Prevailing Wage Survives Anti-Labor Attacks in Congress

 

On Capitol Hill, a united Democratic caucus joined by more than 50 Republicans thwarted an attempt to get rid of the Davis-Bacon Act while members of Congress voted on an appropriations bill on Sept. 6.

As members of the House of Representatives scrambled on Sept. 6 to pass an appropriations bill to keep the government running, Rep. Steve King of Iowa and others tried repeatedly to attach amendments that would gut the Davis-Bacon Act, a long-standing law that assures construction workers a living wage. 

The act, which dates back to the Depression, requires contractors working on federally-funded projects to pay a prevailing wage. Research shows that prevailing wage standards lead to more local jobs, less poverty and safer, more efficient worksites — with no significant impact on project costs.

“Weakening Davis-Bacon only serves to hurt working families,” said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. “I’m glad that it was a bipartisan vote that defeated his amendments.”

Every Democrat and 54 Republicans voted against these attempts.

“I’m heartened to see a united Democratic caucus, joined by colleagues from the other side of the aisle, vote for good wages for their constituents,” Stephenson said. “Our skilled craftsmen and women don’t just build roads and schools, they vote too. And they’ll remember who stood up for their interests.”

The IBEW sent a letter, signed by President Stephenson, to the House, urging representatives to oppose the amendments, as well as any that would eliminate project labor agreements. PLAs set the terms of employment on construction projects and are often credited with helping projects come in on-time and under budget. Only the Davis-Bacon amendments came up for a vote.

In January, King introduced a stand-alone bill to ban Davis-Bacon. He also opposes PLAs and numerous bills to make it harder for working people to organize. In February, he introduced a bill to enact right-to-work nationally.