

The Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council has denounced state lawmakers' efforts to change the state's prevailing wage law.

Frank Sirianni is President of the Council. He called the package of bills supported largely by Republicans a stunt that mocks prevailing wage law and hurts workers and taxpayers. Proponents argue that the law costs taxpayers money.

"That is simply not true. Getting rid of prevailing wage is simply a way to cut construction workers' wages in the state of Pennsylvania," Sirianni said.

The prevailing wage law requires workers on public projects costing more than $25,000 to be paid the prevailing wage in their region. But supporters of a change maintain that the law has resulted in taxpayers paying too much for public projects, such as new schools and municipal buildings.

There are five bills being debated in the House. They include measures that would make the Prevailing Wage Act a local option for school districts; reduce the number of projects that would fall under the law; and increases the total cost that a public project has to meet in order for the law to kick in from $25,000 to $185,000.

Sirianni said the changes would ultimately end up costing taxpayers more money because the quality of construction would go down.

"You start decreasing peoples' wages, they start caring less about the quality of their work. I mean, if they came in tomorrow, and told you they were cutting you by 10% or 15%, it's not really an incentive to do better," he said.

Plus, he said lower wages would lead to more companies hiring non-citzens or non-skilled workers, who are willing to work for less money.

Last week, the House Labor and Industry Committee sent the package of bills to the full House. Support has fallen largely along party lines, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed. Democrats are joined by numerous unions in their opposition. Sirianni said work will be ongoing to build a coalition of opposition to changing the prevailing wage law.