Weakening Wisconsin’s Prevailing Wage Law Will Negatively Impact Veterans

Veterans in Wisconsin’s construction industry are about to be negatively affected by Wisconsin’s 2015-17 Budget Bill.

REPORT: Prevailing Wage and Military Veterans in Wisconsin: Applied Policy Brief

A new study released by the Midwest Economic Policy Institute finds that prevailing wage greatly improves economic outcomes for veterans in Wisconsin. As many as 2,000 blue-collar veterans in Wisconsin are expected to separate from their construction jobs due to the prevailing wage changes in the state.

Signed into law by Governor Scott Walker, the 2015-17 Budget Bill made significant changes to the state’s prevailing wage standards by repealing the law for local governmental units and municipalities. The repeal of prevailing wage at the local level will become effective in January 2017.

Military veterans disproportionately join the construction industry at a higher rate than non-veterans. Nationwide, veterans account for 6.9 percent of blue-collar construction workers compared to 5.8 percent of the overall workforce. In Wisconsin, veterans account for 8.3 percent of all blue-collar construction workers compared to 5.5 percent of Wisconsin’s overall workforce. Any  given construction worker is 2.8 percentage points more likely to be a military veteran than an individual in the rest of Wisconsin’s economy.

The full effects of Wisconsin’s repeal are projected to:

  • Reduce the annual incomes of veteran blue-collar construction workers by 7 to 11 percent;
  • Lower employer-provided health coverage for veterans in construction by 11 to 15 percent;
  • Force nearly 200 veteran workers into poverty; and
  • Negatively impact veterans working in Wisconsin’s construction industry and veterans who own construction firms.

After Wisconsin’s 2015-17 Budget Bill is completely implemented, as many as 2,000 blue-collar veterans are expected to separate from their jobs in construction. The total wage and salary income of all veterans employed in construction jobs will decline by $113 million.

Gutting prevailing wage imposes significant costs onto veterans. By decreasing incomes, reducing employer-provided health coverage, increasing poverty, hindering apprenticeship training, and shrinking the market share of veteran-owned construction companies, weakening prevailing wage increases taxpayer costs on the backs of veterans who served their country.

On the other hand, reversing the January 2017 changes or strengthening prevailing wage in Wisconsin would benefit veterans who are populating the construction trades at higher rates than non-veterans, and who are increasingly utilizing apprenticeship programs to transition into civilian careers in this fast-growing field.

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