MI Supreme Court rules in favor of prevailing wage ordinances in cities; Lansing celebrates victory

LANSING, MI (WLNS) – What do a Lansing ordinance, the State Constitution, and a court ruling from 1923 have in common?

They all played a role in a big decision Tuesday from the state’s highest court regarding a city’s power to determine wages on public construction projects.

The prevailing wage law requires workers on state financed construction projects to be paid local wage and benefit rates, which are based on union contracts.

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday, that cities including Lansing, who have that ordinance, have the authority to enact it.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero said it sets the bar not only for Lansing, but other cities across the state.

“Lansing was the example and is the example, and I believe is the shining example for the state now in upholding the prevailing wage and helping working people to get ahead economically,” Mayor Bernero said.

The city of Lansing is celebrating a victory tonight, after the Supreme Court ruled that it’s prevailing wage ordinance is constitutional.

It requires contractors to agree to pay a prevailing wage, before the city approves development agreements.

Back in 2012, The Associated Builders and Contractors took the city to court over it, saying it’s prevailing wage ordinance was unconstitutional.

“We’re disappointed that the city of Lansing has to follow this mandate,” Chris Fischer said. “Taxpayers deserve fiscal responsibility and unfortunately we’re not seeing that in Lansing.”

The CEO of ABC, Chris Fischer said taxpayer dollars could be better spent. Mayor Bernero couldn’t disagree more.

“It helps working people, it puts more money in the economy,” Bernero said. “People have been hit hard; the construction industry has been hit hard for a long time in Michigan. We lost a lot of skilled trades, they left the state because they couldn’t make a living here.”

In 2015, the Michigan legislature passed a law that prohibits local governments from putting in new prevailing wage ordinances.

Lansing and a couple dozen other communities got grand-fathered in and were able to keep them.

Fischer said even though some see it as a win for Lansing, others see it as a loss.

“Majority of communities are prohibited from having prevailing wage mandates and the reason for that is, when you have prevailing wage, there’s less tax payer money available to provide essential city services,” Fischer said. “When there are less services provided to the citizens of the community, there are less jobs that are able to be filled.”

“You can learn a trade, and be expert in it, and be compensated for it, there’s value to that, there’s strength to that,” Bernero said. “It puts more money into the economy for people at every level of the economic spectrum.”

Prevailing wages have had split political lines for years. Republicans say taxpayers should not have to pay more for buildings and other projects, while Democrats say workers in the construction industry should not get their wages cut.

One interesting side note, however is that Governor Rick Snyder stands with the dems on this one and has said if the prevailing wage law is ever repealed, he would consider using his authority to bring the law back.

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