Elected officials insisted they heard the voices of their constituents last November when they pleaded for change at the ballot box. Time and again, voters said they wanted leaders who would fight to keep existing good-paying jobs in the U.S. and create new ones.
Less than six months later, however, that message seems to have been lost by some. Just this month, governors in Iowa and Wisconsin signed into law legislation that bans project labor agreements (PLAs) for union workers on construction projects. These jobs allow workers to receive a fair wage with benefits, one that helps provide a middle-class lifestyle for their families.
While supporters of the PLA ban like to trumpet such measures for expanding competition, they are really just an excuse to expand opportunities for businesses that pay low wages.
It’s a continuation of a crackdown on unions that has gone on for much of the decade. A growth of GOP control in statehouses and governor’s mansions since 2010 has created a boom of legislation that has not only outlawed PLAs, but led to so-called “right to work” laws being approved in six states over the last five years. Taken together, they result in fewer dollars in workers’ wallets but more money for corporate fat cats.
Unfortunately, the efforts to tamp down on wages for those expected to bring America into the 21st century doesn’t end there. Earlier this year, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona sponsored legislation to roll back the 86-year-old Davis-Bacon Act which ensured middle class wages for construction workers across the nation. The measure would slash pay at a time when increased infrastructure spending could be putting thousands of working Americans on the job.
At a time when income inequality continues to soar, this is not the path lawmakers should be following. Ending prevailing wage, which Sen. Flake’s legislation would do, as well as the recently PLA bans in Iowa and Wisconsin are steps backward in the effort to improve the lives of workers and families across the country.
Hard-working Americans need more opportunities to earn a fair wage in the workplace, not less. Construction jobs like those building and revamping the nation’s bridges and roadways are good union jobs that can’t be outsourced. And as infrastructure investment is being teed up as a priority in the nation’s capital, elected officials shouldn’t be sabotaging a chance for more middle-class jobs.
Constituents should come before corporate interests.