Prevailing Wage Attacks Across the Country

Legislators in other states have been working to repeal prevailing wage laws and handicap local efforts to implement construction labor standards. Although here in California we have elected legislators who understand the importance of these tools, workers in other states are experiencing attacks on their ability to earn a living wage. In solidarity with those workers, we’ve included resources at the end of this article if you would like to get involved.


Arkansas and Kentucky are the most recent states to repeal their prevailing wage laws. There are now 22 states without any prevailing wage statute for publicly-funded construction. Kentucky also passed “right-to-work” and “paycheck protection” ordinances, which severely limit the ability to pay and collect Union dues.

The Missouri legislature is considering repealing the state prevailing wage, with the support of Governor Eric Greitens. The building trades and contractors associations in the state are mobilizing, but this is a tough fight.

Last year, Wisconsin repealed its prevailing wage law for school construction. Governor Scott Walker and state senators are now advancing a bill to repeal all prevailing wage laws in the state.

Several bills have been introduced to limit prevailing wages in Ohio. The most recent proposal would make it optional for cities and counties to require payment of the prevailing wage.

Legislators in Florida have introduced a bill prohibiting local governments from establishing a living wage, prevailing wage, or other wage standard on public works projects.

Both houses of the Virginia state legislature passed a law prohibiting state agencies from requiring prevailing wages, but ran into a veto by Governor Terry McAuliffe. An attempt to override the veto fell just one vote short.


President Trump’s administration has not weighed in on the Davis-Bacon Act, passed in 1931, which establishes a prevailing wage for federally-funded construction. On April 5, 2017, Trump told the New York Times that his administration would “make an announcement in two weeks” on Davis-Bacon. As of this writing, there has been no announcement.

Two Davis-Bacon repeal bills have been introduced in the House of Representatives, and others may attempt to “revise” the law to undermine wage standards in less obvious ways. This is a bi-partisan issue for many legislators, who understand that a federal prevailing wage supports local economies and the middle-class. Make your voice heard to your federal representative on this issue.


Several states have also moved to prohibit government from entering into or requiring Project Labor Agreements (“PLAs”) on public construction. Just recently, PLAs were banned in Iowa and Wisconsin, and Texas lawmakers are advancing similar legislation. 

There are now 23 states that have banned state and local governments from requiring PLAs on public projects. 


We are fortunate that significant anti-worker legislation is not taking root in California. However, if anti-prevailing wage laws continue to gain ground, our standards in California may become vulnerable. We must continue to raise our voices in support of working men and women, support our allies in government, and advocate for higher standards in the construction industry.

By Jolene Kramer | May 9, 2017

For more information on efforts to preserve prevailing wages, visit the following:

Smart Cities Prevail:
Protect Missouri Families:
ACT Ohio:
BUILDing Strong Communities:
Michigan Prevails:
The Illinois Update:  

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