The Front Porch: Should We Keep the Prevailing Wage?

Jul 2, 2015

Wayne Rebich of Beckley pickets for more West Virginia workers on school construction projects in this 2010 photo.
Credit Craig Cunningham / Charleston Daily Mail

Should the government require wages over a certain level for taxpayer-funded construction projects?

In West Virginia, some Republicans want to repeal the prevailing wage law altogether - like Laurie Lin of our podcast, "The Front Porch"

In her Charleston Daily Mail column, she writes that the prevailing wage benefits a small group of workers and businesses:

"Under prevailing wage laws, public money is misspent on unrealistically high wages — or worse, it’s not spent at all, because the laws make labor prohibitively expensive.

"Working people pay taxes too. They use schools and roads. And they deserve to see their money spent carefully — on fair wages set by a free market," Lin writes.

Meanwhile, the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy, which receives some union support, produced a study disputing the idea that the prevailing wage costs taxpayers more:

"The repeal of prevailing wage laws leads to less workforce training, less experience in the workforce, higher injury rates, lower health and pension coverage, and lower wages.

"West Virginia’s school construction costs are lower than its surrounding states, including Virginia, which does not have a prevailing wage law..."

Hear more on this week's The Front Porch podcast by clicking on the audio link at the top or bottom of this page.

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An edited version of “The Front Porch” airs Fridays at 4:50 p.m. on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s radio network, and the full version is available above.

Share your opinions with us about these issues, and let us know what you'd like us to discuss in the future. Send a tweet to @radiofinn or @wvpublicnews, or e-mail Scott at sfinn @ wvpublic.org