The oil and gas boom in Eastern Ohio has brought significant work opportunities for many building trades members. In addition to the pipeline and processing facility projects being constructed by the industry, roadway construction and maintenance in these areas has significantly increased to handle the influx of heavy equipment and increased traffic. Due to the increased usage of roadway’s by oil and gas firms, County Engineers and Township Trustees in Eastern Ohio began to enter into Road Use Maintenance Agreements (RUMAs) as early as 2010.
RUMAs are a contract between a county or township and an oil and gas firm to repair any damage to roadways, bridges or other public infrastructure due to their drilling activities. RUMAs have been viewed by many as an example of successful public private partnership.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) issued a formal legal opinion in September 2012, which required prevailing wage to be paid by contractors hired under RUMAs. ACT Ohio hailed the Attorney General’s opinion as a common sense application of Ohio’s prevailing wage law. Prevailing wage requires that workers on public improvement projects are paid the local industry standard wages and benefits.
After Attorney General DeWine issued his legal opinion the Ohio Laborers District Council began to closely monitor RUMA projects for compliance with prevailing wage. After an initial investigation it became clear that many county engineers were failing to fully enforce Ohio’s Prevailing Wage Law. The Ohio Laborers District Council then partnered with ACT Ohio’s Legal & Research Department to fully investigate the issue.
Over a sixth month period ACT Ohio’s Legal & Research Department filed dozens of public records requests and analyzed hundreds of pages of public documents in order to determine which counties were complying with prevailing wage and those that were not. “Our investigation revealed that many counties were failing to comply with the basic requirements of Ohio’s Prevailing Wage Law” said Rob Dorans, ACT Ohio’s Legal Counsel. “The Washington County Prosecutor even went as far as to issue his own opinion instructing county office holders to ignore Attorney General DeWine’s legal opinion, it was clear we had a problem with RUMAs complying with state law.”
Based on the information complied by the Ohio Laborers District Council and ACT Ohio, a RUMA prevailing wage compliance report was issued and presented to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine in August of 2016. Based on the contents of the report the Attorney General committed to work with ACT Ohio and the Ohio Laborers District Council to ensure state law is followed.
Mike Engbert, Marketing Representative of the Ohio District Laborers Council has worked to track and investigate prevailing wage compliance on RUMA projects for the past several years. “Prevailing wage ensures good paying jobs and a level playing field for contractors on public works projects. RUMAs generate reconstruction projects on county and township roads and are public improvements. Prevailing wage is essential towards providing wage protection and a fair bidding environment on these projects.” said Engbert.
ACT Ohio will continue to work with the Ohio Laborers District Council and the Attorney General’s Office to ensure prevailing wage is being required on RUMA projects.
Special thanks to Ralph Cole, Business Manager/Secretary Treasurer of the Ohio Laborers District Council, Dennis Duffey, Secretary Treasurer of the Ohio State Building & Construction Trades Council, and Matt Szollosi, Executive Director of ACT Ohio for their work bringing this issue to the attention of the Attorney General’s Office.