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Prevailing Wage on the Ballot in Michigan

Pitting workers against workers, Trump’s ABC looks to test union envy

Kris LaGrange's picture
Apr 24, 2018

Over the last few months, anti-union forces have been collecting signatures to get a repeal of the state prevailing wage law on the ballot in November. On Monday the state Board of Elections finished an exhaustive look at the signatures and certified that ABC had collected enough signatures to get onto the ballot.

The effort was funded by the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). ABC is made up of anti-union, non-skilled corner cutting contractors and has lobbied against prevailing wage and apprenticeship laws in many states. Other funders of the petition effort included the Michigan Freedom Foundation, which is funded by Trump’s Education Secretary and union buster Betsy DeVos, as well as the National Federation of Independent Business. All thing evil made up this unholy alliance.

Monday’s certification ends a four-month investigation into the legitimacy of the signatures. While hundreds were found to fraudulent, including people listing non-residential addresses and duplicate signatures. In the end, 268,403 signatures were found to be valid, 16,000 more than required to get the proposal on the ballot.

This proposal is yet another move by ABC and conservatives in Michigan to take away fair wages and benefits that are bargained for by unions via laws like prevailing wage. Numerous studies have shown that prevailing wage laws help raises wages and benefits not only for union members but also for the non-union workforce. “It’s about taking money out of people’s pockets,” said Pat Devlin, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Building Trades Council. ABC, like WalMart and McDonald’s, wants to make it easier for their contractors to lead a race to the bottom, forcing public employees to rely on public assistance to make ends meet.  

With the proposal now on the ballot, both ABC and Michigan unions are in a position that they hoped not to be in. ABC said when they filed the petitions in November, they hoped the legislature would take up the issue before it got on the ballot. In Michigan, a signature campaign forces the legislature to either vote on the proposal or let the general public vote. “Our goal isn’t to put it on the ballot,” acknowledged Jeff Wiggins, State director of ABC.

Of course, the legislature failed to act and now unions in Michigan will have to spend millions of dollars to protect a 53-year-old law that has brought thousands of working families in the state into the middle class.

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