The word “infrastructure” is much in the news these days. The Biden administration has proposed a roughly $2 trillion plan for improving the nation’s infrastructure, in what is being called a “once-in-a-generation investment” in the United States. The plan would directly benefit West Virginia workers and mean more jobs for you, your friends, and the people in your community.
Some want a cheaper, scaled-down plan that focuses on traditional infrastructure such as bridges, roads, and airports. Biden’s plan broadens the definition considerably. It features, for example, green energy jobs, including investments in electric vehicles and a charging station network, workforce development programs targeted at underserved groups, and much more.
Whatever gets approved, one thing seems certain —a boatload of federal dollars are likely headed West Virginia’s way for infrastructure. That will mean more jobs for more West Virginians. That’s the good news.
But is West Virginia prepared to pay fair wages for a potential slew of infrastructure projects across the state, from Huntington to Martinsburg? In 2016, our State Legislature eliminated the Prevailing Wage Law, ignoring the fact that prevailing wage is a proven economic development tool.
A Prevailing Wage Law ensures that workers are paid a fair wage based on a regional survey of rates for their level of skill and experience. Without such a law, cheaper construction bids at lower wages result along with shoddier work. Local jobs go to out-of-state companies which import lesser-skilled workers from other states and even other countries.
What that means in your community and mine is that low-wage, unskilled workers construct our schools, pave our roads and build our bridges. And supposed tax savings that advocates claimed would result from repealing our Prevailing Wage Law have been about as substantial as the morning fog.
Even Republican stalwarts like Gov. Jim Justice cite the folly of what has resulted in a West Virginia without the safety net of prevailing wage for workers:
I mean really and truly let’s just be brutally honest,” Justice said earlier this year. “We passed the right to work law in West Virginia and we ran to the windows looking to see all the people that were going to come … and they didn’t come.
Republican Congressman David McKinley has said West Virginia needs to admit its mistake:
The strength is recognizing that after a few years, this didn’t work. We better revisit it and correct it, and I think the time is now to put prevailing wage back in place.
So, let’s correct this and spend West Virginia’s infrastructure windfall wisely. We can stop low-road contractors and their imported workers from stealing our jobs and our infrastructure dollars. We can keep our best and brightest people working here at home and contributing to a better standard of living for us all. Get on board, sign our petition and help us to restore prevailing wage to Restore West Virginia!