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Prevailing Wage A Good Deal For All



Economist's simplistic prescription would devastate workers: PennLive letters


Matthew Rousu, an economist from Susquehana University, recently wrote a commentary in the Patriot-News and PennLive calling for the repeal of Pennsylvania's prevailing wage law. His argument basically boiled down to this: Without prevailing wage, we could pay workers less and therefore construction projects would be cheaper. State or local governments could save money. 

In the strictest since, Mr. Rousu's point is mathematically true. But it is a terrible argument for repealing or weakening our prevailing wage law.

Of course we could save money (at least in the short term) by paying workers less. In fact, paying workers anything at all costs more than paying them nothing. So from a purely fiscal perspective, if we paid workers poverty-level wages, we could erect lots and lots of buildings.

The problem with this argument, of course, is that it completely ignores the impact on the workers themselves. In fact, Mr. Rousu explicitly dismisses any legitimate interest workers may have in earning enough to support their families when he says "whatever wage we can pay in which someone will accept the work." In a recession, or a soft economy such as we have now, workers might be forced to accept work at wages below the poverty level. Their lives would be dismal and their families deprived of even the basics of life. But heck, we'd have more cheap buildings.

In my view, Mr. Rousu's decidedly unbalanced perspective is profoundly misguided. Working men and women aren't disposable work-horses whose quality of life is irrelevant to us. They are human beings who are entitled to live decently and support their families. 

Paying a living wage is part of the cost of any project, just as much as the cost of lumber and wiring. A strong prevailing wage law is all that stands between many hard-working Pennsylvanians and poverty. It must be retained.

SEN. DAYLIN LEACH, Delaware and Montgomery Counties

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Thank you for visiting the web page of the Pennsylvania State Building & Construction Trades Council. The unionized construction industry is very unique, and we are proud to be the organization that leads the way when it comes to standing up for what is best for our members...and what is best for our communities.

Throughout our extremely large and diverse state, it is the members of the Pennsylvania Building Trades that create and maintain the infrastructure in the Commercial and Industrial Industries, which includes office buildings, hospitals, universities, schools, libraries, stadiums, bridges and highways, warehouses, power generation facilities, refineries and chemical plants that make our state such a wonderful place to live and do business. It is these same members of the Building Trades that tirelessly give back to their communities by volunteering their time to organizations that make life better for those less fortunate. We go beyond the call of duty to raise the standard of living for people in our communities.

The work of the unionized construction trades speaks for itself. Our apprenticeship training programs are second to none, and no one can compete with the level of skilled craftsmanship that our journeymen and women bring to the job site.

Please take the time to browse our web site. Here you will be able to link to our affiliated local unions, contractors and government contacts. You will also be able to get information on Prevailing Wages, Helmets to Hard Hats, Safety and Health training, Legislative, Political Actions,  and upcoming events being hosted by the State Council and its affiliates.

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