Sidestepping repeal, Gov. Whitmer reinstates prevailing wage for Michigan construction projects

Michigan’s 1965 prevailing wage law repealed in 2018

Construction workers talk at a USA Properties Fund site, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021, in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) (Mark J. Terrill, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday announced the reinstatement of higher “prevailing” wages for workers involved in state construction projects, sidestepping a 2018 repeal of such requirements that was approved by Republican lawmakers.

The state of Michigan will now require contractors and subcontractors to pay employees a prevailing wage on state-financed projects. A prevailing wage is determined by calculating and reflecting local wages for similar jobs, typically considered “union-level” pay.

The Republican-controlled state Legislature took issue with Michigan’s 1965 prevailing wage law while ex-Gov. Rick Snyder was in office. Despite Snyder’s disapproval, legislators passed a bill to repeal the law in 2018. The bill could not be vetoed by Snyder, as it was initiated through a ballot drive.

Republicans opposed to prevailing wage laws argue that they cost taxpayers more money for projects that could be completed for less. But Democrats and union contractors argue that such laws ensure workers are paid fairly, and that their work is of good quality.

Now more than three years later, Gov. Whitmer has reinstated prevailing wage requirements, saying the 2018 repeal effort “left the door open for (the Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget) to require prevailing wage under its authority to develop the terms of state contracts.”

“By reinstating prevailing wage, we are ensuring that working people get treated with dignity and respect, which starts with a fair wage,” Whitmer said Thursday. “As governor, I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with working people and unions who built the middle class. By reinstating prevailing wage, we are ensuring working people can earn a decent standard of living, saving taxpayers money and time on crucial infrastructure projects, and offering Michigan a highly-trained workforce to rely on as we build up our roads and bridges, replace lead pipes, install high-speed internet, and more.”

Michigan is one of 24 states that has repealed their prevailing wage laws, according to state officials.

The Michigan Republican Party said Thursday that Gov. Whitmer, who is up for reelection next year, “illegally” changed the prevailing wage rules in order to pander to votes.

“Once again, Gretchen Whitmer illegally and unilaterally changes the rules she doesn’t like,” said Gustavo Portela, communications director for the Michigan GOP. “This is another reckless and out of touch power grab by a Governor who is losing approval points by the day. Michiganders of all walks of life are ready to turn the page on Gretchen Whitmer, her hypocrisy, and her failed policies and no amount of pandering is going to change that.”

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About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.