Gruenhagen: make Minnesota great again by paying rural workers even less

Lately, state representative Glenn Gruenhagen’s been getting news statewide, generating headlines like Republican’s insurance bill brings back preexisting conditions, defines contraception as abortion and Republican lawmakers target transgender health insurance coverage.

Yes, the Glencoe-area Republican’s an insurance agent.

In his district, however, there’s different chatter, as Gruenhagen again targets that great enemy of progress: good wages for construction workers. Last fall, we posted about how Gruenhagen thought repairing Minnesota’s aging roads & bridges would be affordable if we pay workers less.

He’s back at it again. In a legislative email to constituents that was also published as Reform of prevailing wage law will benefit state, a letter in Glencoe’s McLeod County Chronicle. Gruenhagen argues that workers on small public infrastructure projects typical of greater Minnesota should be paid less so that the money would go farther:

One of my chief authored bills, HF508, updates prevailing wage provisions and raises the cost threshold for state government-funded projects that require prevailing wage. Currently, prevailing wage laws only apply to state subsidized projects that exceed a certain dollar amount.

Since infrastructure projects in Greater Minnesota tend to cost less than those in the Metro, raising this cost threshold will allow private contractors to bid on smaller projects without being forced to use union wage scales. The result will be that state tax dollars will go further in funding smaller infrastructure projects, which are more common in Greater Minnesota. . . .

Read the rest at the Chronicle. There’s no Senate companion bill, which may or may not be telling, given that the state senator for Gruenhagen’s area is Scott Newman, R- Hutchinson, who chairs the senate transportation committee.

As our gentle readers might suspect, construction workers aren’t on board with this concept anymore than women hoping to control their own reproductive rights.

Witness Daryl Panning’s recent letter to the editors of the Chronicle, Changes in prevailing wage law will hurt workers:

State Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen’s prevailing wage ideas will cut pay and cost jobs for blue collar workers.

I am a retired construction worker who spent his career building infrastructure in this state. A recent letter in this paper caught my attention. He attacked prevailing wage laws in Minnesota. For those who don’t know, prevailing wage is nothing more than local area standard wages for construction workers.

Gruenhagen called prevailing wage the “union wage.” That’s false. The local wage rate is established by looking at local wages paid on real jobs in our area, both union and nonunion workers benefit. He also fantasizes that we can save millions of dollars by getting rid of prevailing wages and that this will create more jobs. The real reason Gruenhagen wants to mess with prevailing wage is simple, and it has nothing to do with taxpayers. He is working for cheap labor contractors that are using him to get rid of the laws that prevent them from paying workers low wages on public projects. The fact is that Gruenhagen and the business owners he fights for think construction workers in our region make too much money. I’m offended by that.

These people are highly trained workers; they put their lives in danger and spend countless days on the road away from their families building this state. They earn their money, Glenn, every penny. . . .

Read the rest online at the paper.

However, Bluestem wonders whether Gruenhagen might not have to wait long for the cost of labor to come down, and in the spirit of his bill we offer a modest proposal.

With United States Attorney General Jeff Session giving federal use of private prisons two thumbs up and the Department of Homeland Security needing some internment camps to sort out the undocumented workers President Trump wants to deport, it’s entirely possible the long-shuttered CoreCivic (the human traffickers formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America) private prison at Appleton may be re-opened.

That leaves Minnesota with a dilemma, as Republicans put the brakes on sentencing and probation reform, creating more prisoners than there are beds. Let’s put these unfortunate souls into chain gangs that would repair our state’s road and bridges for nothing more than the price of a few guards, orange jumpsuits (blaze pink for the lady offenders), barracks and eggs. Pay them nothing while they learn valuable skills and work habits and soon the price of infrastructure will plummet.

We saw this of thing work in the movies so it must be true.

Image: Handsome convicts could reduce the price of Minnesota’s infrastructure beyond Representative Gruenhagen’s wildest dreams and there would probably be a place for prison ministry as well.

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