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February 03, 2009 11:52 PM UTC

Paying Prevailing Wages on State Jobs

  • by: Steve Balboni

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Count me as a big supporter of the new bill by House Democrat John Soper,

House Bill 1208, by Rep. John Soper, D-Thornton, would require contractors to pay “prevailing wages,” set by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Prevailing wages are routinely paid by union shops but not by independent contractors.

Opponents say the bill would greatly increase the cost of projects.

But union backers argue that the state needs to step in and demand that employees get paid decent salaries and have health care covered by their employers.

With Colorado expecting hundreds of millions of dollars for public-works projects as part of a federal stimulus package, the proposal is likely to kick up a huge debate.

The act of construction alone is not in and of itself stimulus. The economic stimulus occurs when the companies that engage in the construction hire workers and pay them wages. The workers in turn will spend those wages on goods and services and thus the stimulus money circulates through the economy.

Job creation is often touted as the end goal of the economic stimulus but really the end goal is the circulation of the stimulus dollars throughout our economy. Putting people to work is great but they need to be paid well enough that they’re not just saving or paying off bills but actively spending.

During the Depression the workers employed by the Civilian Conservation Corps lived in tent cities on their job sites, many in remote places. In order to ensure that their earnings circulated back into the general economy workers were required to send $25 of their $30 monthly earnings home. That amounts to 83% of their total wages that they were required to remit in order to stimulate the economy.

Prevailing wages are calculated for each country. In Denver prevailing wages for a brick layer are $22.55/hr, that works out to $46,000 a year. That’s right between the median income for Denver County and the median income for the state of Colorado. In other words, that’s a fair and equitable wage.

I understand that this will be a bloody partisan battle but Representative Soper is working from a sound base both economically and historically. Republicans like Cory Gardner are free to take their shots but the fact of the matter is the end game here is consumer spending and without increased consumer spending we’re all sunk.

cross-posted at…


64 thoughts on “Paying Prevailing Wages on State Jobs

    1. While you add up your imaginary political gains we’ll be busy rescuing the country from the depths of recession. In 2010 we’ll see who the voters prefer. My money is on the guys that saved the country, not on the guys who played Tiddliwinks while the grown ups cleaned up their mess.

      It’s like you guys forgot that Democrats won power specifically because people want them to fix the economy and our health care system. That’s why the stimulus plan is still so popular, despite the GOPs best efforts. Obama, also still insanely popular.  

      1. If the spending bill was so popular, it would have passed already.

        The funny thing is that most good contractors pay their crews above prevailing wage anyway.

        I’m doing a nearly 7 million dollar project at the moment and part of it is on City land where I have to conform to their BS regulations regarding organized labor, and we haven’t had a single problem or had to make an adjustment related to wages.



        1. It’s already passed the House and will pass the Senate any day now. It’s moving along just fine.

          If most good contractors already pay above prevailing wage and benefits then I guess there’s nothing for you to complain about.

                  1.   You can point facts out over and over again about how the Community investment Act only regulated Depository institutions, or how it  made up only 15% of the Sub Prime Market, or that it didn’t legislate things like no money down or no income verification, or how it didn’t force leverage ratios of 30-1, 50-1, or 100-1. You can point these things out over and over again but LB’s ideology can’t accept this so he will ignore facts and act as though it’s all the fault of Government and poor people.  

                    1. is Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter’s fault; everything that happens in the next eight will be Obama’s and Pelosi’s, according to LB.  

                    2. But, never, never try to confuse Republicans with facts.  Here’s another one.  Over 40% of the bad loans in the sub-prime market went to people who were wealthy by anyone’s standards.  Just more welfare for banks and their owners.  Sorry BJ, you’re absolutely wrong on this one.  You need to quit listening to Rush.  He’s a liar.

                  2. Do you make it a policy to loan money to people that you know are unable or unwilling to pay you back?

                    What if the State forced you to do so?

                    PS if you knew me or what I do for a living you wouldn’t play class warrior with me.  

                    1. Are you calling for less regulation and blaming the poor for the economy? Yep, the R’s are going to the crazy forest for sometime due to moronic ideological blinders like yours.


                      No mention of “community reinvestment” here. This was entirely the result of lack of oversight.

                      Believing in the inherent goodness of the free market is just as foolish as any socialist ideal. It’s based on the same flawed idea that people will just do the right thing.

              1. It was a combination of (a) Democrat imposed regulations on lenders that mandated loans where they shouldn’t have been made (e.g., Community Reinvestment Act), (b) lax congressional oversight of Fannie and Freddie thanks to quid pro quos primarily with Dem lawmakers (remember, Bush and many Republicans wanted to reform Freddie and Fannie), and (c) poor executive oversight by a Republican administration.  Was there greed and corruption and bad management on Wall Street?  You bet.  But even worse was the mismanagement and bad regulatory policy of bought off politicians like Barney Frank and Chris Dodd.  How was this the free market??!!  In a free market, many if not most of those bad loans wouldn’t have been made.

                1. Or maybe you’ve just abandoned the whole “personal responsibility” thing.

                  Reaganomics doesn’t work.  It never has and it never will, no matter how much to try to blame its failures on others.

                  Man up.  Take responsibility.

                  1. among the R’s

                    All problem from the last eight years were Carter, Clinton, of Barney Frank’s fault.  All problems going forward will be Obama, Barney Frank, or Nancy Pelosi’s fault.

      2. Are you kidding me?  Are you just now catching on to Soper and his repeated attempts to get this bill passed with NO support from anyone save for the hardest of hard line big Labor supporters?

        Have you heard of Davis Bacon?  Go look it up Jack ASS!

  1. become an independent consultant for a year or have your own small consulting firm (like I do) and you’ll see exactly why this is the worst idea in the history of D-Thorntonistan

    this bill has nothing to do with “prevailing wages” and everything to do with unions controlling small businesses. or at least trying to get government to help them outcompete small businesses

    1. if we could give everyone decent wages, we would set everyone up at $40,000 a year or something and have done with it — you better believe that would be a politically popular move! But we don’t because we know we can’t and wage flexibility is a key component in any labor market.

      1. to protect the most vulnerable wage-earners from being crushed by the natural volatility in the economy.  for that, i think it’s a good thing.  as a social experiment that tries to dictate through policy to the market what certain services are worth, it’s a moronically bad idea.  but I think most policymakers have the first idea in mind (while much of the public might have the second as the ideal).

        but this post has nothing to do with minimum wage.  Davis-Bacon is a way for unions to get the government to set prices so that unions can benefit at the expense of other market players. the effect is to drive costs up for small contractors and make it much harder for them to compete with large firms (which is hard enough already).


          1. Somehow you just have not gained an education in spite of all the help you have been given.

            The minimum wage amendment was a direct outcome from the Wal-Mart treatment of workers.  Union jobs pay wages and benefits that Wal-Mart hates.

            1. Like running the companies they work for out of business or forcing them to hire fewer workers to pay above-market rates for employment?



              You know what, let’s put it in the CONSTITUTION! That would be even dumber, and let’s index it to the highest cost of living (Metro Denver) in the State, costing rural companies even more jobs.

              More brilliant!

              You know, we should just form a government committee to decide what everyone should get paid in every line of work – that would be much more fair.  We could come up with a new plan ever, oh, I don’t know, five years or so, and take from each according to his ability and give according to….

              1. Their principles are flawed.

                For example they mask their desires with external factors (min wage) that they believe will attain certain desired outcomes. They use the collective to build a base for greater individual income versus competing as an individual … that way they don’t feel greedy which is an emotional intelligence issue (flaw).

                The root problem is their flawed principles (desire for personal income = fairness = minimum wage), therefore when negative outcomes arise (eg job losses) they experience negative reflexivity which drives deeper personal disequilibrium.

                It is a set of circle flaws & negative feedback that results continually repetitive behavioral and outcome failures.

                One solution is to do a deep dive on Reagan or Lincoln … I mean a real examination of their principles, drivers, and behaviors.

  2. already pay prevailing wages (Davis-Bacon) because of the federal money involved.  Also, Denver has a prevailing wage law.

    There is no shortage of contractors bidding on work at each of those entities.  And frankly most are non-union, but pay prevailing wage without entering into a collective bargaining agreement.

    If prevailing wage was so onerous or unprofitable, why would these contractors fight to do work for these three?

  3. The wages are very important, but so are the orders for materials that will come with the construction.  Let’s not go too far in claims.

    And, yes, I do want to see prevailing wages paid.  

  4. …but I do wonder about the definition of “prevailing wage”.  What is it?  Some sort of average?  Across what demographics?  Is the purpose of this statistic to set wages?  or to track wages?  I wonder if this is a reasonable yardstick.  Anyway, back to gazing at the fast-moving cars on the highway (I lost interest in my navel)…where are all these people going?  and does anyone want them to arrive?……….

      1. …but thank you.  I feel more educated now (an odd feeling).  What is the source for this wisdom, I wonder?  

        So….this definition seems to track averages?  or the median?  or the mode?  or some other crazy new-fangled thing? (the hourly wage paid to the majority of workers is a bit ambiguous).  And the purpose of this statistic? to track wages? or to set what should be an appropriate wage?  or does it have some other purpose entirely?  

          1. …so, like, the US Gov’t uses this prevailing wage to determine what to pay its contractors?  or something like that?

            remember, you hafta talk slow, but I think I’m catching on!

            1. requires contractors to pay their workers the prevailing wage established for the particular job category or classification, if that work is being done on a project that is subject to prevailing wage.

              The contractor (and any sub contractors) must affirm to the government that they are indeed paying the established prevailing wage.  They are contractually required to do so.

              Generally, prevailing wage rates for work to be done on a project are part of the bid documents and are included in the contract, so that there can be no mistake as to what is expected to be paid to workers.

              As I noted above, this provision at the federal level and the state level with CDOT and RTD is not keeping any of the big (or small) contractors from bidding the work.

              All the big non-union contractors (Hensel-Phelps, Alvarado, etc.) continue to vie for this work despite this requirement.  Apparently they don’t find it so onerous that they choose to avoid doing this work.

              1. ..this makes more sense to me now.  Now, y’all can go back to your regularly scheduled program (except for those of you who support this bill but didn’t know what Roger just said before he said it… go to the corner and think)

                1. I’ll take one crawfish pie or a filet Gumbo, when you have a chance 🙂

                  By the way, this bill is stirring more problems between Ritter and organized labor.

                  Ritter promised on the campaign trail and then again after he was elected to support prevailing wage on all state projects.

                  He is reneging on that promise.  He did so last year when there was thought to introduce a bill, and he is doing so again.  Tried to keep this bill from being introduced.

                  Rightly or wrongly, he shouldn’t be making promises that he has no intention of keeping.

                  The word being used by labor folks is LIAR.

                  They don’t trust him and they won’t support him.

                  In lobbying the one thing that is death is lying.  You may lie once to a legislator, but you’ll never get the chance again.  If you can’t be straight with people and accept the consequences you won’t be around very long.  Frame the issue in the most favorable light you can, even put lipstick on a pig, but don’t flat lie.  That goes for Governors, as well.

                  As for business?

                  I like Ritter and supported him, but I am very distressed at the political arrogance/naivete he is demonstrating as Governor.

  5. Carbon Monoxide Bill and now the Prevailing Wage Bill. We appreciate you. Thank you for proposing bills that are good for our workers and families.

  6. Nothing is going to stimulate the economy for everyone like plenty of people with good jobs earning,spending and investing money.  That’s what it’s all about.  

    But that’s not what the conservative elite want.  They don’t mind a crappy economy for most as long as the crappiness doesn’t percolate up to them.  

    Now that it has, they are trying like mad to figure out a way to talk us into fixing it for them (tax cuts only,  overwhelmingly to benefit them) while maintaining the rest of us as a cheap, desperately needy and easily manipulated (underpaid, no reliable healthcare, education ops, retirement, etc.) labor pool. If we listen to them we deserve the consequences.

    1. Because it’s not like if you earn your money,’s like…you know, yours!

      You should have to give it to someone else to pay for their healthcare!

      That’s fair, right?

      How do people that don’t pay taxes get a tax cut?  Just curious.

          1. But you know as well as I that many American corporations avoid paying taxes by using loopholes. Maybe if we forced them to start paying what they owe, then we wouldn’t be railing on individuals owing a relative pittance.

                1. And keep taxes too high?  What do you think the result of that would be?

                  I’ll tell you.  Many fewer jobs.

                  Somewhere there’s a balance, but organized labor couldn’t find it if it were attached to them.

  7. They use the collective to build a base for greater individual income versus competing as an individual … that way they don’t feel greedy which is an emotional intelligence issue (flaw).

    Go kiss a squirrel.

    1-I am not Pam Bennett, but I am a business owner competing as an individual and doing quite well, even in these dark times brought to us courtesy of the failed policies known as ‘voodoo economics’ and ‘trickle down.’

    2-I don’t mind having some of my money go to support things like feeding the hungry (via government programs) as well as individual charitable giving.

    3-You projecting your greed on those who share my values is laughable.  And sad.  All at once.  Sadly laughable, and laughably sad.

    1. For those who think I am CT or LB or anyone else posting here or anywhere else in the world or elesewhere – I am not.

      I post using my real name, and have been for the last 2 years.  When I post a diary or a response I stand with my words.

      My working history has been in a veterinary clinic (1 doctor), paper route,  retail, small business owner, employee in major/international oil/gas and aerospace corporations.  

      I have never been in a union or labor association.  However, my mother was a Teamster and my grandfather a member of the UAW.

      I believe in supporting business AND working men and women.  It is with both sides of the equation that we succeed.  After 26 years of government supporting business/corporations only, we are now in an economic disaster.  It will be difficult getting out of it.

      I support workers joining together for representation.  I support business owners negotiating with workers to arrive at the best package of monetary compensation and benefits for each of them.

      I do not support corporations shifting employee costs, wages and benefits, to local,federal and foreign governments.  The Wal-Mart business model.  

      We need to balance the model to support our local businesses and working men and women.  It is our local businesses that need help now so they can survive the economic disaster and keep their employees working.  


      1. I should have said

        “Far be it for me to speak for Pam Bennett who does quite well in doing that herself but…”

        I did not man to imply that Taddy or anyone else was suggesting that you were I or vice versa.

        Apologies for any consternation or confusion…

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