Union contractors gather at Statehouse, urge lawmakers to keep common wage

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INDIANAPOLIS (March 2, 2015) - Indiana union contractors applauded Jeff Russell at a Statehouse ceremony Monday.

Russell is the 10,000th student to graduate from Ivy Tech’s apprentice program for union construction workers since the program’s creation in 1993.

“This opportunity means a lot of myself and my family,” Russell told the crowd.

Skilled workers, like Russell, are what Indiana union contractors fear they will lose if the state’s common construction wage is repealed. They gathered at the Statehouse Monday to voice that concern, appealing to lawmakers to keep the state’s 80-year-old law.

“Oh we absolutely will,” Greg Gossett said, president and COO of Ermco, a Central Indiana electrical and systems contractor. “I think this is going to open the opportunity for large merit shop companies from out-of-state to come in that we haven’t competed against before.”

Supporters of the common wage point to studies showing in Indiana more than 90% of all construction work is done by in-state contractors, adding that in a case study in San Jose, it showed a potential loss of more than $9 million, over a five-year span, to local contractors if a common wage was repealed.

“We don’t believe this is an anti-labor bill,” Michelle Boyd said, executive director of the Indiana Building Contractors Alliance. “We believe this is an anti-business bill targeting the construction industry.”

The measure passed the House last week.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long said the bill will receive a hearing in the Senate in the coming weeks.

“Why should we artificially inflate the cost because it is a public project?” Long said, who supports repealing the common wage. “And that’s a fair question. It’s a taxpayer question. It’s an efficiency question to me.”

Gov. Mike Pence quickly put his support behind the measure, previously saying he will sign the repeal into law if it passes the General Assembly.

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