From Tom Sullivan
(CLAYTON) — A few months after the St. Louis County Council enacted a prevailing wage requirement, which was initiated by County Executive Sam Page and had the strong support of local unions, Page’s political action committee received a $50,000 contribution from the Laborers’ Union. It was received last week on December 27. (See link below to “Campaign Finance Reports.”)
The contribution is many times larger than the $2600 limit on campaign contributions that was enacted last year by county voters as an amendment to the St. Louis County Charter. But that only applies to candidate committees. The Page PAC is a political action committee. Page has a separate candidate committee.
The county executive supported the campaign limit proposal last year when he was chairman of the County Council. The Council approved putting it to voters. Charter amendments require voter approval.
Prevailing wage is the hourly wage, benefits and overtime paid to the majority of workers, laborers, and mechanics within a particular area. Governments can require it be paid by contractors on government projects. In St. Louis County it would apply to any project using county tax incentives.
Prevailing wage requirements are generally seen as being pro-union and can be something of a political football. Unions are mostly supporters of the Democratic Party and are a source of large campaign contributions for Democratic candidates. Republicans sometime try to reduce the prevailing wages by passing legislation changing how they are calculated. Or they might want to eliminate the prevailing wage requirement entirely.
Supporters say prevailing wage requirements prevent underpaid and under-skilled workers from disrupting the local workforce while keeping spending local, thereby increasing tax revenue to local and state government. Critics say it unfairly profits the unions, discriminates against non-union firms and causes increased costs for public works projects.
Prevailing wages are established by the Missouri Department of Labor for each occupation in each county. According to a recent story in the Missouri Times, the prevailing wage for a carpenter in Jefferson County is $54.69 an hour. The prevailing wage for a carpenter in St. Louis County is presumably around the same wage.
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On September 27, 2019 County Executive Page sent a letter to the County Council stating he believed a prevailing wage ordinance should be enacted for St. Louis County. (The letter is attached.) The legislation was finally approved on October 15 and was signed by Page shortly after. On December 27 the Page PAC received the $50,000 contribution from Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 110.
Page also has issued an executive order that created the position of Prevailing Wage Enforcement Coordinator to ensure compliance with the county’s new prevailing wage ordinance. (See link to Labor Tribune article below.)
Prior to being appointed County Executive by the County Council in April, Page was on the County Council for four years and four months. For the last two years and four months he was council chair with majority support on the council. During that time he never suggested or tried to get council approval for prevailing wage legislation.
Page has railed against pay-to-play and the influence of money in county government, especially as it relates to former County Executive Steve Stenger. Yet he is doing pretty much the same thing with no small amount of hypocrisy involved. Page is pandering to any group he feels can get him elected and unabashedly using county resources and tax dollars to do so.
Stenger is doing time in a federal prison for, among other things, giving a $130,000 contract for work that didn’t exist in exchange for campaign contributions. After Page stepped over then-Councilwoman Hazel Erby to become County Executive, it created bad feelings with Erby and her supporters. Page then offered her a job for a position that didn’t exist but with a $121,000 annual salary. All was then forgiven. Same as Stenger, Page uses a lot of tax dollars to further his political interests.
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According to filings made with the Missouri Ethics Commission, the Page PAC has taken in $85,100 since it was formed on August 21 this year. In addition to the $50,000 contribution from the Laborers’ Union, other contributions came from Ozark Anesthesia Associates, Inc. ($5,000), Anesthesia Associates of Kansas City ($10,000), Western Anesthesiology Associates, Inc. ($10,000) and August A. Busch III ($10,000). The PAC committee treasurer, Brad Bakker, gave $100.
Sam Page’s candidate committee, Page for Missouri, has taken in $157,291 in contributions for next year’s election, according to filings with the ethics commission. The committee has made $135,387 in expenditures and has $37,457 on hand. The next campaign finance reports, for the last quarter of 2019, are due next month by January 15 and contributions to both Page committees are likely to substantially increase.
St. Louis County Assessor Jake Zimmerman has announced he is also running for County Executive. According to his latest ethics commission report, filed on October 15, 2019 his committee has $503,265 on hand. Zimmerman did not announce he was running until October 29 so his contributions since then will be shown on his report due next month.
December 31, 2019