By a 183-242 vote, the GOP-run U.S. House of Representatives defeated the latest assault on the Davis-Bacon Act and its legal prevailing wages for construction workers on federally funded projects.
Fifty-one Republicans joined all voting Democrats in backing Davis-Bacon. The other 183 Republicans voted to cut workers’ wages.
In an indication that even Davis-Bacon foes realize their fight is uphill, Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., tried to weaken Davis-Bacon – by lowering the wage base – rather than kill it altogether. But nobody was fooled.
Gosar’s amendment to weaken Davis-Bacon “would hurt the local economy, devalue workers’ pay, and take a very important tool out of the toolbox for Republicans, Democrats, and Americans,” said Rep. David Norcross, D-N.J., an Electrical Worker and former Building Trades Council president in southern New Jersey. He led the debate against Gosar’s move.
“The prevailing wage is based on surveys of local wages and benefits, not whether there is a union or not,” Norcross added. “It keeps the community vibrant” and prevents “cutting wages in your local community.”
The 86-year-old Davis-Bacon Act mandates that locally prevailing wages, determined by the Labor Department, go to construction workers – union and non-union – toiling on federally funded projects such as highways, bridges, airports and subway systems.
For years, construction unions have successfully defended Davis-Bacon against assaults by the anti-worker anti-union Associated Builders and Contractors and its congressional Republican allies, even though two House Republicans pushed Davis-Bacon through in 1931. That scenario occurred again on July 14 during debate on the defense bill.
The fight may not be over, though. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who has championed outright Davis-Bacon repeal in past years, may try to insert that into other bills.
“The significance of this vote lies in the fact that, on a consistent basis, a large bi-partisan majority intuitively recognizes the Davis-Bacon Act provides value by ensuring federally funded construction work is performed safely and efficiently, while preserving pathways to the middle class for America’s construction workforce through formal apprenticeship education and training,” North America’s Building Trades Unions – the former AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department – said after the vote.
Otherwise, workers and employers would be “undermined by ‘low road’ contractors that seek competitive advantage through the deployment of a low-wage, low skill, easily exploited workforce,” the NABTU said.