On Tuesday, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback (R) signed a law aimed at prohibiting local governments from requiring contractors to pay prevailing wages on public works projects:
“HB 2069 prohibits cities, counties, and local government units from using ordinances, resolutions, or law to require private employers to provide leave, benefits and higher compensation.”
Prevailing wage and living wage policies require employers receiving public funds to pay workers wages in line with the cost of living or industry standards of the community. Kansas’ new law prohibiting these measures will go into affect on July 1, and it leaves state and federal prevailing wage requirements in place, although Kansas repealed its state prevailing wage law in 1987. Two counties, Sedgwick and Wyandotte, will have their local prevailing wage laws currently on the books overturned.
Working Kansas Alliance, a labor coalition, claims that Crossland Construction, a Columbus, Kansas-based contractor, has ties to the push to end local prevailing wage laws in the state. The group claims Crossland has received close to $200 million in government contracts in the last 10 years. According to Followthemoney.org, Crossland Construction has contributed heavily to Kansas Republican candidates and the state party over the past decade.
The law is also similar to prevailing wage repeal proposals that have been tied to the controversial business-front group the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Since 2011, 105 bills “aimed to repeal or weaken core wage standards at the local level” have been introduced in 31 state legislatures, and of those 67 were “directly sponsored or co-sponsored by ALEC-affiliated legislators.” A model of the ALEC repeal proposal is available on its website. Other states, including neighboring Missouri, have also seen attempts to overturn prevailing wage laws part of larger efforts to undermine labor rights.