IBEW, Teamsters applaud proposed changes to Davis-Bacon regulations

Washington – U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh has introduced new rulemaking proposals to change the Davis-Bacon Act, which sets the prevailing wages contractors must pay workers on federal projects.

In a conference call on March 10, Walsh said the changes — the first since 1983 — are an example of the federal government being a good steward of taxpayer money. “As President Biden said during the State of the Union, when we invest in our workers, we build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out.”

Lonnie Stephenson, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said the proposed changes will bring Davis-Bacon Act regulations into the 21st century.

“If enacted, this proposal would modernize the 41-year-old prevailing wage system in several ways, including by ensuring prevailing wage rates keep up with actual wages paid to workers in the local community and strengthening worker protections and enforcement, thereby protecting workers from employer retaliation. Over time, these changes will result in greater financial security for working people,” Stephenson said.

“The proposed updates to the regulations will restore the Act’s intended bipartisan purpose to protect the hard-earned wages of construction workers, and in doing so, shield them from exploitation. These efforts by President Biden, Secretary of Labor Walsh, and the entire Biden Administration mark the start of a new day for our members and their families. As IBEW electrical workers and others in the building trades embark on the mission to usher our nation’s aging infrastructure into the 21st century, we applaud the Administration’s efforts to ensure that pay reflects the work of this highly trained, highly skilled workforce.”

The Davis-Bacon Act, originally passed in 1931, uses pay surveys administered by the DOL to set the prevailing wage in a federally funded project’s location. It impacts $217 billion in federal spending annually and 1.2 million construction workers.

But the process can be complicated and cumbersome for contractors and has elicited concerns that it skews wage rates.

Under the current process, at least 51 percent of surveyed wages need to be within a “same or similar” margin. If they’re not, the weighted average — as opposed to a simple average — of all wages is used, which means more frequent occurrences of low wages are allowed to drag down the overall rate.

DOL’s proposal would return to the system used until 1983, when the last changes to the act were made during President Ronald Reagan’s first term in a major blow to Organized Labor.

Under the prior rules and those proposed by the Biden Administration, if the 51 percent threshold is met, that’s the prevailing wage, just like now. But if it’s not, the new rule would allow just 30 percent of same or similar wages to be used. If that bar can’t be achieved, a weighted average would then be used.

Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa on the U.S. Department of Labor’s Davis-Bacon regulation proposal said the proposed change will would return the Davis-Bacon Act to its intended purpose.

“The proposed regulation would provide construction workers with the hard-earned wages they have deserve while shielding workers from being exploited by employers seeking to drive down labor standards, Hoffa said.

“Construction workers will be critical to fixing our aging infrastructure and bringing America into the 21st century. That’s why it is crucial that they are compensated fairly — with 21st-century wages.”


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