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HB 1099 will ensure workers get prevailing wages they’ve earned

OLYMPIA (Jan. 13, 2023) — This year the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council and the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO are strongly supporting HB 1099. Sponsored by House Labor & Workplace Standards Committee Chair Rep. Liz Berry (D-Seattle), this bill would ensure that workers on public works projects receive the prevailing wage in effect when the work is performed instead of having their pay frozen and eroded by inflation for the duration of the project.

“Prevailing wages on public works projects have been critical for ensuring economic and social justice for Washington workers since 1945,” Berry said at Wednesday’s committee hearing on HB 1099. “This (bill) will guarantee that all Washington workers are earning wages and benefits that are fair for the services provided. I’m grateful for the opportunity to bring this bill forward.”

Prevailing wage standards are minimum wage rates for skilled construction work on publicly funded projects, such as bridges, roads, water projects, tunnels, pipelines, municipal buildings, courthouses, schools and libraries. Research shows that prevailing wage standards are effective not only in protecting workers and promoting a level playing field for local businesses, but also in supporting the training programs needed to prepare local workers for careers in the skilled crafts. These standards also close racial income gaps in the trades.

The state Department of Labor & Industries adopts the prevailing wage rates established under collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) to include hourly wages and benefits for specific trades. However, as currently implemented in Washington, prevailing wage rates are locked in for the duration of a project at the date that bids are due. Many large-scale public works projects extend for several years past the due date for bidding, which means workers don’t get the current pay rates and potentially have their compensation eroded by years of inflation.

“This creates a built-in administrative practice of construction workers on public projects forgoing earned wage increases,” said Mark Riker, Executive Secretary of the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council at Wednesday’s hearing. “HB 1099 (ensures) that the worker does not forgo those wage increases. Workers benefit. Families benefit. Communities benefit. And as owners, we taxpayers benefit by treating our workers appropriately in accordance with what they are actually due at the time they perform the work.”

HB 1099 would:

●  Make necessary adjustments to the prevailing wage rates in a timely manner.
●  Ensure all contractors are at a level playing field on public works construction.
●  Eliminate the ability of any employer to take advantage of outdated wage rates to gain an unfair competitive advantage.

Washington’s voter-approved minimum wage law provides for an annual inflationary increase, but prevailing wages have no such protection against inflation. HB 1099 provides for parity with Washington’s minimum wage statute by ensuring prevailing wage adjustments throughout the duration of the contract.

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