In the United States we have a law that is made by the federal government. We call it the Davis-Bacon act.
The Davis-Bacon act is the law that sets the standard wages on federal construction projects such as federal buildings, roads, military construction, Bridges, freeways and highways etc. So far there are 29 states that have passed a law that sets the minimum construction rate for projects in their state. These laws usually cover state funded projects as opposed to federal funded projects. These state wage recommendations are updated on a regular basis. And usually they are updated by county.
Many people around the country rely on Davis-Bacon and a state prevailing wage laws sometimes known as little Davis bacon for their livelihood and these members push-back when states try to change the laws so that these skilled crafts people make less money. On a yearly basis the building trades unions spend time on Capitol Hill meeting with senators and congressmen and women to explain to them how prevailing wage works for the benefit of the taxpayers.
Many cheap contractors want to do away with prevailing wage both Davis-Bacon and state prevailing wages.
They may try to use an argument that "more can be constructed if labor rates are cheaper." The fallacy in this argument is that when you pay cheaper wages for less skilled crafts people, you don’t get more built, in fact, you get less built and with lower quality. When lobbyists try to get rid of federal Davis-Bacon laws they are in-turn getting rid of good jobs and turning them into low-wage jobs with no benefits. If you look around the country at the contractors who pay low wages with no benefits, you will see longer construction times and lower quality workmanship. They have been doing this for so long now, a quick Google search will show you that many states and many contractors are begging for more construction workers around the country. They have pushed so many people out of the construction industry that now they are having a hard time finding more people to enter the construction industry. The other problem is that because they have cut wages so low across the country, they can no longer afford apprenticeship programs and therefore the skilled labor is disappearing as well. It seems that anti-Davis-Bacon legislation pushed by Low-Road contractors has created a problem for those same contractors. Meanwhile there are many people around the Country who would be happy to go to work for those contractors if they could make a living wage. They are sitting on the sidelines waiting for us to push legislation in their favor so that they can earn a decent living with benefits. It is incumbent upon us to do just that.
Davis-Bacon prevailing wage must survive and must make a rebound if we are to save our construction industry.
By standing up for Davis-Bacon prevailing wage and for state prevailing wage survey laws we will help the constituents of our local economies to start careers in construction and to graduate from apprenticeships. taxpayers can be proud that their dollars are going to build expertise in construction and allow fathers and mothers to raise their children on a living wage. These dollars will reverberate throughout the community helping small businesses to prosper and helping families pay for college tuition for children. By cutting the cost of labor, this hurts apprenticeships across-the-board and in a short time will cost the taxpayers money in the form of low quality workmanship and unskilled labor. We need to stop the treadmill of who can build lower on construction projects and instead look at who can build best. Let’s not put our skilled crafts people that we have spent so much time and effort training out of work in exchange for lower skilled workers. You get what you pay for in construction.
Construction workers deserve adequate compensation and benefits and paying adequate compensation is not an over-expenditure but instead an investment.
When we invest these dollars not only are we getting a terrific looking project but we are building the future construction workers of our communities through apprenticeships and investing in our own economies when these workers cash and spend their paychecks in our communities. Businesses prosper and business people prosper. They then re-spend their earnings in our communities as well. We should be competing on quality of work. Prevailing wage jobs that promote apprenticeships also help to minimize the number of construction accidents and deaths because construction workers are being trained with those dollars as well. This cuts back on the cost of the project when we can use these trained workers on the next project as well. We should not have to retrain all of our workers on every project. We carry that value forward as well as the skilled craftsmanship.
Contractors are always looking for a way to trim their bids, but cutting workers wages should not be a part of that.
If we continue to do this, the next contractor will cut wages even more in order to get a bid and so on down the line until workers are left with No other option than to find work elsewhere. This is where we find ourselves in many states were construction companies say they cannot find enough workers. It’s not that they can’t find enough workers, it’s that they can’t find enough workers for the low wages that they want to pay. So as we move forward in building our nations infrastructure we should keep in mind and build it the right way with skilled workers who earn good wages. Don’t let state lawmakers consider bills that would cut our wages and benefits. Retain Davis-Bacon laws across the country and reinstate prevailing wage laws in states that have repealed them and are now having difficulty finding skilled craft people to work on their projects. Doing this, best people will return to the apprenticeship classes and soon skilled craftsmen and women will be back on the job earning family living wages and creating projects that we can be proud of.
Darren is a union organizer in the southwest United States who believes that workers should be represented as a group in order to be able to live a better lifestyle.