FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State Rep. William Keller
Keller calls GOP bills an attack on worker wages
HARRISBURG, Oct. 3 – Today House Republicans renewed their attack on workers by voting several bills out of the House Labor and Industry Committee that would slash wages paid to workers on public construction projects, said the committee's Democratic Chairman Bill Keller, D-Phila.
Keller said all House Republicans in the committee voted six separate times to protect those companies that hire illegal immigrants over U.S. citizens by voting against amendments offered by House Democrats to require contractors to verify the legal status of their employees.
"We're only two weeks into the fall legislative session and Republicans are already moving bills that would help corporations keep more of their profits at the expense of highly trained, skilled Pennsylvania workers and the public," Keller said. "The public has a reasonable expectation that our roads, bridges and schools are being built and repaired by highly skilled workers, people who know the ins and outs of how the work should be done. This legislation totally disregards that expectation."
The legislation, moved out of committee without a single Democratic vote, would remove political subdivisions, such as school districts and counties, from the Prevailing Wage Act; increase by 740 percent, from $25,000 to $185,000, the total cost that a publicly funded project must exceed in order to fall under the jurisdiction prevailing wage; and alter worker classifications specifically to exclude more workers from prevailing wage provisions.
Keller said that eliminating prevailing wage would not necessarily result in lower taxes or increased savings for taxpayers. He said there is no credible proof that the amount of savings opponents have claimed over the years will actually occur if prevailing wage is eliminated.
"Wild estimates that prevailing wage adds an additional 20 percent to 40 percent to a project are unsubstantiated," Keller said.
Keller said without prevailing wage, there would be nothing to stop a contractor bidding on a project from stating in bid documents that the labor costs will be a certain amount when, in fact, he intends to instead pay minimum wage while pocketing the difference.
According to Keller, the cost of labor dwarfs the cost of materials that are utilized on a job. He noted there is nothing optional about the fees charged by contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, engineers and architects.
"Opponents of prevailing wage give little attention to ensuring that the costs of professional design services and other non-labor costs aren’t excessive," Keller said. "Indeed, when people talk about eliminating prevailing wage, they are talking about eliminating the wages of highly skilled Pennsylvania workers.
"With Governor Tom Corbett at the helm and majorities in the House and Senate, the rights and wages of Pennsylvania workers are systematically being challenged with uninformed rhetoric from those who care more for big business and big donors than the workers who keep America moving," he said.
The bills now go before the full House for consideration.