Yet Another Attempt to Skirt Prevailing Wage
Back in the mid-1990s when Transportation Improvement Districts (TIDs) were created by an act of the Ohio legislature, they were viewed as a tool to facilitate the planning, design and construction of projects through local government and other interested parties. A TID was designed to be an innovative, administrative entity that would attract private financing for public highway projects, consolidate the efforts of multiple entities into a single entity working toward a common goal, and have the authority to impose specific taxes and tolls within the impacted area of a project. There were just a few projects identified across the state where TIDs were initially envisioned; however, in more recent years, the number of TIDs in Ohio have grown until that number now is approaching fifty – and there may be a reason why.
While those general concepts of TIDs remain attractive today, there were two exclusions included in the law when TIDs were first created that were not viewed as being problematic at the time but are increasingly so in the present day. These were the exclusion of the mandate for competitive bidding and the exclusion for paying prevailing wage on any projects sold by a TID. Until recently, most TIDs continued to apply competitive bidding practices and mandate prevailing wage for TID projects. Even today, we continue to see the voluntary use of competitive bidding on TID projects; however, TIDs are using this loop hole in the law to purposely avoid the payment of prevailing wage.
As I’ve written on numerous occasions, prevailing wage is the primary tool to assure the workforce that is so vital to the heavy/highway construction industry is paid appropriately, has medical needs met for themselves and their immediate family, assures employees of a secure income in their retirement years, and provides contractors with a trained, skilled workforce. None of these provisos are established by government fiat but, rather, are established through good-faith labor/management bargaining. Prevailing wages allow employers and employees to establish and fund reasonable benefit levels with absolutely no reliance upon programs funded by public tax dollars. The only reason for undercutting prevailing wage is to pay workers less, train them less, or remove needed social benefits that they should have for a proper quality of life. Prevailing wage is needed for us as employers and for the workforce everyone needs to construct this state’s infrastructure.
At this time when attracting individuals into the industry has become ever more competitive with other industries and job options, creating a stable, level playing field with established pay rates and benefits on which all companies bid from, continues to make heavy/highway construction a noteworthy career choice for many men and women seeking long-term, secure employment.
OCA will be working in conjunction with other interested parties to urge the Ohio General Assembly and the DeWine administration to close this damaging loop hole and retain the benefits of prevailing wage for our membership and the workforce that we hold in high regard.