Race car from 1920s

Earlier this year three states were competing to become the next Right to Work (RTW) state. Missouri ended up being the second of the three states considering RTW to pass the law; Kentucky enacted RTW early in January, and New Hampshire is currently battling it out in its legislature.

But RTW isn't the only labor reform where states are scrambling to beat their peers to the finish line. Indeed, states are also looking to reform their project labor agreement (PLA) laws, which circumscribe who can work on some public projects, and their prevailing wage laws, which can affect the price taxpayers pay for public projects.

And as in Missouri, the policy pairing of PLAs and prevailing wage has hit the top of the reform list in Wisconsin.

Prevailing wage requirements and project labor agreements would be prohibited under a proposal in Wisconsin’s 2017-19 biennial executive budget and tandem legislation speeding through the state legislature.
 
Gov. Scott Walker (R), already recognized for his tough stands against organized labor, included a single sentence in his 644-page budget proposal Feb. 8. The language repeals the state’s prevailing wage requirements and bans “any unit of government in the state from requiring or considering the use or lack of use of a project labor agreement by a contractor as a condition of bidding on a public works project.”
 
The state legislature could beat Walker to the punch under separate bills that would prohibit state and local units of government from requiring project labor agreements as part of public works programs. The Senate passed its version of the PLA bill, Senate Bill 3, by a vote of 19-13 on Feb. 8. The Assembly’s Committee on Labor approved nearly identical legislation, Assembly Bill 24, on a party-line vote Feb. 9.
 
Not only is Wisconsin racing against Missouri to become the next PLA and prevailing wage reform state, but there is actually competition among their own branches of government to see who will get it done first for the state.
 
To be clear, the point here isn't to rush legislation, and to their credit Missouri legislators have done a good job of fully debating and improving the PLA and prevailing wage bills as they move through the Legislature. What Wisconsin reaffirms, though, is that the cutting edge of reform can often be a crowded space, and as Missouri works to improve its climate for workers, employers, and taxpayers, other states are not standing still.
Patrick Ishmael

About the Author

Patrick Ishmael

Patrick Ishmael is the director of government accountability at the Show-Me Institute.