Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Prevailing Wage Lower Than Union, Non-Union Scales, Says Ou Study

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Prevailing Wage Lower Than Union, Non-Union Scales, Says Ou Study

Article excerpt

The prevailing wage required by state law is lower than both the union scale and the non-union average wage paid by private contractors i n most of the state's 77 counties, according to a study released Monday by Neil Dikeman, an economist at the University of Oklahoma.

In fact, most of the accepted notions about the state's prevailing wage law were shattered by the survey Dikeman completed for the state, Labor Commissioner William R. Paulk said Monday.

Change in the state's prevailing wage law appears likely this session since Gov. George Nigh, House Speaker Jim Barker, and Senate President Pro Tempore Rodger Randle have made it "No. 1" on the list of 10 reform bills they want signed into law before the Legislature adjourns for a two-week recess on Thursday.

Paulk sent Barker and Randle a memo on Monday summarizing Dikeman's survey results.

Dikeman's study is based on responses from 109 private contractors involved in commercial and industrial building construction.

"The argument all along has been that the prevailing wage law increases the cost of labor on a public construction job," Paulk said. "This survey shows that simply isn't true."

Private wages paid to a laborer in Cleveland County, where a building boom has been under way for a year, ranged from $11.66 to $11.91 per hour - compared to the prevailing wage of $11.65 for that job, Dikeman's study showed.

Lawmakers and others favoring complete repeal of the prevailing-wage law have estimated the state is spending up to $50 million more for labor on public construction jobs than it would if rates were the same as in the private sector.

"You can see, that simply isn't true," Paul said.

"The public wage rates are based on wages in the private sector. That's how the prevailing wage is determined by the U.S. Department of Labor people in Dallas," Paulk said.

"I'm going to have to call the feds and congratulate them for coming so close to the private sector wages," Paulk said. …

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