Union workers feel 'left out'
- By Stephanie Antonian Rutherford, Battle Creek Enquirer, MI
The prevailing wage policy sets wages for employees and construction workers employed on state-financed or state-sponsored construction projects. United Solar also is receiving a tax exemption estimated at $20 million for real property from the city.
This follows the state's hefty, multi-tiered incentive package for the construction of United Solar's $220 million manufacturing facility in Fort Custer Industrial Park.
Although union leaders and community activists spoke against the exemption Tuesday, the city commission seemed stuck between a rock and hard place with United Solar officials declaring the deal would be off if the commission denied the exemption or delayed their vote.
"We didn't even have enough time to sit down with United Solar and address their concerns with the prevailing wage and what it meant in terms of bidding out jobs," said Chad Miller, business representative for the Carpenters' Local 525.
According to United Solar's vice president, John Morgan, having to place public bids for contractors could affect the company's security and allow details of technical construction to be revealed.
Not so, said Miller, who said he has studied union contract procedures and law for 11 years.
"All that (prevailing wage) requires is that the company go to a database and give consideration to local contractors and trade unions," Miller said. "It doesn't mean they have to throw the bid out for the whole world and all of their competitors to see."
In terms of pay, the prevailing wage issue concerning trade unions is the exemption from the federal Davis/Bacon Act, which determines wages for hundreds of construction jobs by region.