Definition of Terms

What is Right to Work (RTW)?

Right to Work prohibits employers and unions from entering into agreements that require employees to be union members as a condition of employment. This allows employees to receive the benefits of the union contract without having to pay their share of dues and fees to the union. Essentially, RTW states allow workers to join a union if they wish, but employers cannot force or compel employees to join a union as a term or condition of employment. Contrary to what proponents of Right to Work legislation have said in the past, non-Right to Work states do not force employees to unionize. This is strictly prohibited by federal law.

Right to Work provisions (either by law or by constitutional provision) exist in 26 U.S. states. Business interests represented by the United States Chamber of Commerce have lobbied extensively to pass RTW legislation, which are allowed under the 1947 federal Taft–Hartley Act.

Under labor laws in the United States, the union as the exclusive collective bargaining agent has the responsibility of fair representation for all persons in the bargaining unit including those who choose not to be members and pay dues. The phrase “Right to Work” is a misnomer because the lack of such a law does not deprive anyone of the right to work; a RTW law simply affords employees the right to be “free riders”—to benefit from collective bargaining without paying for it.

Over time, Right to Work laws destroy unions. That’s their intent. Read more here: What’s Wrong with the “Right to Work”?

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What is Prevailing Wage (Davis-Bacon Act)?

A prevailing wage requirement evens the playing field for all contractors that bid on a project, which was the case in Kansas in 1891 with the first prevailing wage law designed to protect local contractors paying prevailing, established wage rates against out-of-state contractors importing low-skilled, low-paid workers. The Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 is a United States federal law that establishes the requirement for paying the local prevailing wages on public works projects. It came about when southern contractors brought a low-skilled, low-paid workforce to work on federal projects in New York.Prevailing Wage is defined as the hourly wage, usual benefits and overtime, paid in the largest city in each county, to the majority of workers.

The Davis-Bacon Act applies to contractors and subcontractors performing on federally funded or assisted contracts in excess of $2,000 for all work, construction, alteration, repair or improvement that is executed at the cost of the state or any other local public agency. This includes, but is not limited to, demolition, remodeling, renovation, road construction, building construction, ferry construction and utilities construction. The Act covers four main areas of construction: residential, heavy, buildings, and highway. Within these areas are further classifications, including craft positions such as plumber, carpenter, cement mason/concrete finisher, electrician, insulator, laborer, lather, painter, power equipment operator, roofer, sheet metal worker, truck driver and welder.

The agency responsible for collecting and disseminating the prevailing wage data is the Wage and Hour Division of the United States Department of Labor. The procedure includes (1) planning and scheduling of surveys, (2) conducting the surveys, (3) clarifying and analyzing the respondents’ data and (4) issuing the wage determinations. Prevailing wage rates are established separately for each county, and are reflective of local wage conditions. Rates are calculated for each job classification based on the survey data, such as carpenters, electricians, laborers, etc. Trades are generally surveyed every three years to determine the prevailing wage rates.

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The method for calculating prevailing wage is as follows:

  • Largest City in County – Majority Wage: If more than one-half of all hours reported in the largest city in a county are worked at one wage rate, then that majority wage rate becomes the prevailing wage for the whole county.
  • Largest City in County – Average Wage: If there is no majority wage rate, then a weighted average wage is computed using data from the largest city in a county. The weight attached to each wage is the total number of hours reported to be worked at that wage.

Contractors we want cannot compete against less desirable contractors if we don’t enforce a level playing field with prevailing wage. That category of contractor is financially responsible and stable with a safe, trained, experienced workforce. A prevailing wage brings fairness, protection, productivity and prosperity to the workplace.

What is Collective Bargaining?

Collective bargaining is the process in which working people, through their union representation, negotiate contracts with their employers to determine their terms of employment. This may include pay, benefits, hours, leave/vacation, job health and safety policies, work/life balance and more. Collective bargaining is a way to address and solve workplace problems.

The union may negotiate with a single employer (who is typically representing a company’s shareholders) or may negotiate with a group of businesses to reach an industrywide agreement. A collective agreement functions as a labor contract between an employer and one or more unions.

Collective bargaining builds and protects the middle class—for all workers, not just union members. Companies/Employers generally don’t just hand out fair wages and benefits. Middle-class wages and benefits—like health care, paid sick days, etc.—have been built over time by working people who come together to insist on fair standards. Ardently supporting the right to bargain collectively is critical to safeguarding workers’ rights and progressing middle-class standards, strength and growth.

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