Senate Committee Debates Right to Work, Prevailing Wage

Posted: Feb 12, 2013 4:58 PM by Garrett Bergquist
Updated: Feb 12, 2013 6:06 PM

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JEFFERSON CITY - Opponents packed a hearing Tuesday concerning prevailing wage laws and unions.

The Senate Small Business, Insurance and Industry Committee discussed a total of four bills, two of which made changes to prevailing wage laws and two of which enacted what supporters call right-to-work legislation.

The right-to-work bills are similar to proposals in the house. Both would make it a crime for employers to require employees to join a union or other labor group and require county prosecuting attorneys or the attorney general to investigate any violations of this provision. This would not apply to federal employees or existing collective-bargaining agreements.

The president of the Tea Party group Mid-Missouri Patriots, James Coyne, told the committee right-to-work laws protect the civil rights of every worker by keeping them from being forced to join a labor union. He said organizations should have to earn the support of those who don't join.

Aschinger Electric Company president Emily Martin told the committee requiring union membership helps her company ensure its employees are trained to a higher standard. She said company owners should be free to decide whether they want their employees to form a collective bargaining unit.

Current state law sets a minimum wage rate for public works projects such as roads, bridges and government buildings. The rate is set based on the wages paid for similar work in the locality where the work is taking place, hence the term "prevailing wage." The rate varies from county to county. Senate Bill 30 would repeal all of the state's prevailing wage laws, while Senate Bill 68 would change the law for rural counties so the rate would match the lower median hourly estimated wage set by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Randy Long, a non-union contractor, said quality wages are needed to ensure quality work is done and prevailing wage laws ensure this happens.

"Where we need teeth in this law is to make sure nobody is falsifying their forms," he said.

Mexico resident Bruce Hillis said the senate should press ahead with repealing prevailing wage laws, saying such laws limit competition and accusing proponents of prevailing wave laws of selling wage rates.

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