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A How-To Guide for Strengthening State and Local Prevailing Wage Laws

A How-To Guide for Strengthening State and Local Prevailing Wage Laws

Authors Karla Walter, Malkie Wall, and Alex Rowell provide a road map for state and local policymakers working to create or strengthen prevailing wage laws, explain core features of prevailing wage legislation, and lift up existing best practices from around the county.

State and local governments spend billions of dollars each year on goods and services that are provided by private companies. Yet, all too often, this spending undermines the labor standards of high-road companies that pay good wages and benefits, delivers jobs that pay poverty wages, and provides poor value to taxpayers. Policymakers can help ensure that government dollars uphold local market wages, support high-quality jobs, and deliver value to taxpayers by enacting prevailing wage laws, which require recipients of government funding to provide workers with wages and fringe benefits that are comparable to those paid to other similarly placed workers in the region.

While prevailing wage laws most commonly apply to construction jobs, they also frequently cover service contracts. Policymakers have applied prevailing wage requirements to most types of government funding, including direct contracts, grants, loans, and tax incentives. These laws help level the playing field for high-road employers that pay decent wages and benefits and provide good value for taxpayers and law-abiding business owners.

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Karla Walter

Senior Fellow, Inclusive Economy

Malkie Wall

Research Associate

Alex Rowell

Policy Analyst