Opinion

Preserve Prevailing Wage Law: One Veteran's Story

I love my country. I’ve fought for my country. My brothers and sisters have died for this country. I want
to continue to serve my country.

I am currently a heavy equipment operator, happily and dutifully building new infrastructure for
Wisconsin communities.

My concern is, and has been, what state legislators are proposing in a full repeal of the state’s longstanding
prevailing wage law. This is the law that protects Wisconsin workers from low-wage paying, out
of state contractors who will be free to pay their workers substandard wages in the interest of
undercutting Wisconsin contractors and effectively stealing jobs here. And guess what? It’s working.

Last legislative session our elected leaders in Madison partially repealed prevailing wage for municipal funded
projects, which went into effect this January. Since then, a state review of projects to-date found
there has been a more than 53 percent increase in out-of-state contractors securing Wisconsin work. Those
are Wisconsin jobs being lost, Wisconsin tax dollars leaving the state and hard-working Wisconsin
families being hurt. You don’t have to be a political wonk to understand how and who this hurts –
Wisconsin workers.

Why as a proud veteran am I involved? Many of us veterans are drawn especially to two lines of work
after our service – law enforcement and construction. I’ve chosen construction because I want to
continue to serve my country in a meaningful way but lacked the necessary skills to make the transition.
Thanks to many of the construction trades in Wisconsin they have specifically designed apprenticeship
programs for veterans to provide them the necessary training and skills to transition into the
construction industry. This is important because not only do I ultimately secure a family-supporting job –
I have a wife and two little ones – but Wisconsin benefits by having a highly skilled workforce that builds
high quality projects. No need to go back and fix stuff built by low-paid, low-skilled workers trucked in
from out of state.

What many Republicans in Madison are proposing makes no sense at best and is frankly an insult to
workers and their employers who will obviously lose Wisconsin projects. The Infantry trained me to
react to contact in many different ways. The type of contact Madison is proposing with getting rid of the
prevailing wage law is a negative attack on the working class. They need to rethink this strategy and
leave the builders of this state alone. Maybe some self-reflection is in order; didn’t these very legislators
proposing to cut my pay just vote an increase in their own per-diem and pay?

I have tried to avoid politics for most of my life, but this particular issue has truly struck a chord with me
and I’m not alone. Many veterans simply want to settle down with their families, work hard and enjoy
their communities because, you could say, it is our turn. In a lot of sad cases that transition (when
unsuccessful) leads to a disturbing number of veterans taking their own lives. But the false prophets
leading Wisconsin profess to care about veterans, create jobs and build a stronger economy then pass
laws that do precisely the opposite.

We know what it’s like to fight for what we believe in. Angering thousands of Wisconsin veterans and
robbing them of millions of dollars in lost wages (Midwest Economic Policy Institute study) is a problem
and you can rest assured that we will not sit idly by and watch this happen. Maybe the time has come
when veterans get more involved in politics and take away jobs from those sitting in power. Maybe it is
time for this Airborne Ranger to put his Ranger tab back on the outside of a suit, holster a brief case and
take a fighting position as a elected official.


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