A pair of companion bills that would change how prevailing wage is calculated for public construction projects are under consideration during the 2021 Oregon legislative session.
Senate Bill 493 and House Bill 2419 would largely do away with regional surveys that currently are used to set prevailing wage and would instead mandate that collective bargaining agreements for each of the craft trades involved be used to determine prevailing wage across the state. Where more than one collective bargaining agreement exists in the state, an average of the wages set by those agreements would then determine the prevailing wage. The current wage surveys would be used only where no collective bargaining agreement exists for a given trade or occupation.
Public hearings have been held by both the House and Senate committees on business and labor, with the Senate committee voting 3-1 on March 9 to pass SB 493 to the Senate floor for consideration. HB 2419, meanwhile, was debated by the House committee on Feb. 10, but no further action has been taken.
Supporters of the bills include organized labor and trade associations. Officials are optimistic that SB 493, in particular, may have a fighting chance at passage.
“It is a positive sign,” Professional Business Development Group (PBDG) Executive Director Kenechi Onyeagusi said following the Senate committee’s vote. “I can tell you that I have conversations like this all the time where people will not bid on work if it’s not prevailing wage. It’s very important to us that prevailing wage is the standard, because what it does is allow smaller firms that might otherwise not be competitive to attract workforce.”