Fair Wages:

Labor official proposes prevailing wage reforms

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Health pay tops, dealers lowest, NV study says

New prevailing wage list published

Nevada Prevailing Wage Survey

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Editorials on the Fight for Fair Wages

Nevada Labor Commissioner announces series of hearings on prevailing wage law and divulges proposed new standards
LAS VEGAS, April 12, 2000

Nevada's new labor commissioner has announced a series of hearings which will heavily impact the way prevailing construction wage rates are set on public works jobs. The hearings begin on April 25 and will continue as long as necessary.

In a copyrighted story, veteran Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter A.D. Hopkins wrote "Nevada Labor Commissioner Terry Johnson has proposed amending Nevada's prevailing wage regulations, redefining 'prevailing' wage as that earned by an actual majority of workers in a given craft. If no such majority existed, an average wage would be used.

"The changes could blunt criticism of a law widely perceived to inflate the cost of public buildings and unfairly favor union labor," Hopkins reported.

That criticism has come from non-union contractors, Republican lawmakers and the Review-Journal. The state's largest newspaper recently called for repeal of Nevada's prevailing wage law.

Access the full story and hearing schedules at Labor official proposes prevailing wage reforms - A redefinition of what workers should be paid to do a job is needed, the labor commissioner says.

The Assault on Nevada Wages

Las Vegas Review-Journal calls for repeal of Nevada Wage Law; smears labor with criminal innuendo

Davis-Bacon will now certainly be a campaign issue this year. The state's largest paper just made it that way (see below).

I reiterate my suggestion that a working group be formed to work on this issue throughout this election year. Immediate research needs to be done to cross-check the Review-Journal's allegations, which have been repeated all over the state. We are not now in a position to properly respond, as we don't have the data upon which their allegations are based. Both the media and political candidates at all levels need accurate information, timely and consistently supplied.

Neither major media nor state government are proving to be our friends. We have also taken a hit on another front. The State of Nevada's Commission on Economic Development's new website states the following under its "workforce" section: "Right-to-Work -- Nevada's right-to-work laws prevent the establishment of 'closed shop' policies. Nevada currently has about 3.8% unionization in its manufacturing sector."

This conveniently ignores a fact which we have never promoted, but should from this day forward: NEVADA IS THE SEVENTH MOST-UNIONIZED STATE IN THE COUNTRY. According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, our percentage of unionized workers stands at 19.6%, behind only New York (25.3%), Hawaii (23.1%), Michigan (21.5%), Washington state (20.7%), Alaska (20.4%) and New Jersey (20.3%). California is back in the pack at 16.5%. (See the AFL-CIO website.)

EDITORIAL, Las Vegas Review-Journal

Monday, March 27, 2000
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal

Wage fraud revealed

Investigate prevailing wage numbers, then repeal the law.

The free market sets "prevailing wages" every day, far more efficiently than any Commissar of Labor ever could.

If a tavern owner advertises a barkeeping job at $7 an hour but finds no competent applicant, the owner will offer $9 an hour, and then $11, till he attracts a good candidate.

Other Prevailing Wage Editorials & Commentary

Hire local workers, not prisoners

An absurd calculation -- State can never determine a 'proper' wage

Nevada Assembly minority leader calls for abolition of prevailing wage law

Organized labor responds:
Prevailing wage law improves

Prevailing wage law good for workers and Silver State

Study says most new Nevada jobs don't support families

A Rising Tide Raises All Boats

But under an economic system in which government undertakes to dictate wages, "prevailing wage" comes to mean something very different.

Like most states, Nevada requires companies which are awarded state contracts to pay their workers the "prevailing wage" for each job description. The idea is to keep contractors from underpaying workers.

The wages are supposed to be based on survey data obtained from contractors. Yet only about 20 percent of contractors participate in the poll, since participation means revealing information which competitors can then use to formulate lower bids.

Furthermore, the state survey forms are often filled out by labor unions "assisting" the contractors with whom they have contracts. So, union wages tend to be over-represented.

Bad enough. But -- as revealed in a copyright story by A.D. Hopkins in Friday's Review-Journal -- the mandatory minimum wages published by the state labor commissioner can't even be justified by the commissioner's own surveys, in some cases requiring contractors to pay as much as $13.69 per hour above the highest real wages reported the previous year.

Although the overwhelming majority of hours reported for elevator constructors in Clark County in 1998 were paid at $38 per hour -- and the highest wage reported was $45.46 -- the labor commissioner last October ordered contractors to pay a "prevailing wage" for that specialty of $51.17. No plumbing foreman was paid more than $40.86, yet the labor commissioner determined the "prevailing wage" was $43.61.

In other words, the process by which Nevada's "prevailing wages" are set is a fraud. Yet State Labor Commissioner Terry Johnson, who has no explanation for the disparities, vows to continue enforcing the current mandates!

This would be bad enough if these were "one time" errors. But now these erroneous "prevailing wages" -- apparently dreamed up out of thin air -- become the actual wages which must be paid under penalty of law, and so will be factored into the following year's wage mandates.

Nevada's prevailing wage law is being violated. The errors should be corrected immediately. The attorney general should then investigate whether such a huge pattern of errors could truly be "honest mistakes," or whether this pattern of errors point to some level of collusion.

But finally, the lesson here is that bureaucrats and politicians in search of campaign cash cannot be trusted to decide what a contractor should pay a well driller or a sprinkler fitter.

Assemblyman Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, now asks whether Nevada needs a prevailing wage law at all. Assemblyman Beers is correct. The only long-term solution is to repeal the "prevailing wage" law, entirely.

Attack on Nevada prevailing wage law intensifies

Last Friday, 3/25, the Las Vegas Review-Journal published an extensive front page story alleging that errors in the Nevada prevailing wage survey "may" be costing taxpayers millions. The disclarity of the story notwithstanding, the state's largest paper spread a story over three pages about inaccuracies in wage rates at the expense of taxpayers.

Errors in calculating the "prevailing wage" for state and local public works projects may be costing taxpayers millions of dollars this year, the Review-Journal has discovered.


Prevailing Wage News Stories

Judge dismisses suit to stop prevailing wage enforcement

Judge, state withhold money over underpaid labor claims

Mistakes causing state to overpay

Union sends kickback documents

Wage holds for fence erectors -Nevada labor commissioner's decision disappoints

Union says Las Vegas contractor required kickbacks from Hispanic workers

Hearing shows prevailing-wage problems

Nevada Prevailing Wage Law Endangered

Douglas County sued over redevelopment wages

Nevada Labor Commissioner fights Douglas County over fair construction wages

Prevailing wage rates published by the Nevada State Labor Commission are as much as $13.69 an hour higher than can be justified by survey data on which the wages are supposed to be based...

The Associated Press condensation which went to the rest of the state may be viewed at the Carson City Nevada Appeal's website.

CARSON CITY - Errors in calculating the ''prevailing wage'' for state and local public works projects may be costing Nevada taxpayers millions of dollars this year, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Friday. Some prevailing wage rates published by the Nevada State Labor Commission are more than $13 an hour higher than can be justified by survey data on which the wages are supposed to be based, the Review-Journal said in a copyrighted story...

"Nevada State Labor Commissioner Terry Johnson said he will continue to enforce the prevailing wage law despite apparent errors.

"We don't have a position as to whether prevailing wages should be enforced," he said. "The Legislature has provided for the enforcement." He was unable to explain why the published prevailing wage rates can't be justified by his agency's data.

"If you are asking if I knowingly published false information, the answer is no," Johnson said.

In the much longer Review-Journal story, freshman Nevada State Assemblyman Robert T. Beers, R-Las Vegas, attacks the prevailing wage law. This seems to be a growing trend among GOP lawmakers. The Review-Journal article, and its dissemination by the Associated Press and thence to radio and television, threaten to make it a major campaign issue.

Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick, R-Minden, telegraphed the punch several months ago in an e-mail exchange with me which is posted at Sen. Joe Neal's website.

Mr. Hettrick lists prevailing wages along with education cuts as ways to shave the state budget.

That's not all.

On March 24-25, both the Las Vegas Sun and Review-Journal ran stories about federal judge Philip Pro's dismissal of a lawsuit to stop the labor commissioner from enforcing the prevailing wage law. The issue involved whether or not workers performing off-site fabrication should be covered. It may still end up in state court.

The LVRJ story was also written by veteran reporter A.D. Hopkins, who seems to be on the prevailing wage law beat.

The Sun's version was by an even more experienced writer, capital bureau chief Cy Ryan.

Dan Rusnak of Laborers' Union Local 169 notified me of last Friday's latest cannonade by the state's largest paper. I told him I would spread the alarm to my labor lists, along with a strong suggestion that a working group be formed to work on this issue this election year.

Any and all inputs are welcome. Please keep an eye on this site for late developments.

Be well. Raise hell.

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