Lawmakers exempt schools and universities from prevailing wage requirement

The Legislature finally has gotten around to ending the requirement that contractors building public schools and university buildings have to pay workers the so-called prevailing wage.

A similar bill sponsored by state Sen. Ben Kieckhefer got nowhere in the 2013 Legislature, thanks to Democrats protecting their union constituents.

The prevailing wage is wet by the state labor commissioner from a survey of contractors. It is so time consuming that in reality only union shops bother to comply, meaning the prevailing wage is the highest union wage.

In 2000, an investigation by A.D. Hopkins in the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that the prevailing wage law inflates the cost of labor on public works projects by 41 percent and cost the taxpayers of then-booming Clark County an extra $2.3 million for every new public high school being built.

In 2013, writer Michael Chamberlain illustrated the insanity of the prevailing wage law by reporting that while Census data showed median household income in Clark County declined by nearly 14 percent from 2007 to 2011, prevailing wage rates from between 5 percent and 12 percent.

“So while workers in Clark County were losing their jobs and seeing their incomes decline by double figures, and state and local finances were in dire straits with legislators forced to choose between some combination of budget cuts and tax increases to balance the books, prevailing wage rates, already far above market rates, continued to climb even higher,” Chamberlain wrote.

Nevada Policy Research Institute in its “Solutions 2015” handbook estimated the law requires the state, cities, counties, school districts and other government entities to pay 45 percent higher wages than necessary at a cost to taxpayers of $1 billion a year.

Perhaps after the schools calculate their savings lawmakers will conclude that we can build more roads and cheaper buildings without this Depression-era law and repeal the prevailing wage law entirely and close down the office of the labor commissioner.

NPRI chart showing prevailing wage rates.


19 comments on “Lawmakers exempt schools and universities from prevailing wage requirement

  1. agent provocateur says:

    Reblogged this on Nevada State Personnel Watch.

  2. John Ridgeway says:

    Well, a lot the time you get what you pay for. Skilled workers are just exactly that. You get it plumb, level and square with less injuries and deaths on the job site. Good luck with minimum wage crane operators. I can see it now, do away with OSHA and code inspectors and we will look just like the schools and roads in Tijuana or Mississippi. Third world results for a third world mentality. Not to mention the cost overruns due to rework. They will save money on substandard material also. Saving money on a construction site is usually very very expensive in the long run.

  3. Steve says:

    “I can see it now, do away with OSHA and code inspectors and we will look just like the schools and roads in Tijuana or Mississippi.”

    OSHA and code inspectors are good reasons for not needing prevailing wages or unions.

  4. Steve says:

    Mississippi ???? !!!

  5. John Ridgeway says:

    Yes, MS. Been there done that. Gotta into the country areas to see what I mean.

  6. Steve says:

    Rural roads are rough everywhere..ever been to Massachusetts?
    Bridges have nets underneath to catch falling bits of concrete.

    Nevertheless, OSHA and building codes easily take the place of union and prevailing wage.

  7. John Ridgeway says:

    Never been to MA. Seems like you you have a lot experience in the building trades.

  8. Steve says:

    Indirectly. Install and service anti theft electronics. In the course of installing we interface with a lot of union and non union laborers.
    Unions have taken a real beating and they are still climbing out of the recession (no matter what we are being told in the media) Channel 8 aired a story anchored by Paula Francis about how difficult it is to get construction labor. I asked a couple union guys about this and they just laughed. It used to be they got 3 year jobs, now they are lucky to get 3 week jobs and the waiting list is 900 people deep. Its actually unusual to see local contractors on jobs anymore.

    Rolling over the school bonds is going to be great for union labor in Clark County but there is really zero reason we should be paying anything more than market rates. Prevailing wage needs to go away it only hurts local labor today because it puts them behind out of state labor. Additionally, more people will be employed as a direct result of paying the going rates they are currently receiving for those short jobs. And the schools project will be a job they can rely on for a few years.
    This will take a good number of laborers off the market, effectively increasing the going rate (for labor) across all of the trades.
    Eliminating prevailing wage today, helps everyone. Keeping it only helps a few.

    As for the North East, while working for Kodak, I drove all over the area. Rural and City. MA has a bunch of infrastructure in serious need of real repair. There are bridges with nets attached to catch falling concrete, there are potholes so big (as spring comes) that motorcycles get swallowed up. The Mass Pike has asphalt problems out west. New York Thruway is a hundred times better.
    All across this country there is need for construction but we are pricing ourselves out of the market. AND (in doing so) hurting those very people we claim we want to help.

  9. Winston Smith says:

    Can’t find OSHA anywhere in my pocket Constitution…

  10. John Ridgeway says:

    OSHA was written dead the blood of dead construction workers. MSHA was written with the dead bodies of miners left in the colapsed shafts. All of these resulted on safer working conditions. Have you ever heard of child labor laws. The current billionaires sent our jobs over seas and make multi mega bucks profits. Walmart says pay less live better. Those overseas jobs put our workers on unemployment. Our nation continues to buy made in China. We need to demand made in america products to get our production back. Our founding fathers told us to buy it made in America. No matter what cost. Foreign trade is good if it’s balanced.
    Now to get back on track. The cheap labor will cost more in the long run for the same reasons mentioned in earlier comments. You get what you pay for. Rework doubles the cost. The code inspectors will be told to “Don’t look too closely and the safety ispectors the same thing. I’ve seen time after time because guys that do not really have any real experience. Just show up and do their small part and ask disgrunteld workers some questions. Then all of a sudden they are experts in labor laws. Laborers are not even on the skilled workers list. Have you ever talked to Iron Workers, Pipe fitters, Boiler Makers, Millwrights, Operating Engineers or any other real construction Union trades. How about Ship yard work. Got any experience in that. Ever been tied off at over 150 feet in the air to a steam drum.

    Information has never ever been equal to knowledge or experience. If you only have information from laborers. You have no knowledge or experience.

  11. Steve says:

    @ John Ridgeway

    WTF!??? was that?

  12. nyp says:

    ObamaCare “‘will bankrupt our nation, and it will ruin our economy.” John Boehner, January 6, 2011.

  13. John Ridgeway says:

    You said OSHA & MSHA was not in the Constitution. Well, OSHA has saved a lot of lives. It keeps the Contractor on track for safety. Yes it’s expensive and adds to the cost. Unions Train their workers to be Skilled Craftsmen in their particular field. That adds to the cost.Those same high paid workers put that money back into the communities. Low paid and untrained workers also add to the costs in unexpeted ways. Rework, I’ve seen untrained workers miss key elements on the blue prints and even pour machinery slabs in the wrong place and the Anchor bolts will not align either. They have to jack hammer the huge slabs out and redo the whole base. That creates a schedule train wreck. By saving money, that gets expensive and is passed on to the “customer” (city, county). Accidents, I’ve seen these low paid, untrained workers take safety risks. Their lock out tag out procedures are haphazard to non existant. I have seen machinery starte up from the control rooms (remotely) that was having maintenance performed. Non union work sites are the worst. The workers do not have a say. Any “trouble makers” that complain about unsafe conditions get fired on the spot. Most of them can’t even do a worksite walk down and spot unsafe trench conditions, unsafe scaffold loads. The general public has no idea why Skilled Craftsmen get paid high wages. They just hear the bottom line is out of control from arm chair commandos and demand a wage cut. They don’t get the whole picture. The Laws were put inplace to protect the integrity of the job site. Third world mentality tearing this country up. We are right back in the “Robber Money Barons” stage again. Look at the whole picture and wake up.

  14. John Ridgeway says:

    I will add that power corrupts, absolute power… I remender the teamsters corruption. Controlling the base wage would be ok if they controlled the profit margin too. I never hear about cutting that from the arm chair crowd.

  15. Winston Smith says:

    Thanks for the lecture, John, and I agree that many of our jobs have been exported, thanks to NAFTA and GATT, and the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Obama is fast tracking. Funny how most unions continue to support him, eh?

    Though a long-time IT guy, growing up, my best friend’s dad was a union stevedore, and he told me about the dangers. My high school Spanish teacher was killed on a construction site during a summer job. When working at TTR, one of the guys in my dept was killed in a crane accident. So I’m not entirely clueless here.

    On the other hand, I’ve seen the absurdities of OSHA, like making sure the water bottles at our desks are properly labeled WATER, lest we stupidly drink something else. And, like most, if not all, unconstitutional federal alphabet-soup agencies, it does enough “good” here and there to justify its existence, at least in some bureaucrats’ eyes.

    As I’ve written many times before, if you want the feds to have a new power, pass the amendment. Otherwise, it’s usurpation and tyranny. Which, unfortunately, means nothing to some people here.

  16. John Ridgeway says:

    I can see your point. Thank you

  17. Rincon says:

    A strict Constitutionalist is a little like a religious fundamentalist. Although one can see their point, a very strict interpretation often leads to absurdities.

  18. […] a last-minute deal a bill passed early in the session to remove the prevailing wage requirement for school construction was killed in what was described as a deal to will Democratic support […]

  19. […] required the state, cities, counties, school districts and other government entities to pay 45 percent higher wages than necessary — still at a cost to taxpayers of $1 billion a […]

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