By MALLORY GRUBEN
Oregon lawmakers are considering a bill, Senate Bill 594, that would add demolition and hazardous waste removal to the state’s requirement that prevailing wage be paid to construction workers on public works projects.
Right now, demolition and hazardous waste removal are not listed under the types of work that require public agencies to pay area standard prevailing wage. That omission means cities, school districts, and other public agencies can divide up a project in an attempt to pay less for demo or hazardous waste removal — and undermine fair market wages for workers, union representatives testified.
“Lowball bidders can come in and undercut these area standards because these protections don’t exist on these projects,” testified Chris Hewitt, political director for the Oregon and Southern Idaho District Council of Laborers. “This work can be dangerous and exceedingly strenuous, and we want to make sure workers are protected and paid fairly.”
District council business manager Jeff Gritz said the bill levels the playing field for local contractors who provide demolition and hazardous waste removal. The measure is also backed by the Oregon AFL-CIO and Ironworkers Local 29.
So far, SB 594 has drawn little opposition. However, the City of Medford did submit testimony against it, writing that the bill would make contracting for some government projects more expensive.
The Oregon Senate approved the bill in a 17-12 vote on March 1 on strict party lines. All 17 Democrats voted to expand the prevailing wage. All 11 Republicans voted against it as did independent former Republican Brian Boquist. The bill is now in the Oregon House Business and Labor Committee.
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