Republicans bend truth in petition drive to repeal Michigan’s popular prevailing wage law

Linette, upon arriving home after a trip to Heritage Fest with the kids this past weekend, mentioned to me that a man had approached her, asking her to sign a petition. The petition, he told her, would put legislation on the ballot that would somehow help rebuild Michigan’s roads. As she didn’t have time to read it, she didn’t sign, but she mentioned it to me, knowing that I’d be interested, and I began asking around. And here’s what I discovered. The petition in question had nothing to do with our roads, and everything to do with repealing Michigan’s prevailing wage law, which dictates that individuals hired to work on government-funded construction projects within the state be paid union-scale wages and given similar benefits.

Bob Krzewinski, who apparently exchanged words with the men gathering signatures outside Heritage Fest, shared the following.

I found out the “Ypsilanti” petitioners were from California… When nobody was around, they were heard to call people living in our state, “a bunch of dumb-asses”… They really became agitated when I began telling potential petition-signers that the solicitors were being paid, were from out of state, and were outright lying to people about their petition.

If you looked at the petition, you’d see, at the bottom, it said “Protecting Michigan Taxpayers,” which is a front group funded by Amway’s DeVos family and construction agency trade groups.


Protecting Michigan Taxpayers, as of a month or so ago, had raised $1 million in order to wage their fight to repeal of Michigan’s prevailing wage law, with $372,200 of that coming from the DeVos family’s benign-sounding Michigan Freedom Fund, and another $348,000 coming from the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan, a Lansing-based trade group that primarily represents nonunion contractors. The following comes from Crain’s Detroit Business.

…Protecting Michigan Taxpayers has until late November to collect close to 253,000 signatures to force the Legislature to vote on repealing Michigan’s 50-year-old prevailing wage law or put the issue before voters in November 2016.

If it passes the Legislature or by popular vote, Gov. Rick Snyder could not veto the legislation.

Michigan’s prevailing wage law requires contractors to pay union-scale wages and benefits on state-funded building projects. Supporters of the law say prevailing wages keep out-of-state contractors from undercutting Michigan companies with deliberately low bids and protects skilled-trades training programs…

It’s been reported that $338,000 of the $1 million raised to “protect” us Michigan taxpayers against living wages, has gone to an entity called Silver Bullet LLC, a Las Vegas-based political campaign firm contracted to help with the collection of signatures.

Silver Bullet LLC, for what it’s worth, claims their people have been trained to follow “a code of professional ethics” that would not allow them to misrepresent the causes for which they are collecting signatures, in spite of the fact that they’re likely compensated based on the number of signatures they submit each day. Here, with details, is a clip from their website.


[Please join me in printing this out and carrying it with you, in case you encounter an employee of Silver Bullet LLC.]

According to polling, Michiganders support the prevailing wage law. And even our Republican Governor has said that, if a bill crossed his desk to repeal it, he’d veto it. And the Republican legislature has conceded that they don’t have the two-thirds majority they’d need to override such a veto. Which is why this petition campaign is so diabolically brilliant. According to our state law, if legislation is “initiated or adopted by the people,” it cannot be overridden by veto. And that’s why, according to the Detroit Free Press, “some of the same players behind the successful campaign to make Michigan a right-to-work state in 2012 are pumping big money into an anti-prevailing-wage petition drive.” And all it takes is the support of just 3% of Michigan’s voting-age population to make it happen, which is why they’re fighting so hard to get these 252,000 signatures… If they can get that many, the Republican majority in the legislature can repeal the measure, and not even Snyder can stop it from happening.

So, not only are they lying about what this petition is for, but they’re also being disingenuous when they say that your signature will just help get the measure on the ballot so that the people of Michigan can vote on it. That isn’t the intention at all. As Ypsi City Council’s Pete Murdock explained it to me, “The Senate has already passed it and the House has the votes to pass it.” The thing is, they need for it to be veto-proof, and that’s what your signature, assuming you sign, is giving them. Once they have their 252,000 signatures, according to Murdock, “They can either adopt it as is, or place it on the ballot, and they fully intend to pass it as is.” So it will never be on a ballot. It will just become law. And more of Michigan’s workers will slide further into the economic abyss.

So, when you see these out-of-state operatives of the “electoral-industrial complex” standing outside of Kroger’s and Meijer’s, where I’m told they’ve set up shop in our area, be sure to call them out on what they’re doing, and interrupt any conversations they may be having with others. This isn’t about fixing our roads. And it certainly isn’t about getting this measure in front of Michigan voters. This is about making unpopular legislation veto-proof, and further diminishing the power of workers in the state of Michigan.

[If you’re interested, you can read the actual petition language here.]

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  1. Posted August 25, 2015 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    Folks at the Michigan Freedom Fund suggest on their website that our living-wage-earning construction workers are taking money that could be going to our schools. They don’t mention, however, that they also lobby against increased school spending, and their President, Greg McNeilly, is one of Michigan’s biggest proponents of privatizing K-12 education via voucher programs.

    From their page:

    Michigan’s prevailing wage laws cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars each year, forcing our schools and communities to pay dramatically higher rates for construction projects, even when lower costs are possible.

    The members of the Michigan House and Senate took a tremendous step by introducing bills to repeal these costly, antiquated regulations, protect taxpayers, and empower educators with the opportunity to reinvest hundreds of millions per year where they’re needed—educating our children.

    Sign our petition today to encourage the Michigan Legislature to pass – and Governor Snyder to sign – a repeal of Michigan’s prevailing wage laws. Together, we can fight for a stronger future for Michigan.

  2. Posted August 25, 2015 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    And if you should see one of these people outside your local Kroger’s, try to get video footage, OK? I’d love to hear how they explain the petition.

  3. Demetrius
    Posted August 26, 2015 at 3:30 am | Permalink

    The people pushing this petition aren’t just “bending the truth” they are outright LYING to millions of “dumb-asses” here in Michigan who don’t realize this is all part of a sneaky, well-crafted effort to steal food and shelter from working individuals and families, while further enriching the already-wealthy 1%.

    The people circulating these petitions (however poor and/or needy themselves) represent just another sharp spear-point in the ongoing war between the super-rich and everyone else – and should therefore be identified, and mocked, as such.

    A classic example of “Disaster Capitalism,” those who are promoting this are trying to convince many regular folks that we all must somehow take “sides” in a scramble for limited, shrinking funding for infrastructure, schools, etc … when if in fact, there is plenty of money in our society for all of these. The problem is just that that currently, most of this wealth is being sucked up by agents of the super-rich to feed the”vampire squids” on Wall Street, in too-big-to-fail banks, and among military contractors, the pharmaceutical industry, etc.

    I know some concepts like “class consciousness” “solidarity” and “labor” may seem really old-fashioned these days … but I really think the time has come to to re-examine, and see a return of some of them mighty soon.

  4. Dan
    Posted August 26, 2015 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    I fell for this – how do I recant my signing.

  5. Jeff Irwin by Proxy
    Posted August 26, 2015 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Repealing prevaling wage will mean that many MI construction jobs will go to out-of-state workers. What will happen is that low bidders will bus in workers from lower wage states and those workers will take those wages back to their home states.

    As a state, we lose the economic value of those wages in our local economies. We also lose the tax revenue from that economic activity, impairing and perhaps overwhelming whatever is saved by driving down construction wages.

  6. Meta
    Posted August 26, 2015 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    From today’s MLive:

    “We are thrilled by the positive response we’ve had,” said Chris Fisher, president of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan and a member of Protect Michigan Taxpayers (PMT).

    “We are beating the time frame that has been put in place before us by state law. We have support from House Speaker Kevin Cotter and Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, and that forms a very powerful combination.”

    Michigan’s prevailing wage law requires contractors to provide workers with union-scale wages and benefits on state-funded construction projects, such as schools and government buildings.

    Critics say the law inflates costs on projects that utilize taxpayer dollars and puts Michigan at a competitive disadvantage compared to states that have scrapped their own versions. Supporters say it guarantees fair wages and promotes quality work that will provide a better bargain in the long run.

    Republican Gov. Rick Snyder opposes efforts to repeal the law — he’s said it could hurt his push to promote careers in the skilled trades — but a provision in the state constitution may allow the petition drive to cut him out of the process completely.

    By collecting at least 252,523 signatures in a 180-day window, PMT can send its repeal bill to the GOP-led Legislature, which could vote to enact it into law without a signature from Snyder.

    Organizers are asking paid and volunteer circulators to turn in petitions by the end of this week. They could wrap up work in two or three weeks, according to Fisher, who said the group will vet signatures before turning them in to the Secretary of State.

    Shorty Gleason, legislative director of the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council, opposes the prevailing wage repeal effort and has been urging residents to “decline to sign” petitions.

    He believes petition circulators misled residents about what they were signing, but he is preparing for the next phase of the fight, when lawmakers will have 40 days to take up the bill or let it go to the ballot.

    “We’re asking representatives and senators not to take a position on it,” Gleason said. “Just let the people decide, because most people sign a petition to vote on it, not to let the Legislature repeal a law.”

    Read more:

  7. RM
    Posted August 26, 2015 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Though, confusingly, there is a labor group planning a petition drive to raise Michigan’s corporate tax rate and dedicate the revenues to road repair:

    So once that takes off, it’ll be even harder to sniff out the prevailing wage repeal charade.

  8. Lynne
    Posted August 26, 2015 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    You know, it is funny but people will sign anything. One of the funnier episodes of Penn & Teller’s Bullshit had them gathering signatures to ban dihydrogen monoxide. Har har. Based on the number of people in my facebook feed who *still*, after all of these years, fall for that and then start calling for bans tells me that I probably could have made up a similar petition and gotten a lot of signatures at an event like Heritage Festival.

    Honestly, I think that these professional signature gatherers know all of the tricks though. I don’t know how to prevent them from manipulating people. I know that I have seen tons of petitions over the years where the people hired to gather the signatures were given instruction on how to trick people. The worst one was the petition going around to pass that bridge referendum. I was approached by someone who had about a dozen petitions. They were all for causes you would expect some nice liberal in Ann Arbor to support except that bridge one was buried in the middle. I imagine that a lot of people weren’t reading them at that point.

    I don’t know the solution to this problem other than to forbid people from hiring anyone to collect signatures. That wouldn’t stop the party faithful from using the same tactics but at least they would have to get out there and pound the pavement themselves.

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