In WI currently, there is a prevailing wage limit of $223,000.00 on government projects. That means that any project done to or by any business, person, or agency that receives government money must use union workers (or at least pay the same wage as union workers would receive) for any project costing $223,000.00 or more.
Our governor wanted to drop that limit to $2,000.00. The Joint Finance Committee bumped it back up to $25,000.00.
While a $2,000.00 limit would have prohibited volunteers from doing even small projects, a $25,000.00 limit will still discourage groups from doing many projects that would be to the benefit of their community. As an example, the Order of the Arrow (Scouting's national honor society) completed a massive project for our national parks system just last year. Under this limit, such an organization would not have been allowed to do that work in WI because the cost of the work done by those Arrowmen and women was significantly more than $25,000.00. I know that was a national project, done for the national parks system and not just WI, but I'm sure there are projects such an organization could do on a state level that would be equally beneficial to the people of this state that would cost more than the $25,000.00 limit and this change would prevent that.
When I asked him about the negative aspects of this change with regard to volunteerism, Mr. Leibham pointed out that only agencies which receive government money are affected by this. When I pointed out that the very college that was hosting his breakfast had just been the recipient of an Eagle Scout project, he conceded that such things would be nearly impossible under the $2,000.00 limit.
I would contend that the $25,000.00 limit is just as harmful. It limits volunteers from even envisioning helpful projects over that amount.
Why should the people of WI, or any state be bound by such a ridiculous provision? I'm sure the argument is that it would create jobs because more projects would require paid labor. The reality, if I'm understanding this correctly, would be that, either these projects will not get done or they will cost the taxpayers of this state, because we would be adding to the government payroll. While this may create jobs, it is creating government jobs. That means it is creating more debt and a larger deficit while simultaneously decreasing our quality of life and damaging the character of the people of Wisconsin.
Unions have a place in this country to assure safe working conditions. But when unions are preventing community members from volunteering to do projects that benefit the community, they have overstepped their bounds. I will grant that many projects require specialized knowledge, that safety and quality must be considered with such volunteer projects. But are we really so lacking as a people that we couldn't overcome such objections by having a union worker review the plans for such projects and leave it at that rather than force our communities to pay for union labor when we have perfectly capable volunteers willing to do the work? (Often the volunteers for such projects have the technical training or may be union members.)
I don't think we are and I would hope that the legislature would agree..
"There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God."~Ecc 2:24