MMU officials monitor pending bills related to wages

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

With at least seven bills in the Missouri House and Senate, many discussions both inside and outside of Jefferson City are leaning heavily on the subject of prevailing wage.

Prevailing wages apply to contractors and subcontractors working on federally funded or assisted contracts of more than $2,000 for the construction, alteration, or repair of public buildings or public works, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

In Missouri, the law creates a minimum wage rate for those working on public works construction projects and differs by county. Some examples include bridge, road and government building work. According to the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, Annual Wage Order No. 18 went into effect May 24, 2011. It's primarily a required minimum wage. Employees can bargain and employers may pay a higher rate.

Marshall Municipal Utilities General Manager Kyle Gibbs told Board of Public Works members he's one of many following the bills.

"We see that every year," he said of lawmakers' interest in prevailing wage. "It almost never gets passed ... We saw the impacts of prevailing wage down in Joplin."

Gibbs referred to a movement to eliminate prevailing wage in a disaster area for up to five years after the incident. reported Dec. 16, 2011, that the state's housing agency refused to suspend prevailing wage standards for projects in Joplin that receive state tax credits.

A move by Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, who sits on the Missouri Housing Development Commission, failed when he proposed to waive the requirements, according to Kinder felt that mandate would result in fewer homes built in the community. reported the prevailing wage for a carpenter in Joplin increased from $7.98 an hour to $21.47 after the U.S. Department of Labor updated its wages last September. Workers on state-subsidized projects are paid the federal prevailing wage rates.

"The right-to-work people are right on the heels of prevailing wage people," Gibbs commented.

Disagreements with prevailing wage jump from Joplin to Monroe City, where the Supreme Court of Missouri ruled a contractor's work of a city water storage tank and tower was construction, not care and maintenance. This opinion disagreed with a lower court's decision. Maintenance is defined as repair, but not replacement, of existing facilities when the size, type or extent of the existing facilities in not changed or increased.

Not all of the bills affect MMU, but may have some effect on city and county governments. The City of Marshall's recent roof replacement project on the animal shelter was postponed this past fall because a prevailing wage requirement wasn't included in a contractor's approved bid. The city had to rescind that approval and accept a higher-priced bid.

For Saline County, most rates increased in June 2011, with asbestos workers' rates rising in November and sheet metal workers' rates rising in July of last year. Basic hourly rates range from $16.96 an hour for carpenters to $40.86 and hour for elevator constructors. Linoleum layers and cutters have an hourly rate of $33.82, tile setters are set at $20.62 and plumbers at $54.61, to name a few. The overtime and holiday schedules also vary per position.

A list of House Bills includes HB 1053, HB 1089, HB 1090, HB 1091, HB 1176 and HB 1198.

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