Common Wage Hearing

July 19, 2011


ABC, Committees

This Monday I was asked to serve as ABC’s (Associated Builders and Contractors) representative at a Common Wage Hearing in Warsaw.  The Hearing covered three sewer projects for the City of Warsaw and was held at the Kosciusko County Courthouse.  This is the first Wage Hearing that I have attended since the Law changed on July 1.  As of that date the five member panel no longer includes a representative appointed by the Governor’s Office but now has a member appointed by ABC.  There are a couple of other changes to the Law.  One is that a Wage Hearing is good for any other projects going forward for a period of three months providing that all of the wage classes named in the hearing cover the following projects.  (This should reduce the number of Hearings required).  The second item is a change in the project cost threshold from $150,000 to $250,000.  Unfortunately due to a language error, the $250,000 threshold does not apply until January 1, 2012 and the language error caused all Hearings for the remainder of 2011 to have no threshold, i.e., any project must pay the common wage and have a hearing to set that wage.

Don Scearce

In some ways it was apropos that I took this position as I was filling the shoes of Don Scearce.  Don was a personal friend as well as a business associate for many years.  I worked briefly in his office as a draftsman after college and I have a continuing relationship with his office, Scearce Rudisel Architects, to this day.  Don was a staunch supporter of Merit Shop and served on countless Wage Hearings such as this striving to do the best he could for his community through these Common Wage Hearings.  Unfortunately Don passed away last year.  (Obituary)

The City of Warsaw and Kosciusko County have a long history of supporting ABC wages on their projects.  Of the 231 construction businesses in the County, only three are signatory to unions.   Since 2008 there have been 37 hearings and at 33 hearings the ABC rates were adopted.   This makes the County very pro Merit Shop regardless of whether the companies are affiliated with ABC or not.  The representative for the AFL/CIO brought several documents to present including a folder of affidavits from workers showing their wage rates.  Unfortunately it appeared that many of those workers were not actually working in Kosciusko County though that was the implication.  I also noted a significant number of the ones that I glanced through that were below the rates requested in their submission.  Their submission was also heavy highway rather than providing rates across all classifications.  It was not clear why they did not provide the complete list of rates but had that list been adopted, additional hearings would have been required if another building project came up.

The ABC Wages passed on a vote of 3 to 1 with the chair abstaining.  Even though these projects are outside of our scope of work I still felt good about doing what I could to get the best rates for the City of Warsaw.

While I still believe that the best legislation would be a repeal of the Common Wage requirements, the changes to the new Law helped to promote competition and lower project costs for all of us.  Once the $250,000 threshold is in place that will also help improve the situation  Our Senators and Representatives should be commended for making this change and should be encouraged to continue the trend towards no common wage requirements.

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