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Jul-10-2007 18:36printcomments

Op Ed:
Prevailing Wage
Facing Unfair Attack
As Costly Union Gambit

Some In Oregon Still Fail to Distinguish Realities, Seek Now To Seduce Public While Ignoring Corporate Plunder

Oregon capitol photo
Photo by: Kevin Hays

(BEND, Ore.) - Impact of prevailing wage regulation on construction of public-funded works --"schools, municipal buildings, roads and so on"-- is now creating "an elevated compensation floor for people in the building trades", states the Bend BULLETIN in an Editorial (Sun. 7/8).

That hands out "a golden shovel" to workers in those trades affected; closely paralleling those surely outrageous "golden parachutes" some favored school administrators got --by hefty checks handed them at the exit door-- during this past year, the Edit states.

Labor unions are "free with campaign contributions" to build and bolster that continuing situation, the BULLETIN Edit states: "It matters little that the prevailing wage actually costs taxpayers far, far more every year than the large checks occasionally given to outgoing school superintendents," this Edit declares; with "dead silence" from many basically-uninformed taxpayers, leading "most legislators...happy enough to leave well enough alone".

What the BULLETIN so states is clearly without any reflection of the simple common-sense driving both the original national legislation --the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931-- and that same common-sense approach worked out the hard way nationally ever since.

"Prevailing-wage" has been working policy for the past half-century right here in Oregon, starting in 1959, for these publicly and lawfully-stated purposes:
1. To assure quality workmanship on public projects.
2. To discourage exploitation of workers.
3. To encourage competition for contracts at the management level.

Let it be immediately noted that labor --via any regulatory mechanism ever in use at either the state or national level since 1931 --SEVENTY-SIX YEARS!!-- has NEVER controlled the establishment of those wage-levels involved.

The "prevailing payment" for labor-at-work, on similar real-life projects, has always been --and remains-- the basic determiner of those levels, with regulation by national or state agency following; via the "open market" --where labor and capital must merge as effective partners, if labor is to do its work-- as affected by all competing components in our society.

Opposition to true market-conditions even NOW should surely NOT raise fundamental blocking and sabotage as it did originally in the '30s and even before.

But what's at work here belies rationality and reasonableness, partaking of "political attack-and-destroy" technique long familiar over all those years since Real Depression-days.

We agree those departing "educational administrators" were outrageously over-compensated.

We heartily applaud the proper legislation just signed by Governor Kulongoski "barring school administrators from receiving compensation packages not included in their contracts", just as the BULLETIN Edit states.

BUT the Edit then declares "The prevailing wage enjoys the support of organized labor, which is free with campaign contributions"; while totally ignoring the well-demonstrated and deep-documented impact of corporate lavish-lobby dilution of legislative will and wisdom on many matters, for more than thirty years.

This Edit fails even to mention the current national-joke of Oregon's unique "$10 corporate minimum tax"-status; with many footprints leading right into legislative dependence on lavish-lobby dollar-power for more than seventy years.

NOTE ALSO the subtle, semi-hidden and very quiet, yet also very canny, campaign concluding with heavy shift of corporate-share in the overall tax burden from bottom-line impact to individual Oregonian payment. (See comprehensive OCPP documentation at www.ocpp.org)

Union dollar-power is surely a fact of Oregon politics, but it cannot --and never has, so far-- had the full, flowery and flourishing "campaign contribution" composition so widely corporate-displayed in our State.

Surely there's some fancy sleight of hand and fact going on here, whether resulting from poor factual-search or by direct intention.

To attack solidly-based, long-built national and state regulation of working wages --built on reality like prevailing wage-rates-- is brash and brazen, when no mention whatsoever is timely-published illuminating the absolute Oregon necessity-NOW for corporate tax reform.

It is surely time to act on that overwhelming and offending issue, after 70 piratical years surely costing far, far more than all new schools and roads now underway, with workers properly compensated for their essential laboring efforts.

"Golden parachutes" there may have been, but that in no way equates with "golden shovel"-status, for hardworking regular tradesmen and qualified specialists contributing what is surely demanded: Practical working knowledge, longtime experience, and specialized skills to "get the job done" --and done right-- for all levels of work paid for by the public dollar.

Most older workers had to learn on-the-job, in their earlier lifetime experience. Today we provide proper opportunity, bolstered by prevailing-wage policy and provisions. Effective training, safety and apprenticeship opportunities were all among carefully-planned goals for the Davis-Bacon Act of 193l; first Federal legislation then modeled by many states to extend its impacts as solution for local needs, too.

One might even wonder if the BULLETIN-writer had bothered to visit and actually explore even ONE of those very job-sites about which there is such Editorial dollar-concern. If so, the Edit/tone-and-sense might be considerably different. In "the media", that's known as "hitting the street" to "see with own eyes", the basis for the best in reporting.

OR even to check out the pages-proliferating with background information, specialized studies over the past 100 years, and the history of not only "Davis-Bacon", but also "McNamara-OHara" and a slew of both Congressional and State Legislative actions over decades --easily accessed via Internet with small effort. (Simple Google-search brought me over 50 pp., including Oregon legislative history, in less than 30 minutes.)

All such legislation is carefully designed --under intense scrutiny, as you can well understand -- to provide job security, working safety, solid and effective productivity and the best of product; AND those essential learning opportunities which are the only safe-and-secure way to learn these mundane but absolutely essential skills and techniques.

It is totally incomprehensible for anyone to attack either the concept or the realistic rationality of labor paid by Prevailing Wage regulations; developed ever since the Real Depression days, both nationally and at state level over all those years; and meant to guarantee local access to contracted service and construction jobs by all levels of government with proven quality levels, safety for workers, and cost-effectiveness, too.

To deny and defy these already-demonstrated needs is AGAIN to rely on outmoded and time-damaged 19th Century political philosophy, derailed and totally destructed by the impacts of the Real Depression.

But some still cling to such selfishly-seductive views even now in our 21st Century, for whatever real reasons; despite our long-demonstrated world-record American economy, surely resulting directly from New Deal and Fair Deal days; building the working-laws background for economic, social, educational and cultural advances still the envy of the rest of the world.

It is perhaps NOT so surprising, given the past few years at national level, to find similar action in Oregon; with "attack and diversion" by those same few "elite and favored ones" refusing to accept either history or realities therefrom.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it", we were warned by famed philosopher/historian George Santayana.

But what if they really do recall well --but still choose to ignore what the memory of historical event reveals in flaming colors ?

Then we also need to hear from a famous American statesman, who put it flat-and-final, in words understood well by many "in the media" today; and well worth attention by all of us, in and out of politics and journalism: "Those who corrupt the public mind are just as evil as those who steal from the public purse." ...Adlai Stevenson - 1952




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Henry Ruark July 12, 2007 4:28 pm (Pacific time)

For full,documented, detailed and comprehensive overview of why we now suffer from wealth as plutocratic rule in this once-democratic nation, "See also": "Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich"; Kevin Philips; Random House, 2002; ISBN 0-7679-0533-4. Seventy years of history re corporate income tax in Oregon falls neatly into place given the strong, authoritative grid of events and cycles herein.

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.

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