Cedar Rapids city leaders are adopting a labor proposal they say will decrease the area’s unemployment rate. A similar plan to approve a so-called “prevailing wage” at the state level is being considered but has previously failed. Mayor Ron Corbett says the city’s future building projects which use at least 25,000 non-FEMA federal dollars will be bid using a prevailing wage which is usually union-rate wages.
“I don’t think anyone in the community realizes in the construction industry how high the unemployment rate is,” Corbett said. A representative from a training center for plumbers and steamfitters says unemployment rates range from 25 to 50% in Cedar Rapids. City councilman Justin Shields says local unemployment remains high because out-of-state companies are undercutting local contractors by paying lower wages.
“It almost looks like Disneyland around here when you start watching to see the cars and trucks and vehicles, all kinds of vehicles, where they’re from – the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Texas, all over the country and they’re here doing our work,” Shields said.
City councilman Chuck Swore met with union officials and workers on Wednesday. “We want to regain control of how your dollars are spent here in our community and who they’re spent with,” Swore said. City leaders say one drawback of the plan is that the city can’t require a prevailing wage on projects funded solely by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Iowa lawmakers are considering similar legislation that would require a prevailing wage for state building projects however local governments could opt out of the requirement. Many statehouse Republicans argue some smaller local contractors can’t afford to pay a prevailing wage.