Prevailing Wage Repeal Effort Seeing Extra Scrutiny, Again

Hundreds of union members and their supporters gathered in Lansing today to express their support to keep the state’s prevailing wage law amid new reports that an effort to repeal the law dictating state-financed construction project wages and benefits is again facing extra scrutiny on whether it has enough valid signatures.

A spokesperson with the Department of State on Tuesday said the Bureau of Elections was reviewing the repeal petition’s signatures with “extra scrutiny” because an initial review showed they came up short for the number of valid signatures needed.

The pattern is more of the same from the same coalition who has faced a veto by Governor Rick Snyder and rejection of its last attempt in 2015 by the Board of State Canvassers because it had turned in more than 161,000 invalid signatures.

Of the 535 signatures sampled, 370 signatures were found to be valid, which is fewer than the 373 required by the statistical model that the Board of State Canvassers has used for decades to recommend approval, the spokesperson said. If the sample had been found to have 340 or fewer valid signatures, for example, denial of the petition would have been recommended over pulling a larger sample.

The Bureau of Elections reviews signatures submitted for ballot proposals. The number of signatures needed is dependent on what the initiative would do: initiate legislation, amend the constitution or serve as referendum. Most ballot proposals are initiated legislation. If the Board of Canvassers determines a proposal has met the necessary threshold, the state legislature could also enact that proposal into law within 40 days. If it doesn’t, it goes to the ballot.

Legislative action is the route the group behind the prevailing wage repeal effort, the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan, is hoping for, because Governor Rick Snyder has previously vetoed this effort and when Michigan was without prevailing wage in the 1990s, no money was saved, despite what proponents of repeal are trying to say to justify their proposal. In light of that, it seems the only result of repeal would be lower wages.

“Not only is ABC the joke of the Michigan construction industry with their shabby training programs, but today it has been announced they are the two-time repeat champions of phony petition drives,” said Geno Alessandrini, Business Manager of the Michigan Laborers District Council, which opposes repeal. “You almost can’t make this stuff up. In the past two years, they have spent millions of dollars and have been caught twice trying to pass-off what amounts to over 280,000 illegible, non-voter, duplicate and otherwise fraudulent signatures to the Secretary of State. I hope the Board of Canvassers rejects their phony signatures immediately.”

Alessandrini’s comment on shabby training programs is in reference to a report released in October last year that found, among other things, that ABC programs “exhibit the highest rate of cancellation and the lowest rate of completion,” it said.

The Department of State estimated it would take at least a week to pull the larger sample size of the repeal petition signatures. That second sample would be used to recommend approval or denial, the spokesperson said. There will be no third sample.

Danielle Emerson

Danielle Emerson

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