The Register-Herald published an article this morning titled, “prevailing wage hearing held in Raleigh court.” The article discussed a hearing that took place yesterday before Judge Kirkpatrick in the Circuit Court of Raleigh County, regarding the proper method of calculating the “prevailing wage” that workers are required to be paid by employers who are contracted to work on public projects. However, both sides at the hearing agreed that the idea of the “prevailing wage” law is a good one.
The “prevailing wage” law states that the fair minimum rate of wages shall be the rate of wage paid in the locality in West Virginia to the majority of workmen in the same trade or occupation in the construction industry.
Let me decipher this for you. The labor unions are very powerful in West Virginia, and they have their tentacles in every branch of government in the state. They get this bill passed that sounds great to West Virginians: a “prevailing wage” to make sure that evil businesses are not making slaves out of the workers. So, instead of the free market setting the wages as in every other industry in America, we are allowing the government to tell employers what they have to pay their employees. Since the labor unions have their minions at all levels of West Virginia’s gigantic bureaucracy, they essentially get to choose what the “prevailing wage” amount is.
The end result is that the West Virginia taxpayers – i.e., those of us West Virginians who actually pay taxes, including almost every small business, end up paying a gigantic sum of money for any sort of public project, such as road construction, sidewalk construction, guardrail construction, and so on and so forth. This means that those construction flagmen that you see are probably getting paid more than you are, to just stand there all day and waive people through. But this also means that the cost of each of these projects increases exponentially, merely because of the greed of the labor unions and our politicians. And according to an editorial in the State Journal by Craig Blair, most of this money is going to out-of-state companies and workers. Mr. Blair estimates that our state wastes 300 million dollars each year on these overpayment of wages with our tax monies.
While this is going on, our economy is in the toilet. Other workers, who do not have access to our politicians’ giveaways, earn significantly less than workers in the surrounding states. Mr. Blair argues that West Virginia workers make on average $7,932 less per year than the surrounding states workers, and $8,380 less in comparison nationally.
This highlights the fact that there is no “prevailing” wage being paid. There is an artificially-inflated government wage being paid – to the detriment of the rest of the state, and to the detriment of our economy here in West Virginia. For too long in West Virginia, the politicians and their bureaucratic minions have run the economy in the ground. In order to achieve growth and economic prosperity, taxes must be lowered. Who wants to open a small business in West Virginia when you know you are either going to have to pay most of your income in taxes, or you are going to see your roads and sidewalks fall into disrepair? Why not just open your business in North Carolina and not have to worry about it?
We should just let the free market set wages. There is a reason that a guy holding a flag is not worth paying $30 or $40 per hour – because it’s not worth it. Without taxpayer funds, no private market would sustain a business that paid so much for so little value. In a free market, a worker would get his or her feet wet by starting off as a flagman. Then, through hard work and ambition, they would attempt to work their way up the ladder of achievement within their industry or profession. But when the government is essentially the employer, the status quo – or even inefficiency and wastefulness – is par for the course, and is even rewarded.
The next time you drive through a road construction project in West Virginia, take a look at how many workers there are, and note how busy they are. Count how many of them are not doing a darn thing. Then, just remember that your state, your elected politicians, have ordered you, essentially at gunpoint, to pay for each of these guys and gals to have a wage that is exponentially greater than what the private sector would pay, and remind yourself that this is why you pay so much in taxes to the state. Somewhere a bureaucrat and a labor union boss are smiling and counting their money.
This November, keep in mind, that we should elect politicians who will downsize our state government, who will make less laws and regulations, who will lower taxes, and who will put our state and it’s citizens ahead of their own aspirations. The only problem is finding someone like that to vote for….
– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Attorney