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Workers, wages will lead state out of recession; cities can play big part

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A critical component of our economic recovery is wages. Our communities can start this long process through targeted investment in our workers. The minimum wage for construction work on federally funded projects is the prevailing wage.  It is based on surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor in each county. 

Our cities should adopt federal prevailing wage principles now because paying a minimum wage for construction workers promotes local hiring, protects local workers, ensures publicly funded construction projects are completed on budget, and keeps our tax dollars circulating locally, which is good for all of us.

To jump start the long recovery process requires targeted investment in our workers at the local level. While federal and state governments can provide broad relief to working families, local governments can also play their part. A cost-effective and efficient stimulus policy that local governments can implement right away is the prevailing wage for our construction workers.

City governments throughout the state have a clear opportunity to provide much-needed stimulus to the workers building our communities. Mayors and city councils must consider the prevailing wage as a policy that will uplift the middle class during this crisis.

Israel Torres

Israel Torres

A strong economy starts with a strong middle class, and the prevailing wage would produce immediate benefits for working families and communities. For generations, construction work has been a path to the middle class. Yet, construction wages have not kept up with increases in the cost of living and in housing costs, which has become more apparent during the current crisis.

Prevailing wage laws are proven to improve economic conditions for workers. When individuals are paid livable wages that reflect their training, skills and experience, then they can provide for their families and contribute to their local economy. Workers in areas with prevailing wage laws buy homes, raise their families and establish strong, stable neighborhoods.

Cities only have to look to their own budgets to realize that the return on investment of a prevailing wage will benefit them in the long-run. When workers are paid a livable wage, it is proven that they will spend more and increase cities’ sales tax revenues – not to mention property and income tax revenues. At a time when cities are facing critical budget shortages, local officials should look to invest directly in workers to mitigate the worst effects of this recession.

This is NOT giving money away. This is paying workers for an honest and hard day’s work so they can spend more locally.

The prevailing wage has been implemented in cities throughout the U.S. Evidence shows that prevailing wage laws do not increase the cost of construction. Now, when investment in workers is more important than ever, city leaders should not be deterred by alarmists who put forth false arguments against prevailing wage with no data to back them up.

It’s imperative for local governments to stimulate the economy and provide fair wages to local workers. Arizona cities should adopt the prevailing wage quickly, and provide desperately needed relief to working families and small businesses.

We do this together. During this crisis, Gov. Doug Ducey listed building and construction tradesmen and tradeswomen as essential during the COVID-19 crisis. Those workers are standing tall in the face of a highly contagious and deadly virus to meet the immediate demand to build and retrofit new medical and emergency response facilities for us. It’s time we stand tall for them.

Israel G. Torres is the managing partner and attorney at Torres Consulting & Law Group. He has worked with the construction sector for more than 20 years in state and city government positions, and as a small-business owner.

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