Prevailing Wage Under Attack in Ohio

Certain Ohio lawmakers have the state’s Prevailing Wage set in their cross-hairs, as they look to repeal the decades old law aimed at providing fair wages to construction workers on government projects.

House Bill 78, which is primarily sponsored by State Reps. Craig Riedel (R-Defiance) and Susan Manchester (R – Lakeview) proposes to give local governments, special districts, college and universities the ability to opt out of paying Prevailing Wage on construction projects.

H.B. 78, also contains additional language to increase the threshold to enact Prevailing Wage on new building projects. If passed, the current threshold of $250,000 would be increased to $500,000.

The proposed legislation was introduced in mid-February 14, was placed into the Commerce and Labor Committee. It has 16 co-sponsors and according to The Lima News, Riedel claims to have received vocal support from the majority of Republicans in the House.

Despite Riedel’s alleged support, H.B. 78 is expected to face an uphill battle, as House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) has said he would not allow this type of legislation to become law.

Prior attacks against Prevailing Wage in 2017 and 2018 both stalled in committee and based on Householder’s initial comments on H.B. 78, he does not support it.

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Householder told reporters at a Feb. 19 event sponsored by the Associated Press that H.B. 78 takes the state in the wrong direction.

“This is just backwards of where we should be as a state,” Householder said. “We should try to encourage more people to get involved in the skills and by reducing wages on skilled workers, I think we’re defeating the purpose of trying to get out and want those types of jobs.”

One of the bill’s primary sponsors believes the legislation faces an uphill battle.

In an interview with the Plain Dealer, Riedel admitted it will be difficult to get his legislation passed.

“The odds probably are not real good that we’re going to have a lot of success with this in this particular General Assembly,” Riedel said.

House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) told the Plain Dealer this new attack on Prevailing Wage, like prior efforts, will not succeed.

“I think the overwhelming sense from the citizens of the state of Ohio is that Prevailing Wage is a good thing – that you should pay people for the work that they’re doing, and we should not continue to encourage income disparities by allowing large companies to nickel-and-dime its employees,” Sykes said.

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