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National Poll: Most Voters Support Prevailing Wage on Public Infrastructure Projects

Apr 26, 2017

  Commentary: Washington, D.C: A new national survey shows that strong majorities of Democrats and Republicans each oppose the elimination of prevailing wage laws, which establish local-market minimum wages for different skilled crafts on government funded construction projects. The survey of 1,000 2016 voters was conducted by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research (ALG) from February 23-28, with a margin of error of +/-3.2%.

The new polling comes as several states consider changes to their prevailing wage laws, and the Trump Administration prepares to roll out a national infrastructure plan.

Click Here to read a summary of the polling results.

“While voters may have disagreed on many issues this past November, they agree that prevailing wage laws should be preserved by a wide margin,” said pollster Brian Stryker. “Only 21% of voters want to eliminate prevailing wage laws—even after hearing a commonly referenced argument for doing so. And support for prevailing wage extends to large majorities of Democrats, Republicans, Independents and Trump voters.”

Construction is America’s fourth largest industry, and directly supports more than 6.6 million jobs. About a quarter of annual construction output, or $363 billion, is spent on government owned construction projects—including roads, bridges, schools, transit systems, water projects and municipal buildings.

Prevailing Wages are determined by surveys of existing market wage and benefit rates for skilled craft workers—such as carpenters, plumbers, electricians, ironworkers, cement masons, heavy equipment operators and others—in more than 3,000 communities across America. The Davis Bacon Act requires prevailing wage on most federally funded construction projects while about thirty states have laws requiring prevailing wages on state or locally funded projects.

Most peer-reviewed research has linked prevailing wage laws with increased local hiring, lower poverty, safer worksites and better economic outcomes. These studies have concluded that prevailing wage laws have no significant impact on public construction costs because they boost workforce productivity and efficiency, while reducing spending on Medicaid, Food Stamps and other public assistance programs for construction workers.

Research has also revealed that these laws disproportionately benefit military veterans, prevent skilled workforce shortages by increasing apprenticeship training, and help to close wage gaps for women and people of color.

Despite the overwhelming public support for prevailing wage laws, three states have recently eliminated these standards (West Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky) on state funded public works, and  proposals to weaken or repeal these laws have been introduced in at least three other states (Missouri, Wisconsin, and Ohio).

The Federal Davis-Bacon Act was written by Republicans and signed into law by Republican President Herbert Hoover in 1931. The law has long enjoyed broad bi-partisan support. In 2015, fifty-four House Republicans joined with Democrats to reaffirm support for the Davis Bacon Act.

Smart Cities Prevail is a non-partisan, national non-profit research and education organization, focused on construction industry wage and contracting standards. Learn more at www.smartcitiesprevail.org