Supreme Court Holds That Prevailing Wage Statute is Constitutional

Three judges sitting behind bench

Following SSB 5493’s enactment, the industrial statistician would be required to adopt the prevailing wage rate for a county solely based on CBAs for that trade.

November 28, 2022
Cassidy Ingram - Ahlers Cressman & Sleight

The Supreme Court recently held[1] that Senate Bill 5493 (“SSB 5493”), which alters the method for how the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries’ industrial statistician sets the prevailing wages for employees on public works projects, is constitutional. Prior to the enactment of SSB 5493, the industrial statistician set prevailing wages for each trade on a county-by-county basis based on either the majority or average wage rate in that specific county. Following SSB 5493’s enactment, the industrial statistician would be required to adopt the prevailing wage rate for a county solely based on collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) for that trade. If a trade has more than one CBA in a county, the highest wage rate will prevail.

SSB 5493 has negative impacts on employers because it creates the potential for wage rates to be set based on CBAs that represent the minority of hours worked in a county. The International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 302, provides an example of this. AGC began negotiations with an operators’ union for a master labor agreement, which would cover almost all operating engineers in 16 Washington State counties. When they could not reach an agreement, Local 302 called a strike against the employers. After one week of the strike, Local 302 approached small employers and negotiated a side agreement. Some of these employers were also card-carrying members of Local 302. A few weeks later, AGC ratified a new agreement with Local 302 that included lower wages than the side agreements. Because the rates in the side agreement were higher, those wage rates became the prevailing wage in 16 counties even though they represented a minority of the hours worked.

Ms. Ingram may be contacted at cassidy.ingram@acslawyers.com



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