On KWLM (AM 1340) radio's Open Mic for Friday, October 24th for Minnesota House District 17A Challenger, Republican Tim Miller said that the MN Department of Transportation's
prevailing wage structure is messed up. I know someone in road construction where they say when they're doing a private project, someone driving a packer gets paid $28 an hour and when they do a state project, they get paid $56 an hour. This is nonsense. We can save money in those areas.
We've made a Youtube of the statement and some of the factcheck:
It's nonsense all right--but not the way Miller believes it is. Prevailing wage data posted online by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (Region 8, which includes most of MN17A, here and Region 4, which includes 17A's Swift County here) reveals that even with benefits, people driving packers do not receive $56 per hour.
While some special craft workers receive over $50/hour when benefits are added in Region 8, all of the prevailing wage base rates for workers operating highway/heavy power equipment range between $ 21.60 (for a sheepfoot roller operator) to $25.15 for "Group 2," helicopter pilots, crane operators, hydraulic backhoe operator and a few other peices of heavy machine. Benefits bump their total compensation to between $38.80 and $43.75 for heavy equipment operators.
If Miller's $28 figure includes benefits, he's asking construction workers building our roads and bridges to take a steep compensation cut indeed. In some ways, he's asking working people to pay the cost of building roads and bridges, without funding the wages and benefits that put these hard-working people into the middle class.
While 12 months at that hourly rate (if he's only talking wages) would equal $58,240, highway construction isn't year-round work; if the construction season lasts seven months (April-November), that's $33,971.
As the video notes, we discovered that not even "49ers" operating heavy equipment are making what Miller claims. A pdf of the Associated General Contractors' Labor Agreement can be downloaded here (downloads and opens pdf).
And this instance isn't an isolated case of Miller talking out of his hat. He couldn't have been bothered to read the Women's Economic Security Act. He was outraged about funding for the Terrestrial Invasive Species Research Center, accusing incumbent state representative Andrew Falk of imposing new regulations on farmers, when in fact, the Center is researching new tools for farmers to use in fighting superweeds.
In the same radio debate, Miller deplored negative campaigning via independent expenditures by outside groups, even though he's shared some of these materials on social media and done negative campaigning of his own.
In short, this isn't a bug, it's a feature, as our tech nerd friends would say. Miller's using hearsay, rather than checking his facts before opening his mouth, and demonstrating his willingness to cut wages. We can only wonder what he'd do in hectic legislative sessions.
Photo: Highway construction, via MNDOT.
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