Since taking office in January, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) has remained true to his “personal philosophy” of contempt for worker’s rights. In the first few months of his first term, Kasich single-handedly dismantled the collective bargaining rights for teachers, police, and firefighters even after public employees agreed to some of the nation’s largest pay cuts.
The prevailing wage is an hourly wage paid to the majority of workers in a particular industry. Ohio’s prevailing wage laws apply to all construction projects that cost more than $79,000. In his budget proposal, Kasich raises that threshold from $79,000 to $5 million, meaning a much greater number of Ohio construction workers could be paid less than the prevailing wage. Why? According to Kasich, fair pay “drives up the cost.”
Kasich’s unabashed assault on worker’s rights via Senate Bill 5 has earned him plummeting poll numbers and even a recall effort. But with this blatant attempt to weaken the prevailing wage laws, Kasich is losing his own party. State senators led by state Sen. Chris Widener (R) are breaking from Kasich to require “more public projects to pay union-negotiated rates.” Citing “philosophical differences” between the state Senate and Kasich, Widener is pushing a $1 million threshold because the prevailing wage guarantees “better work”:
Widener said he expects the Senate to lower it further, noting the national average is closer to $1 million. He said contractors who are paid prevailing wages are better trained and do better work.
“Prevailing wage is definitely a factor in terms of quality of projects in public works,” he said.
At $1 million, the limit would still be a more than 10 times the current threshold.
The state House has already lowered the threshold to projects costing more than $3.5 million. In recognizing the value of the prevailing wage and its correlation to better work, the GOP-led state Senate is certainly taking a “dramatic departure” from Kasich. However, the departure is also curious given the fact that these same Republicans are seeking to gut Ohio’s minimum wage law by reducing the number of workers that are eligible. However inconsistent these Republican lawmakers may be about worker’s rights, it’s safe to say they are still one step ahead of Kasich. Unfortunately, that is not a hard standard to surpass.