By ELIZABETH BEILMAN
A disagreement on the common wage rate for construction workers in Sellersburg made its way to local government Monday.
Because of a tie vote at the last common construction wage committee meeting concerning work on the new water plant in Sellersburg, representatives from two organizations brought the issue before the Sellersburg Town Council, which voted 4-0 to adopt non-union rates from the Associated Builders and Contractors of Indiana, or the ABC.
“After the past two weeks, I’ve done some research ... and I just determined that the common wage rate for Clark County was the builders’ [wage rate],” said Paul Rhodes, president of the town council.
Other town council members declined comment on why they voted to adopt the ABC’s rates.
A common wage rate is the mode, or most common number, that construction workers are paid. Sellersburg’s common wage rate committee sets the baseline wage every three months, voting to adopt the wages presented by certain organizations.
As set by the ABC, the highest common wage rate for the water plant project for the next 90 days will be $38 per hour for elevator constructors in the skilled category and the lowest will be $20.60 per hour for general labor in the skilled category. These wages account for fringe money, which can be anything from worker’s compensation to unemployment.
ABC representative Ken Neumeister said that the ABC’s wage rates meet all requirements set by Indiana law, including wages be county-specific and current. He said of the last eight wage rates for the area, seven have been set by the ABC.
“Why would we not adopt ABC?” Neumeister said.
Representatives from ABC and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, which represented the construction union, had two minutes each to argue their cases in front of the town council, which voted unanimously to adopt the ABC’s rate, with Councilman Brian Meyer choosing not to vote.
“I’m abstaining because I don’t feel like I’m ready to make a decision either way,” he said.
Robert Norrington, representative of the union wage rate, said that Neumeister’s claims that the ABC’s rates have been adopted seven of the last eight times is untrue, citing Ivy Tech Community College as one project the union’s wage rate has been adopted by in the last 90 days.
“We feel the ABC does not present any evidence to back their wages that they are presenting to you guys,” he said.
Mark Simpson, also representing the union, said he was shocked that the town council chose to adopt the ABC’s rates.
“Our wage is proving to be a living wage,” Simpson said.
The highest wage rate under the union’s plan was $70.02 for elevator constructors in the skilled category and the lowest was $20.84 for tile, marble and terrazzo finishers. One of the reasons that the total wage rates bracket was higher is that the fringe money is higher than the fringe money set by the ABC. Norrington said the union’s fringe money includes insurance and pension for laborers.
Sellersburg Town Attorney Jake Elder said that because four of the five people showed up to the last common wage rate committee meeting, a tie was more likely to occur, which brought the matter before the town council.
“I can’t remember the last time this has happened,” Elder said.