Weighing Down Public Investment, Whether “Stimulus” or Otherwise
So, firefighters from three cities have joined the state carpenters’ union in picketing the construction site of a new firehouse in Johnston — perhaps erroneously:
Two hours after the lines went up, Mayor Joseph M. Polisena said that when the town awarded its contractor to the low bidder, Iron Construction, two months ago, it clearly stipulated that all the work had to be performed by union members or by other workers at the prevailing wage.
“The town will not break any state or federal laws. We will ask to get a certified copy of the company payrolls, and if we find that prevailing rates were not paid, we will not release any money,” the mayor said.
This part might not resonate with most readers, but it’s a telling statement:
“We believe their workers are being paid half the standard rate,” [union representative David] Palmisciano said. “They are undermining community standards.”
For some context about “community standards,” we should recall that union carpenters recently signed a new pact with the main contractors association, as follows:
The carpenters now get $30 per hour plus $20.45 per hour to cover health insurance and other benefits.
The new two-year deal, approved unanimously Thursday morning by about 400 members at the union hall in Warwick, calls for a $1.50-per-hour increase in the first year and an additional $1.75 the second.
That rate is easily double the “community standard” for private-sector carpenters, if those with whom I’ve discussed such matters are a representative sample. Heck, I’d wager that a good percentage of experienced carpenters in the state don’t make, total, what the union carpenters get for benefits.
I don’t raise this as a carpenter, because it isn’t my intention to delve into the response that I’d give to the obvious retort, “So join the union.” I raise it as a follower of public policy. What this dynamic means is that every dollar that the government spends on the labor component of carpentry contracts goes to half as many workers as it would in the private sector, or else it funds half as much work.
Progressives like to think that they’re thereby taking money from the rich to give it to the middle class, but it’s naive in the extreme to believe that the program works out that way when filtered throughout the economy. They’re harming workers, most of all. They’re also ensuring that the billions of dollars in government borrowing that’s been sold to the American people as a plan to assist the economy are heavily diluted by unnecessary excess for favored groups.