News Story

State's Purchasing Manual Includes Unlawful Union Preference

So-called prevailing wage requirement still applies in manual; spokesman says it’s a mistake

Ever since the Legislature voted to repeal Michigan’s prevailing wage law last year, contracts for state projects are no longer required to include provisions mandating the payment of union-level wages to construction workers.

But you wouldn’t know it by reading the official Michigan Procurement Policy Manual, which even after a February 2019 revision continues to mention the 53-year-old statute and says it may apply to construction projects. That’s a mistake that will be corrected, according to a representative for the state Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB).

That reference is “no longer accurate and we will correct the oversight,” DTMB spokesman Caleb Buhs said in an email Thursday.

A contractor who relies on the online manual can find accurate information about the law. Clicking on a link for more information on prevailing wage requirements leads to an overview page for a division of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. From there, the reader can find a page that states the prevailing wage law was repealed in June 2018, and the agency will no longer issue prevailing wage rates for use by contractors.

Buhs noted that a prevailing wage requirement still applies to the purchase of printing services, as is cited in the procurement manual.

The Michigan Legislature adopted the repeal after a petition campaign by a group of contractors — most of which were nonunion — collected enough signatures to put the repeal question before voters should legislators not act on it.

The Legislature did act, however, and Republican majorities in the state House and Senate adopted the repeal, over fierce opposition from Democrats and organized labor. Opponents claimed the measure would do little to drive down costs or save taxpayer money and was motivated by political animus toward unions. Supporters, including the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, estimated the long-term savings will be substantial.