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February 2015: Legislative Update

FAST TRACK TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP (TPP)

New trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are being negotiated in the same failed NAFTA model. The negotiations are focused on padding corporate profits not increasing worker’s paychecks. Before any trade deal comes to a vote, the administration will ask Congress to pass “Fast Track” legislation.

What is “Fast Track”?

  • A policy that gives the Executive Branch the opportunity to negotiate—out of public view—as many trade agreements as it can during a given time period
  • Send the agreements to Congress, which may then only vote yes or no on the agreement: it may not amend the agreement nor may it send the agreement back to the Executive Branch with instructions for improvement.
  • “Fast Track” is dangerous because it forces Congress to make a take-it-or-leave-it decision on a 29 chapter, 1,000 page agreement no matter how bad it is for wages, jobs, small business and the environment.
  • Instead of exercising its constitutional authority to review and amend a trade deal, Congress is unable to improve any section that hurts working people.
  • Please note, a fast track bill was introduced last year but it never came to a vote thanks, in part, to strong opposition from the AFL-CIO. That’s because nearly two-thirds of American voters oppose granting the President fast track authority. They believe it gives too much power to one person.

Why is “Fast Track” bad for working families?

No trade deal, no matter how bad, has ever been defeated under “Fast Track” procedures. The minute the negotiators have the “Fast Track” ticket in their hands, they know they are free to agree to provisions that will:

  • send our jobs overseas,
  • reduce the bargaining power of our workers,
  • jeopardize our important environmental health and safety regulations,
  • give global corporations even more influence over our economy

We need to talk to our federal elected officials about why “Fast Track” harms our working families and why they should oppose considering it.

STATE LEGISLATION

Protect Prevailing Wage:

Michigan Senate Bills; SB-0001, SB-0002, and SB-0003, introduced January 20th and House Bills: HB-4001, 4002 and 4003, introduced January 15th, intend to repeal the Prevailing Wage Law. The bills state: SB-001 and HB-4001 “Labor; hours and wages; prevailing wage; eliminate, repeals 1965 PA 166”, SB-0002 and HB-4002, “eliminate in economic development corporations act” and SB- 003 and HB-4003, “eliminate in school code”.

Michigan’s prevailing wage law, enacted in 1965, stipulates that construction projects funded with taxpayer dollars pay workers at a rate commensurate with wages set in local collective bargaining agreements. Thirty-two states have prevailing wage laws covering our public projects. Besides Michigan, five states, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico and Pennsylvania, base their pay scales on union wage rates.

There is a misconception that the prevailing wage law costs Michigan taxpayers $224 million annually in construction projects for public school districts, community colleges and state universities, comprehensive studies challenge this conclusion. The best demonstration that estimates showing construction costs savings are FALSE is the fact that Michigan repealed the Prevailing Wage for over two years in the 1990’s. There were no statistically significant differences in construction costs during that period.

A University of Utah study that compared public school construction costs in Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio spanning over a decade, in which Ohio repealed prevailing wage legislation (around the same time that Kentucky legislators adopted it) and found no significant change in construction costs that could be attributed to prevailing wage.

Eleven years after the Kansas repeal, University of Utah economist Peter Philips released an academic study proving that Kansas taxpayers did not see the savings they were promised by those who pushed to repeal the Prevailing Wage. Among Philips’ findings:

  • Wages and benefits dropped for working families after Kansas’ Prevailing Wage law was repealed whether or not they belonged to a labor union.
  • Workplace safety worsened following the Prevailing Wage repeal, as worker injuries increased 19 percent. Lost time means project delays and additional cost to taxpayers by way of more workers’ compensation claims.
  • Kansas’ Prevailing Wage repeal drastically cut the size of the skilled workforce, particularly among minorities; apprenticeship training fell by 38 percent, and minority apprenticeship training plummeted by 54 percent.

Hiring unskilled and unqualified labor might on the surface appear to cost less, but as it was demonstrated in Kansas, doing it “cheap” ends up costing taxpayers more than doing it right. Michigan should take notice of what happened in Kansas, and protect its Prevailing Wage law.

PAID SICK DAYS

Senate Bill 0101

Sponsored by: Jim Ananich, Virgil K. Smith, Curtis Hertel Jr., Steven M. Bieda, Rebekah Warren, Bert Johnson, Coleman Young II, Hoon-Yung Hopgood

House Bill 4167

Sponsored by: Stephanie Chang, Gretchen Driskell, Erika Geiss, Julie Plawecki, Robert Wittenberg, Jeremy Moss, Jon Hoadley, Jeff Irwin, Pam Faris, Kristy Pagan, Winnie Brinks, Sarah Roberts, George Darany, Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, Mike Callton, Vanessa Guerra, Leslie Love, Scott Dianda, LaTanya Garrett, Christine Greig, Wendell Byrd

The Center for Economic and Policy Research, more than 40 million Americans work in jobs where they have no access to paid sick days.

In addition to the potential loss of wages and jobs for working families, the lack of paid sick days forces many people to go to work when they are contagious and get co-workers and customers sick and decreases productivity for workers who show up unable to perform to their normal level of ability.

More and more cities and states are recognizing the realities of the damage having a workforce without paid sick leave does to workers and to the economy. When economic and financial realities necessitate that sick and contagious people go to work, everyone loses: The customer, the employee, and the employer. Workers feeling under-the-weather are estimated to cost employer’s nearly $160 billion per year. No one should have to go to work sick: We need to enact Paid Sick Day Legislation!

Deregulating Occupational Licensure

“There remain certain occupations that were not deregulated in 2014 and Michigan remains at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring states. Further efforts to deregulate licensed professions is necessary.” – 2015 House Republican Action Plan

House Bill 4040

The bill would amend the Electrical Administrative Act to add exemptions from the requirement to have an electrical contractor’s license for certain electrical work. The Act makes exemptions for certain agencies and utilities with regard to installing, altering, or repairing electrical equipment, or wiring, in certain circumstances.

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