of Paul McKenzie at the Prevailing Wage Rally Nevada Legislature 19 May
THE DEPORTATION OF NEVADA JOBS (Reno, Nev., 5-13-2010)
TOP: More than 200 union construction
workers march on the UNR campus. BOTTOM: Reno Gazette-Journal
reporter Victor Calderon interviews Paul McKenzie, executive
secretary-treasurer of the Building and Construction Trades Council
of Northern Nevada/AFL-CIO while Painters Local 567 retiree Mo
Hursh poses as the Grim Reaper. [UPDATE:
Brother Hursh and his sleeping quarters were also prominently
featured in front of the Nevada State Legislature on 5-19-2011 as
McKenzie addressed a crowd of more than 300 workers from all over
afternoon Brothers and Sisters. We welcome you to Carson City.
As you know our state is in a battle for survival, as Nevadas middle
class is being held hostage by the governor, his political party and the
Chamber of Commerce. We are gathered today to let our representatives
know enough is enough, quit balancing the budget on the backs of working
The majority of you who are here today are construction workers you make
a living building the infrastructure of this state.
You are paid a
living wage to do this due to the passage during the last Great
Depression of an act called the Davis Bacon Act.
The Davis Bacon Act was passed by a Republican Congress and signed into
law by Republican President Herbert Hoover in 1931.
Republican Representative Robert Bacon who sponsored the legislation
justified the measure as follows:
is engaged in building in my district a Veterans Bureau hospital.
Bids were asked for. Several New York contractors bid, and in their
bids, of course, they had to take into consideration the high labor
standards prevailing in the State of New York. The bid, however, was
let to a firm from Alabama who had brought some thousand non-union laborers
from Alabama into Long Island, N.Y.; into my district. They were herded
onto this job, they were housed in shacks, they were paid a very low
wage, and the work proceeded...It seemed to me that the federal Government
should not engage in construction work in any state and undermine the
labor conditions and the labor wages paid in that State...The least
the federal Government can do is comply with the local standards of
wages and labor prevailing in the locality where the building construction
is to take place."
Little Davis-Bacon Act was signed into law in 1937, thereby
expanding the prevailing wage requirements to state-funded projects as
well. Those were hard times the economy in a shambles. Governmental
leaders were jealous of the monies spent by the governmental bodies, insisting
dollars spent on projects within the state should remain in the state
to help rebuild the local economy.
Today we face much the same circumstances, as many of the public works
projects being done within the State of Nevada are being done by out-of-state
contractors. Contractors who bid jobs with the intention of underpaying
their workers on the job contractors who import workers from their
home states workers who for fear of loss of their job are willing
to work for whatever their boss is willing to pay workers who take
what money they do make home with them rather than reinvesting in Nevadas
economy, thereby hobbling the economic recovery this state needs.
This problem is made worse by public
bodies and a labor commissioner who ignore the violations committed by
these contractors refusing to enforce the prevailing wage laws
unless complaints are filed and then refusing to penalize the contractors
who are violating the laws of this state and profiting from cheating the
workers out of a living wage.
Today, Brothers and Sisters, in the halls of this legislature, there are
men and women, who claim to be representing your interests, who are hoping
to weaken these prevailing wage laws which were intended to protect you
weaken those laws at a time when they should be strengthened.
Across this pavilion there sits a governor who refuses to replace a non-efficient
labor commissioner, a labor commissioner who refuses to enforce the labor
laws of this great state because he doesnt agree with them.
Today in these hallways you will meet lobbyists from the Chamber of Commerce
who feel you should not make a living wage evidently not understanding
that only if you have money to spend will their members be able to run
In these hallways you will meet lobbyists for the ABC (Associated Builders
& Contractors) who would weaken the current prevailing wage laws so
their contractor members could lead a race to the bottom.
I heard an officer of the ABC from southern Nevada testify in a senate
committee hearing this year that he was upset with the prevailing wage
laws of the state.
He is upset because those laws require him to pay his laborers $ 38 per
hour, the union wage which includes health and welfare, retirement, training
and vacation benefits. He didnt believe this was right because he
normally paid his laborers $12 per hour.
He hates the idea of paying his workers a living wage so much, he testified,
that he was willing to pay Labor Ready $72 per hour for laborers, rather
than pay his workers what he feels is an unreasonable wage.
This is the attitude we are faced with this year in a legislative session
where civility was checked at the door on the first day of the session
and the battle lines were clearly drawn. Where the (Republican)
minority caucus in both houses clearly stated on the first day of this
legislative session that they would be unwilling to even discuss generating
the revenue needed to balance the state's budget and properly fund your
childrens education unless the (Democratic) majority party was willing
to attack the working men and women of this state.
So here you are brothers and sisters. You are the hostages of Nevadas
governor and his political party. You are the hostages of the Chamber
of Commerce. And they are holding you and your future hostage, not to
fix the problems of this state, but rather only after you have been sacrificed
will they be willing to discuss I repeat, not agree to but
discuss a way to fix Nevadas financial woes.
You the unemployed and the underemployed are to be sacrificed so the Chamber
of Commerce and their members may prosper.
You the unemployed and the underemployed are to be sacrificed so the foreign-owned
mining interests in this state do not have to pay reasonable taxes.
You the unemployed and the underemployed are to be sacrificed so the renewable
energy industry can receive tax incentives for building in the state and
importing the construction work force from outside the state to build
You the unemployed and the underemployed are to be sacrificed so the governor
in the name of economic development can give incentives to companies like
Wal-Mart and Amazon dot com who do not
pay living wages or provide benefits for their workers, and do not make
a substantial contribution to the tax base of the state.
You have one saving grace as the governor and the minority party plot
your sacrifice you have the majority Leadership in the legislature
of this great state who have been working 16 hours a day six days a week
since February trying to figure out a way to:
- Properly fund education
- Maintain the social services
which are more in demand with these economic times than they have ever
- Fund the needed public safety
requirements of the state
- And trying to prevent the
hostages you the unemployed and the underemployed from
As you go inside
today, take the time to thank those who have stood to protect you and
ask those who would sacrifice you WHY?
is executive secretary-treasurer of the Building & Construction
Trades Council of Northern Nevada/AFL-CIO.
is a featured player on the May
17 Barbwire TV program.