IBJ gave top billing on its opinion page on March 2 to an article headlined, “Construction wage repeal hasn’t delivered as promised.” On the surface the article seeks to impress the reader with results from a so-called non-partisan source called the Midwest Economic Policy Institute.
Here is the trail to the source of the data. The Midwest Economic Policy Institute is led by Frank Manzo (the article’s author), whose background was from the University of Illinois in organized labor education. He heads up an associated organization called the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, which is mainly funded by the Union Operating Engineers of Chicagoland Political Action Committee, and two other labor organizations and a social welfare organization called Fight Back Fund. All of these organizations have the same address in Joliet, Illinois.
They have a practice of funding professors who are willing to selectively slant research to promote the objectives of the unions that pay them for this lofty research. No one is calling for a return of the old prevailing wage system on public construction projects except the union groups the wasteful system supported. Find a local government unit that is not already manipulated by organized labor that is calling for a return to the prevailing wage world. Show me a contractor who is paying less for labor today in the midst of an economic boom in Indiana than they paid three, five, or seven years ago. Show me a market where there is an abundance of skilled workers looking for opportunity that is not there.
What prevailing wage repeal has done is take away the smoke-filled back-room deals of union bosses and strong-arm union pressure politics that defined public construction for far too long. The unions are taking a new tactic to wow you with academic research. The problem is the slanted research doesn’t match the reality of the marketplace. People in Indiana are now getting what they long deserved: public projects that are bid competitively, with true market wage rates.
J.R. Gaylor, president
Associated Builders and Contractors of Indiana/Kentucky