While it might not sound like a sexy issue, the prevailing wage is extremely important for New Mexico’s workers.
Last night, HB 200, the bill introduced by new Secretary of State candidate Rep. Nora Espinoza to gut the prevailing wage, was debated in committee but rolled over until tonight at 5:30pm for a vote. New Mexico labor organizations passionately opposed the bill with dozens of the building trades’ skilled craftsmen and women turning out to testify against it.
What is the prevailing wage?
Under state law, public capital projects over $60,000 must pay workers the “prevailing wage” for their job classification — these wages are set by the state based on negotiated bargaining agreements in the same geographic area as the project.
The state Supreme Court recently ruled that the Department of Workforce Solutions was violating existing prevailing wage laws and HB 200 is a blatant effort to avoid complying with current state laws that protect workers.
Why is having a prevailing wage good?
Thirty-one states have prevailing wage laws that serve as a wage floor and ensure a level playing field for workers and contractors alike.
Prevailing wage laws contribute to assuring that public buildings and public works projects are constructed on time and on budget by using highly skilled, well-trained workers.
Prevailing wage laws ensure the competitive bidding process does not undermine long-established community wage and benefit levels and living standards. By setting wage rates, the prevailing wage allows contractors to compete fairly and win bids based on merit, productivity and efficiency.
And if that wasn’t enough, prevailing wage laws work to promote local training opportunities in the skilled trades, particularly for historically underserved communities, such as minorities, young people, women and military veterans.
What would HB 200 do?
In short, HB 200 would gut wages. It would eliminate prevailing wages for road and school projects, which would dramatically cut workers’ pay. It would also change the calculation methods to drive down prevailing wages for all types of workers. And it would limit prevailing wages to federal calculations that ignore negotiated agreements between New Mexico’s workers and employers.
Any supposed savings on capital projects would come at the expense of working New Mexicans, who are already struggling to make ends meet.
Our lawmakers should be putting working families first and those working men and women should be paid fair wages. HB 200 will only increase New Mexico’s already worst-in-the-nation income inequality and deprive workers of needed security.
A recent report from Smart Cities Prevail predicts devastating economic impacts for the state should the NM Prevailing Wage Act be weakened:
- A net loss of 2,340 jobs across all industries
- A $288 million loss in economic activity
- $7.7 million in lost state and local tax revenues
- More than $160 million of local business lost to out-of-state contractors
What can you do?
Share this post with friends and family and take to social media to spread the word.
Use these hashtags on Twitter or Facebook to talk about #HB200 and let people know these kinds of laws are simply wrong for New Mexico:
But the best defense against these attacks on working families in the future is to change the composition of your state legislature.
We need to make our lawmakers more accountable to the people. And ProgressNow NM is working tirelessly everyday to make sure that happens.
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