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New Wage Law Hits Rural Missouri Counties Hardest

AUGUST 29, 2019

Springfield, MO – Construction workers in many rural Missouri counties are working for less this Labor Day holiday.

Missouri’s new prevailing wage law has cut wages for construction workers in many counties, sometimes by more than half. The new formula that calculates the wage for public works projects was approved by Missouri lawmakers last year, and went into effect on July 1.

One of the counties hardest hit was Dallas County in southwest Missouri. The new prevailing wage for construction laborers on building projects is $15.40 an hour, as compared to $35.35 an hour in 2018. Heavy highway laborers this year will earn $15.40 an hour, down from $39.38. The higher wage often included benefits like health insurance and pensions. The new lower wage affects every construction trade working in Dallas County.

“This is not a union problem. It hits everyone who works construction, union and non-union, across all trades,” said Jason Mendenhall, President and Business Manager of Laborers Local 663. “These pay cuts are hitting many of our rural counties hardest, where construction wages are the best jobs available in these communities. These are the people and places who need these family wage jobs most.”

The new law calculates the wage based on public works projects with more than 1,000 hours worked, and a project cost of more than $75,000. The wages are broken down into two categories: Building, which includes projects like schools, and state and local government facilities; and Heavy Highway, which includes any local, county, state or federal road or bridge.

“The consequences are obvious. Lower wages often lead to lower quality work,” said Western Missouri and Kansas Laborers District Council Business Manager Tim Bell. “When these jobs are public works projects like schools, roads and bridges, we are putting our safety in the hands of the people willing to do it the cheapest.”

Opportunities shrink the farther away a community is from an urban area. Construction wages provide an economic boost to local businesses and build the tax base in rural communities. These lost wages will hurt families, the businesses they support and the schools where they send their kids.

Local 663 represents laborers in 34 counties in Western Missouri.