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Prevailing Wage is Good for Veterans and for Missouri
From St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
by Ryan Hector
After four years in the military — and tours in Iraq and Afghanistan — my life changed dramatically. While stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington, I was accepted into an 18-week program called “Vets in Piping” to learn a skilled trade. These new skills have enabled me to come back home and build a new career.
Today, in my fourth year as a plumber apprentice, I have worked on projects across our community. My paycheck enables me to provide a decent living for my wife and two kids, and for the first time in my civilian life as an adult, I have health insurance.
But now, some state politicians are pushing legislation, Senate Bill 20, that would put all of this at risk, by eliminating Missouri’s market-based minimum wage for skilled construction (known as prevailing wage).
Repealing Missouri’s prevailing wage law would disproportionately hurt veterans like me because we work in construction at far higher rates than nonveterans — and the difference is even more pronounced in states like Missouri that have these laws in place.
Lots of veterans are uniquely prepared for careers in skilled construction. Many have gained first-hand experience building everything from schools to bridges in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. military now provides over 20 percent of America’s registered apprenticeships. Given the construction industry’s expected growth in the coming years and the challenge that many newly returning veterans face in transitioning from overseas battlefields to civilian careers, it’s hard to overstate the value of developing these skills and helping a new generation of returning warriors access ladders to the middle class. I am living proof.
But eliminating prevailing wage would make these ladders harder to reach.
Recent research has found that a repeal of state prevailing wage laws would not only reduce veterans’ income by billions of dollars annually, it would cost tens of thousands of veterans their jobs and health insurance, cause thousands of veteran-owned construction businesses to close, and push thousands more into poverty.