A union-backed bill that rather dramatically died by one vote in the Iowa House last year has been at least partially revived at the statehouse.
By a narrow, nine to eight vote, the House Labor Committee has approved a bill which would require workers on most state-financed construction projects be paid the “prevailing wage” in the county. Cities, counties and school districts, however, could opt out of such a wage requirement for locally-financed construction projects.
“Studies will show that jobs that are done where the prevailing wage is paid, the quality of the workmanship’s better,” says Representative Rick Olson, a Democrat from Des Moines who is the bill’s chief sponsor.
Olson argues the bill will help state government get a “better bang for its buck” on construction projects.
“We want quality workmanship where there isn’t a punch list…It’s when the job’s done and there’s a list of things that have to be corrected,” Olson says. “We want that list to be minimized and the only way you’re going to do that is with quality work and the way you get quality work is to have trainedworkers, and the ony way to get trained workers is you have to pay ’em a wage that will allow them to be able to be trained.”
The bill stipulates that all workers on state-financed construction projects should have completed at least 10 hours of Occupational Safety and Health Administration training. While there are some alterations, this bill is similar to legislation that failed to pass the House last year despite repeated attempts to pressure a reluctant Democrat to vote yes.
“It’s no secret. This is a political payback,” Representative Lance Horback, a Republican from Tama, said during House Labor Committee debate. “…But the fact of the matter is when you will blatantly send the bill for your political payback to the property taxpayers in every district, including mine, we can’t support that.”
Horbach suggested there is no data available on what each county’s “prevailing wage” is. “Have you ever…agreed to buy (a car) before they told you how much it was going to cost, or have you ever had the salesman tell you the cost isn’t quite right, but you’ll buy it before having those numbers?” Horbach asked. “That’s what’s happening in this bill.”
Governor Culver, a Democrat, is throwing his support behind the prevailing wage bill and another bill backed by some labor unions that would force non-union members who work in state government to pay a fee when they receive union services, like representation when there’s a worksite grievance.
“I think it’s a good step in the right direction and I think that it’s really incumbent on the legislation now to act on those bills,” Culver said Monday morning.
The Iowa Association of Business and Industry has launched a statewide public relations campaign against the bill that would require some non-union workers to pay a fee to the union on their worksite. “ABI members say that maintaining Iowa’s Right-to-Work Law as is is one of their highest priorities this legislative session,” says Iowa Association of Business and Indusry president Mike Ralston. “With this ad campaign, we hope to urge legislators to do just that.”
About 1400 businesses are members of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry. The group’s radio ad accuses Governor Culver and Democrats in the legislature of “auctioning off” Iowans’ jobs to labor unions and forcing workers to “pay the union, even if they’re not a member.”