Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Community News Network

February 21, 2013

Right to work, prevailing wage debate for nought

FRANKFORT — It was perhaps a perfect illustration of the 2013 General Assembly deliberations so far.

The House Committee on Labor and Industry Thursday heard discussion on bills sponsored by Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, which would make Kentucky a right-to-work state and repeal the prevailing wage law for public projects.

The room was filled with union members — so filled that two overflow rooms were set up where those who couldn’t get into the meeting room could watch and listen on closed-circuit television.

But at DeCesare’s request, there was no vote on either of the bills. So in the end, all the talk was for nothing.

Committee Chairman Rep. Rick Nelson, D-Middlesboro, said DeCesare “asked that the bills be called for discussion only and that we not take a vote on them.”

The reason was simple.

“I didn’t have the votes,” DeCesare said afterward. He said he might not have been able to secure more than three votes on the committee.

While right to work is a popular issue among Republicans, Democrats control the House and the bills had little chance of passage there.

“I’m just happy we had a hearing,” DeCesare said.

No one would say so, but there might have been another reason —forcing Republicans to vote in line with what is generally viewed as GOP orthodoxy on both issues might be used against them when they come up for re-election in 2014, a year in which Republicans hope to take the House majority from Democrats.

Brendan Cole, of the Kentucky Right to Work Committee, told the committee some employees are “coerced” into paying union dues at work places represented by unions. Federal law does not require membership, but it does allow unions to collect dues from all employees on the theory that even non-union employees benefit from agreements with management negotiated by unions.

But supporters of right to work claim some companies refuse to locate in states without such laws and union dues are often used to promote political agendas with which some members disagree.

Bill Londrigan of the state AFL-CIO countered that unions may spend members’ dues only on benefit negotiations and worker grievance policies.

Quoting Martin Luther King, Londrigan said right to work laws “provide no right and no work” and are designed to destroy unions.

He also cited studies and economic analyses which he said show average wages in right to work states are $6,400 less than in non-right to work states, that right to work states on average spend less on public education and right to work states have higher levels of poverty.

DeCesare also explained two related bills: one which would repeal the state’s prevailing wage law for public projects and an alternative which would exempt public school construction from the provisions of the law.

Under the prevailing wage law, contractors on public projects must pay laborers the area’s “prevailing wage” based on average wages for that industry in a Kentucky Senate District.

Wilson Sears, Executive Director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents and the former superintendent of Somerset Independent Schools, said he’d like to see schools exempted because the law added as much as 20 percent to the cost of the project.

He cited a study by the General Assembly’s Legislative Research Commission (LRC) staff that workers on prevailing wage projects earn 24 percent more than on private projects. That costs school districts money that could be applied to other needed building projects, Sears said.

“For every four schools we build, we could probably get another one,” Sears said. He said another LRC study indicated that 96 percent of Kentucky superintendents believe prevailing wage adds between 15 and 20 percent to the cost of new school buildings.

But Larry Roberts, executive director of the Building Trades Association, cited a study by University of Utah Professor of Economics Dr. Peter Phillips, that there is “no measurable, statistical difference” in the costs of schools built by contractors paying prevailing wage and those which don’t.

Kentucky’s construction labor costs — even with prevailing wage — Roberts said are lower than the national average, 19.7 percent of total construction in Kentucky versus 19.8 nationally.

But then when it was all said and done, there wasn’t anything done because the bills were never put to a vote.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • Smartphone kill switches are coming

    Smartphones need kill switches. It's a relatively easy solution to the pricey (and irritating) problem of smartphone theft. But who would have thought that the big carriers would team up with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung and lots of other manufacturers to voluntarily begin adding the technology by July 2015? The cooperative spirit! It makes so much sense!

    April 18, 2014

  • Why do wolves howl?

    Of all the myths that dog the wolf, none is more widely accepted than the idea that wolves howl at the moon. Images of wolves with their heads upturned, singing at the night sky, are as unquestioned as a goldfish's three-second memory or a dog's color-blindness (both also myths).

    April 18, 2014

  • Biggest student loan profits come from grad students

    This week, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal government would earn roughly $127 billion from student lending during the next 10 years.

    April 18, 2014

  • quake.jpg Pennsylvania won’t take action following Ohio ruling on quakes, fracking

    Pennsylvania officials plan no action despite new Ohio rules on drilling that affect a seismically active area near the state line.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • portraitoflotte.jpg VIDEO: From infant to teen in four minutes

    Dutch filmmaker Frans Hofmeester’s time lapse video of his daughter, Lotte — created by filming her every week from her birth until she turned 14 — has become a viral sensation.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Allergies are the real midlife crisis

    One of the biggest mysteries is why the disease comes and goes, and then comes and goes again. People tend to experience intense allergies between the ages of 5 and 16, then get a couple of decades off before the symptoms return in the 30s, only to diminish around retirement age.

    April 15, 2014

  • Google acquires drone maker Titan Aerospace to spread Internet

    Google is adding drones to its fleets of robots and driverless cars.
    The Internet search company said it acquired Titan Aerospace, the maker of high-altitude, solar-powered satellites that provides customer access to data services around the world. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

    April 14, 2014

  • Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 4.49.09 PM.png Train, entertain your pets with these 3 smartphone apps

    While they may not have thumbs to use the phone, pets can benefit from smartphone apps designed specifically for them.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Stepping forward: The real Colbert

    Letterman changed the late-night TV game between his run on NBC's "Late Night" and starting the "Late Show" franchise in 1993. And while it's tough to replace a pop-culture icon, Colbert, in terms of pedigree and sense of humor, makes the most sense.

    April 11, 2014

  • Teens trading naked selfies for mugshots

    Will teenagers ever learn? You think yours will. Maybe so. But it's likely that was also the hope of the parents of children who were so shamed by nude photos of themselves that went south - how else can they go - that they killed themselves.

    April 10, 2014