Washington Supreme Court ruling could boost the cost of public works

Washington state constitutional questions aside, Competitive Enterprise Institute research fellow Sean Higgins doesn’t believe the law is an improvement.

“‘Prevailing wage laws’ are literally designed to drive up the labor costs of public works projects so that there is no advantage for a company that bids on the contracts to be non-union,” Higgins told The Center Square via email. “These laws say the company accepting the government contract must pay their workers the ‘prevailing wage’ in that region for the type of work involved in the contract. Precisely how this ‘prevailing wage’ is determined can vary but the law usually sets it up so that it is about what unionized companies pay their workers.”

Higgins explained there is nothing in the Washington law “that establishes any minimum number of businesses that have to be surveyed. It’s just ‘whatever the unionized ones pay.’ If there is just one unionized company in this field, then what it negotiated in its collective bargaining agreement automatically becomes the ‘prevailing wage’ for the type of work involved.”

Under that situation, “The non-union contractor loses any advantage they have to use their lower labor costs to win the contract by putting in a low bid,” he said. “It also means that if your business is government contracting you might as well accept a union at your company because you have to pay your workers union wages regardless.”

It also means that public works projects will cost more, “with taxpayers ultimately footing the bill,” he said.

Read the full article on The Center Square.