Advance Notice: Briefs

The Legislature got rid of prevailing wage in 2018, but Whitmer just brought it back

By: - October 7, 2021 1:06 pm

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Updated, 3:08 p.m., 8:13 p.m. 10/7/21 with comments from Whitmer’s office

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday announced that she’s bringing back prevailing wage for state construction projects.

That comes after a 2018 ballot measure, backed by the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan (ABC), was enacted by the GOP-led Legislature killing the prevailing wage. Then-Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, had opposed the policy, but Michigan law allows for the Legislature to adopt citizen-led petitions without governors having the power to veto.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives the keynote address at the 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference, Sept. 22, 2021 | Laina G. Stebbins

Whitmer issued a “Buy Michigan” executive directive in 2019 and asked the Department of Management, Technology and Budget (DTMB) to review the state of Michigan’s purchasing criteria. Spokesperson Bobby Leddy said DTMB has the authority under the Management and Budget Act “to set contract terms that benefit the state,” Her directive will only apply to state projects, not local ones.

“By reinstating prevailing wage, we are ensuring that working people get treated with dignity and respect, which starts with a fair wage,” said Whitmer. “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.”

ABC opposes the measure and plan to take court action and the Michigan Republican Party slammed the governor.

“Once again, Gretchen Whitmer illegally and unilaterally changes the rules she doesn’t like. 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,” said spokesperson Gustavo Portela.

The move was hailed by labor leaders, however.

“We applaud Governor Whitmer’s decision to restore prevailing wage requirements on state projects.” said Tom Lutz, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights. “This decision protects Michigan’s investments in infrastructure because when prevailing wages are the expectation, contractors have to compete on a level playing field based on quality of their skilled work, not on the exploitation of their workers.”

Steve Claywell, president of the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council, said that Whitmer’s action helps “restore confidence by workers and employers alike. The restoring of prevailing wage provides a fair and equal bidding process allowing for highly trained men and women to be paid a good wage.

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 22-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQ+ people, the state budget, the economy and more. She previously served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 90 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 5,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 80 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two kids along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.