Supervisor Seeking Formal Support of State Prevailing Wage Reform

Rob Ciervo of the Newtown Township Supervisors said he’d like to see the township express formal support for three prevailing wage reform bills that were considered during the last House session.


A push by Republicans in the state House of Representatives to reform prevailing wage laws is garnering support from local politicians.

At a meeting Wednesday, Newtown Township Board of Supervisors member Rob Ciervo said he’d like to see the municipality express formal support for three prevailing wage reform bills that were considered during the last House session. 

Ciervo said he expects the issue will be revisited when the House reconvenes later this month.

The first of the bills, House bill 1329, would raise the threshold on projects covered by the prevailing wage rules from the current $25,000 to $185,000. The second, House bill 1271, clarifies the definition of maintenance work, limiting what is covered by prevailing wage.  The third, House bill 1191, would give municipalities a pass on paying prevailing wage for maintenance projects on existing roads.

The bills made it out of the House Labor and Industry Committee in October on a party line vote with Republican support, but were never up for a floor vote.

Ciervo said the bills, which have the support of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors and the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs, could help save the township money if passed. 

Board of Supervisors chair Mike Gallagher urged Ciervo to reach out to the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors to determine if a sample resolution has been drafted for municipalities to support.

, the Hellertown Borough Council in October passed a resolution in support of prevailing wage reform.

Supervisors vice chair Matt Benchener said he supports Ciervo in his hopes to do the same in Newtown Township.  “I think this is a worthy thing for us to pursue. I think we always need to be taking a stand for local autonomy as much as possible,” he said.

Democrats in the House Labor and Industry Committee voted against the three bills when they were considered Oct. 3.

The state AFL-CIO, a federation of labor unions, has been vocal in its opposition to the reforms. 

A letter on its website urges supporters to contact their legislators in opposition to the reforms, saying they will “severely cut the incomes of hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania workers and their families and also allow substantially more taxpayer-funded work to be given to out-of-state, low-wage workers.” 

But the reforms have the support of the Pennsylvania Chamber.

“Since its enactment 50 years ago, Pennsylvania’s Prevailing Wage Act has burdened local governments and taxpayers,” said the Chamber on its website.  “The PA Chamber opposes mandated wage laws because they force employers to pay workers in excess of what they might voluntarily accept; impose extensive paperwork and significant costs on employers; and generally hinder job creation and economic growth.”

Joanne January 13, 2012 at 10:27 PM
How can it be a great idea to have working people in this state earn less than what is necessary or economic self-sufficiency?!?! This is part of the probem with our economy today. If working people do not make a living wage how can they support economic growth. This is cutting off your nose to spite your face. Typical short term myopic thinking.
Rob Ciervo January 14, 2012 at 04:34 AM
I disagree Joanne. These same working people make very good wages working for the same companies on private jobs. The prevailing wage laws are artificial Super minimum wage rates for doznes and dozens of construction positions that add layers of bureacracy and cost onto the product. Then those costs are passed on to local governments which they cannot do as much work for the public as they would like or have to pay more and raise property taxes on working people to afford the costlier product. In the end the working people get hurt and the special interests are rewarded. The state does not set minimum wage rates for any other area of contract work like for lawyers, web designers, engineers, auditors, actuaries, etc., etc., and instead the local governments bid out and decide who they would like to hire without the state dictating the wage and benefit rate of every single position in each and every one of those positions. The Prevailing Wage Act in PA was passed in 1961 for one reason and one reason only and that was to prevent southern African-Americans from working in Pennsylvania on public projects. Check the history before commenting.
Hmmmm January 14, 2012 at 01:09 PM
Mr Ciervo, Would you project for us the typical annual cost saving you'd expect to realize for the Township?
Rob Ciervo January 15, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Our road resurfacing contract is usually around $500,000 each year. Given that prevailing wage adds about 20-30% onto the cost of public projects this would save us at least $100,000 a year OR allow us to do more roadwork for the same cost.
Hmmmm January 15, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Thank you, Mr Ciervo. Respectfully, I think your point here is better positioned by further quantifying the dollars involved. Show voters more of "the money" it will save them and it'll be easier to understand.


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