Frightening News for the Merit Shop

Kristi Pronovost The Merit Shop Advocacy Blog, The Merit Shop Spokesman Blog

By: David G. Greineder, IOM, ABC Keystone Director of Government Affairs

Things just got scary if your business does public work projects. You may have read about the recent criminal indictment filed by the Attorney General against Scott Good, owner of Goodco Mechanical, an ABC Central Pennsylvania member, and Goodco itself. The triple-digit charges allege violations of the state’s Prevailing Wage Act. After nearly two-years of raids, questioning, hearings, and interrogations, charges were filed largely claiming workers were misclassified and therefore wages were “stolen.”

The charges are haunting on several fronts. The prevailing wage law has existed in Pennsylvania since 1961 – 58 years. The statute and regulations very clearly authorize the Department of Labor and Industry (“Department”) to investigate and process complaints, disputes, and matters relating to the act.  Interestingly, the chilling claims against Goodco bypassed the Department and went directly to Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office.

Under regular order, prevailing wage claims are civil cases. If the Department determines violations were made, an employer must pay back wages and can even be debarred. But this isn’t regular order and that’s apparently not good enough. This case demonstrates an apparent mission to “criminalize” the prevailing wage law with a goal of setting precedent against the merit shop. Scary stuff.

The claim of misclassifying workers flies against the acceptable and common practice of paying workers based on the task – a practice the Department has deemed acceptable for nearly six decades. In fact, the Department’s own website posts building laborer notes that are, “meant to provide a reference point for uniformity and clarity.” The notes list those tasks that are defined and considered as laboring.  The regulations very plainly state prevailing wage records, “…shall show the number of hours…during which each workman worked and if he worked in more than one craft or classification for which different rates were payable…”

So, what’s changed or what will change? That’s not yet clear as the criminal case is pending. What is clear is when laws become weaponized as a means to an end or to set examples, ABC will not stay silent.  We will do our part to educate members and spread the word. Stay tuned for future updates and alerts on this startling matter.

If you have any questions regarding Prevailing Wage Classifications, please contact the Chapter Office.

October 24, 2019