Efforts by House Republicans to suppress wages will have lasting impact on Hoosier workers

February 23, 2015 David Niezgodski

For immediate release:
Feb. 23, 2015

 

INDIANAPOLIS – At a time when Indiana’s middle class is struggling with falling household incomes, State Rep. David Niezgodski (D-South Bend) said the last thing they need is a repeal of a common construction wage law that will result in driving salaries and wages even lower.

Despite Niezgodski’s plea, the Indiana House Republicans who control that chamber went ahead with passage of House Bill 1019, which would eliminate state laws that allow local communities to determine the wages paid on public works construction projects that are financed with taxpayer dollars.

“The entire reasoning behind the common construction wage law is to take full advantage of the skills of local workers and ensure that local tax dollars stay in our communities, where they can help build local economies,” Niezgodski said. “For no reason other than the sheer arrogance of the House supermajority, we are gutting a proven system in favor of one that will enable out-of-state contractors to come here and undercut our local workers, builders and contractors. It will take away jobs and drive down wages and salaries.”

The common construction wage is paid on any public project that costs more than $350,000. The wage—determined locally by a five-member committee that includes taxpayers and industry experts—is based upon the wages that construction workers in that area have been paid in the past.

“This system has worked for close to 80 years in Indiana because it is fair, it recognizes the importance of keeping local economies strong, and it supports the backbone of our state: the hard-working men and women who bust their butts every day to support their families and build our state,” Niezgodski said.

“By the most conservative estimates, the common construction wage boosts our state’s economy by close to $700 million each year. It helps provide a training ground for new workers, and it has proven to reduce project costs because it uses highly trained union and non-union workers, which means increased productivity and decreased risk of injuries on the job,” he continued. “It is why so many contractors and builders—not just union workers—came out en masse to speak against the repeal of the law when it was debated in committee.

“Yet this means nothing to those who control the House and our state government,” Niezgodski noted. “They see an opportunity to get rid of this law because it puts more money into the pockets of those who populate the boardrooms of our state’s richest and most privileged companies. They are eliminating this law because they can…no other reason.”

One irony of the situation is that Republicans played a key role in establishing Indiana’s common construction wage law more than 80 years ago.

“They did it because they wanted to prevent out-of-state companies from taking jobs away from local workers, because they knew it would destroy local economies,” Niezgodski said.

“From today’s events, it is apparent that such concerns mean nothing to those who control the Indiana House,” he added.

“My hope is that the Indiana Senate realizes the mistake that will be made if the common construction wage law is repealed, and stop this sorry mess. Common construction wage has been a friend to working people and their families for as long as Social Security has provided a sense of dignity for our seniors. It’s high time that these over-weighted majorities realize that enough is enough.”