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No Davis Bacon for Federal Infrastructure Funds

Senator Flake is looking to repeal Davis Bacon, the Building Trades need to act now

Kris LaGrange's picture
Jan 12, 2017

The last few weeks have seen Republicans across the country rolling back worker protections.  In Congress, Republicans have made it easier to fire public employees without due process and have proposed new laws attacking unions.  Now, Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) is going after prevailing wage.

The Davis-Bacon Act was passed in 1931 and requires certain workers, generally the Building Trades and government contractors, to pay a prevailing wage.  This wage is set by the Labor Department based on the going rate in an area for the contracted job. This rate, which takes into account union and non-union wages on a job, keeps wages fair and allows good contractors the ability to compete.  The point of the legislation was to make sure that Federal money was being spent to invest in communities and not drive down wages.  This important piece of legislation has helped fuel many  and local governments to enact a prevailing wage requirement of their own and drive up construction wages across the board. These higher wages have also led to safer workplaces as many worksites with higher paying employees are better trained with certified union safety advocates.

On Wednesday, January 11th, as many bills were being introduced at the beginning of the session, Senator Flake, snuck in a bill to repeal the prevailing wage requirement under Davis-Bacon for Federal infrastructure construction projects.  This would mean that the trillions of dollars that Trump is planning to spend on fixing America’s roads, bridges and other failing infrastructure projects would go to companies that are paying their workers poverty wages to do dangerous work.  No longer could a union contractor bid the union wage on a dangerous project, because they will get underbid by a non-union contractor who is not concerned with safety and is looking to cut as many corners as possible to keep costs low and profits high. Studies have shown that when prevailing wage laws are instituted, unscrupulous contractors who compete by hiring low-skilled labor, cheating on payroll taxes, or risking safety concerns at construction sites are discouraged from bidding on projects.  Senator Flake is looking to empower these unscrupulous contractors.

Davis Bacon is one of the most important pieces of pro-worker legislation that has ever been passed by the Federal government.  Thanks to this legislation, millions of families have worked their way into the middle class.  Senator Flake’s attempts to repeal it are an attempt to push millions into dangerous low paying jobs to break building trades unions.  This repeal also must come as a shock to the thousands of construction workers who voted for Trump, who were counting on a surge in high paying infrastructure work that Trump is proposing.  If Trump and Flake get their way, it looks like those who sold out their unions to vote for Trump will spend the next four years begging for low wages coming out of the Federal Government. It is important that union leaders in the Building Trades understand that they were warned by industry professionals that this would happen.  Although these warnings fell on deaf ears, now more than ever union construction workers need to contact their member of Congress and urge their representative to not support Senator Flake and keep Davis-Bacon intact.


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