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Davis-Bacon Wage Provisions Face Challenges

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

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A bill introduced in the U.S. Senate and currently under consideration by the Environment and Public Works Committee would remove prevailing wage restrictions from many transportation projects funded by the federal government.

The Transportation Investment Recalibration to Equality Act, or TIRE Act, introduced by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), calls for the removal of Davis-Bacon Act provisions from federal highway projects, including those funded by the TEA-21 Act and FAST Act.

Sen. Jeff Flake
Official U.S. Congress portrait

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) has introduced legislation that would remove Davis-Bacon wage provisions from federally funded transportation projects.

Davis-Bacon, introduced in 1931, requires that workers on federally funded construction jobs be paid according to prevailing wage rates. “Prevailing wage” rates are defined, according to the Department of Labor, as “the wage paid to the majority (more than 50 percent) of the laborers or mechanics in the classification on similar projects in the area during the period in question.”

Other Measures on Davis-Bacon

After Flake unveiled his Senate bill, U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) introduced legislation to repeal the 86-year-old Davis-Bacon Act completely. Lee’s S. 244 has been referred to the Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; King’s H.R. 743 is currently in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

According to Federal Highway Administration policy, Davis-Bacon minimums must be paid to all covered workers on federal-aid projects exceeding $2,000 that are located on a federal-aid highway.

Bridge approach construction
© / ivanastar

Davis-Bacon minimums must be paid to all covered workers on federal-aid projects exceeding $2,000 that are located on a federal-aid highway.

“When money is wasted on inflated labor costs under the Davis-Bacon Act, it results in fewer improvements to Arizona’s infrastructure and fewer jobs for Arizona’s construction workers,” Flake said in introducing the legislation. “By suspending onerous prevailing wage provisions on all federal highway construction projects, the TIRE Act will ensure that tax dollars go toward projects and jobs, not overpriced union labor contracts.”

Industry Groups For Repeal, Labor Against

Associated Builders and Contractors, a construction industry trade association, has said in the past that it supports a full repeal of Davis-Bacon. “Davis-Bacon stifles contractor productivity by raising project costs, and imposes rigid craft work rules that ignore skill differences,” the organization says on its website.

Labor groups by and large take the opposing viewpoint. Terry O’Sullivan, general president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, told Engineering News-Record, “Repealing the Davis-Bacon Act would lower the quality of projects, leading to costly delays, repairs and even re-dos down the line, leaving taxpayers holding the bag.”

PaintSquare News reached out to the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades for comment on the pending legislation, but did not hear back as of press time Tuesday (Feb. 28).


Tagged categories: Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. (ABC); Bridges; Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); Government; Government contracts; Infrastructure; International Union of Painters and Allied Trades; Labor; Laws and litigation; North America; Program/Project Management; Roads/Highways; Unions

Comment from Mike McCloud, (3/1/2017, 7:47 AM)

Even if it was cut in half, the average hourly wage in the Northeast would be about $35.00 an hour. That would provide a lot of jobs and money to fix our infrastructure.

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