, , , , ,

GOP Lawmakers Set Sights On Ending Wisconsin’s Prevailing Wage

Wage Supporters Say Law Ensures Fair Pay, Quality Construction Work.

​Lester Public Library (CC-BY-NC-SA)

Less than a month after making Wisconsin a right-to-work state, Republican lawmakers say they’re discussing how to proceed with a repeal of Wisconsin’s prevailing wage law. One strategy would be to use the upcoming state budget.

Rep. Rob Hutton (center) at a GOP press conference Wednesday against a prevailing wage. Shawn Johnson/WPR

The state’s prevailing wage mandates how much workers get paid for different types of construction projects that are funded by state and local governments. The rates are based on a survey of employers.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Republicans say it’s outdated and artificially inflates government building costs. Rep. Rob Hutton, R-Brookfield, is sponsoring the bill in the state Assembly. He said the time for Wisconsin’s 80-year-old law has come and gone.

“I think you can make the strong argument that this law is irrelevant in general,” Hutton said.

But University of Wisconsin Construction Engineering and Management Program Chair Awad Hanna said the change would lower wages, and that has consequences.

“You always get what you pay for. You pay construction workers less, you get less quality construction workers, and you get less product. Less quailty highway. Less quality building. It’s just a fact of life,” Hanna said.

Hanna warned ending the prevailing wage could lead to an influx of cheaper labor from contractors in other states whose workers don’t pay taxes in Wisconsin.

Rep. Hutton’s effort is backed by non-union companies and by local government groups. Unions and union contractors oppose the GOP plan, as do Dane County and the City of Madison.