Supporters of a Michigan law requiring that workers receive union-level wages on state-financed construction projects were buoyed Wednesday by news that signatures gathered by a group looking to repeal the law were being scrutinized by the Bureau of Elections.
“I want to give you a little good news,” Pat Devlin, secretary-treasurer of the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council, said during a rally outside the state Capitol building. “We might have a chance of beating this thing back and not having it certified at all.”
On Tuesday, the state elections bureau announced that more work is needed to verify the validity of the signatures submitted by Protecting Michigan Taxpayers, a group pushing to repeal Michigan’s prevailing wage law. After reviewing a sample of 535 signatures, the elections bureau found that 370 were valid.
That’s “fewer than the 373 required by the statistical model that the Board of State Canvassers has used for decades to recommend approval,” said Fred Woodhams, spokesman for the Michigan Bureau of Elections.
The elections bureau will now move to determine whether enough valid signatures were gathered by reviewing a larger sample of 4,000 signatures, he said.
If the elections bureau determines Protecting Michigan Taxpayers gathered the requisite 252,523 valid signatures, the proposal to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law will be sent to the Michigan Legislature, which would have 40 days to take up the legislation and approve it without the governor’s signature.
Gov. Rick Snyder has said he’s supportive of Michigan’s prevailing wage law.
While supporters of the prevailing wage law were quick to celebrate Tuesday’s news, those behind the campaign to eliminate the law characterized it as a minor setback.
“We’re not really shaken by this at all because we know we have the signatures,” said Jeff Wiggins, who serves as president of Protecting Michigan Taxpayers as well as state director of Associated Building Contractors of Michigan. “A much larger sample is going to show that.”
Supporters say eliminating Michigan’s prevailing wage law would save taxpayers money by eliminating overspending on state-sponsored construction projects. But construction and trade unions argue doing so would hurt efforts to hire and retain skilled workers, as well as cheapen the value of their work.
At Wednesday’s rally, which drew hundreds of union members and tradesworkers, opponents of repealing Michigan’s prevailing wage law were critical of Protecting Michigan Taxpayers’ signature gathering efforts. They also urged Republicans not to repeal the law if the proposal to do so is sent to the Legislature.
“Today we were supposed to have these signatures verified,” said state Rep. Brian Elder, D-Bay City. “But it’s more lies, more fraud.”
Elder’s comments were an apparent reference to the 2015 effort to repeal Michigan’s prevailing law, which was withdrawn due to a high number of invalid signatures.
But Wiggins said he’s confident that his group has enough valid signatures to move forward and send the proposal to the Legislature.
“We’re not really deterred by what happened yesterday,” he said. “We know how the Secretary of State process works and we understand why they’re doing what they’re doing.”
-This story has been corrected to reflect the correct first name of Rep. Brian Elder
-MLive reporter Lauren Gibbons contributed to this story
Photo Credit: Supporters of Michigan’s prevailing wage law gathered at the Michigan Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 10. (Lauren Gibbons | MLive.com)