To the Editor:
A piece last week in The Newtown Bee centered on prevailing wage laws applicable to public construction in Connecticut. [“Town Attorney Reviews Prevailing Wage Implications With Council.”] Unfortunately, Newtown Town Attorney David Grogins’ attempts to educate town officials on the subject was incomplete and, in part, wrong.
Prevailing wage laws ensure that public dollars are not used to finance a “race to the bottom,” a scenario where employers succeed by lowering wage and working standards. That’s one of the reasons prevailing wage laws were passed more than 80 years ago on a federal level by two Republicans, Senator James Davis and Representative Robert Bacon.
Stable wages benefit a project by attracting more productive, qualified workers. Repeated studies show there is no significant cost difference attributable to presence of prevailing wage requirements.
But even when it comes to simple construction budgeting, Grogins is mistaken. He’s quoted as claiming that labor accounts for 50 percent of a project’s overall expense and that prevailing wage laws increase labor costs by 30 percent. These are not generally accepted figures. A Cornell study on the subject found that labor costs, including benefits and payroll taxes, on average represent about one-fourth of total construction costs. The study concluded that even a 10 percent increase in those costs due to a prevailing wage law would only result in a 2.5 percent increase in the cost of a project.
Business Manager Local 210
New England Regional Council of Carpenters
618 Main Street, Monroe March 5, 2014