Repealing prevailing wage laws hurts construction workers

Posted March 24, 2017 at 3:21 pm by Ross Eisenbrey and Teresa Kroeger

Though they have protected construction workers’ wages for decades, 20 states have removed prevailing wage laws and several more have weakened them. Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia do not have any prevailing wage laws. Wisconsin no longer applies prevailing wage protections to local public construction projects, but still does for state highway projects. Arkansas and Missouri are currently both debating repeal.

Unsurprisingly, median construction wages are far lower (21.9 percent) in the 20 states that have no prevailing wage law than in the states that still do protect prevailing wages. Even after taking into account cost-of-living differences, median wages are almost 7 percent lower in states where there is no prevailing wage law. If state officials want to hit construction workers in the pocketbook, while folding to business interests, repealing prevailing wage laws is an effective way to do it.

(Read More)

Class War in the Capital City

Apr 5, 2017
By Don McIntosh

There’s a top-down class war under way, but unlike the 1930s, when thugs shot workers on strike picket lines, today’s business organizations are using “hired gun” lobbyists in state capitols, to rewrite the laws – all of them – in their favor.

That’s the basic argument made by political scientist Gordon Lafer in his new book The One Percent Solution: How Corporations Are Remaking America One State at a Time. Lafer, who teaches at the Labor Education and Research Center of the University of Oregon, spent five years compiling a 50-state, 30-issue database of corporate-backed legislation. He was also there on the front lines, testifying against business-backed anti-worker laws in Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, New Hampshire, and other states.

The idea for the research came to him in early 2011. Lafer had just returned to Oregon after a year in Washington, D.C., as senior adviser to the U.S. House Labor Committee. Now a drama was beginning in the Wisconsin Legislature: A surprise attack on public sector workers’ right to collective bargaining drew 100,000 protesters to the state capitol. Attacks on worker rights and protections soon spread to dozens of states.

(Read More)

(Hardcover of book available here)


Davis-Bacon and prevailing wage laws have had astounding results since their inception.

by Mark Douglas

Paying workers higher wages means they become self-sufficient instead of becoming dependent on public assistance. This provides a two-fold benefit of improving quality of living and lowering burdens for American taxpayers. In addition, these laws and the technology needed to enforce them have had an unexpected boon-local communities now have the ability to track their disadvantaged worker hiring goals which has proven transformative for both disadvantaged families and for the communities in which they live.

What is Davis-Bacon and Prevailing Wage?
Every American strives to earn a fair wage which allows a lifetime of health and prosperity. Our country was built on this very foundation-that regardless of race, religion, or creed, all of us have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Today, however, many find themselves unable to live the American dream. Construction workers in particular are earning wages below the poverty line or losing jobs to out-of-state or illegal immigrants willing to work for low wages.

Often times unscrupulous contractors severely underpay their workers in an effort to undercut ethical competition and win government contracts. This results in a multi-billion-dollar tax burden to the American government through increased numbers of people enrolled in health care, welfare, food stamp, and other public assistance programs for these underpaid, uninsured workers.

In 1931, the Davis-Bacon Act sought to protect both federal construction workers and the public from greed driven contractors. Over the next ten years thirty states passed prevailing wage laws that accomplished the same mission in local communities. The purpose of these laws was to create an equal playing field for bidders so that contractors compete based on skill, productivity and safety instead of low bids through paying workers below-the-poverty-line wages.

(Read More)

Trump signs bill that kills Obama-era Worker Safety Rule

By Kimberly Kindy
March 27 at 8:01 PM

President Trump signed a bill Monday that killed an Obama-era worker safety rule that required businesses competing for large federal contracts to disclose and correct serious safety and other labor law violations.

Earlier this month, the Senate voted to eliminate the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule, which applied to contracts valued at $500,000 or more. Votes on the bill in both the House and Senate divided along party lines.

The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces regulation was finalized in August but most of it was never implemented. Within days of it being finalized, the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) sued, securing a temporary injunction that prohibited the federal government from implementing it.

In a last-minute effort to fight for the rule earlier this month, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) released a staff report that showed 66 of the federal government’s 100 largest contractors have at some point violated federal wage and hour laws. Since 2015, the report says, more than a third of the 100 largest OSHA penalties have been imposed on federal contractors.

(Read More)

Prevailing Wage Laws: What Do We Know?

Institute for Construction Economics Research (ICERES)

In recent years, states and municipalities have been increasingly engaged in heated, often partisan, debates over the future of prevailing wage laws. In addition to the repeal of state prevailing wage laws in West Virginia and Kentucky, there have been high-profile political challenges in several states including Wisconsin and Nevada. Numerous city councils and county commissioners have been concurrently engaged in similar debates regarding local prevailing wage ordinances. References to economic studies often accompany these calls for legislative action, as advocates on both sides of the debate can point to papers supporting their position. The lack of consensus among researchers, however, is mostly attributable to differences in empirical methodology and scientific rigor. To improve the clarity of future public policy debates on prevailing wage laws, this paper summarizes the current state of research on these policies, highlighting recent academic findings and identifying empirical shortcomings inherent in a number of oft-cited non-academic studies.

(See full PDF of Study here)

Trump Repeals Regulation Protecting Workers From Wage Theft

The regulation was meant to ensure that shady employers don’t benefit from taxpayer dollars.


By Dave Jamieson
POLITICS | 03/27/2017

WASHINGTON – Companies that commit wage theft and put their workers in harm’s way just received a favor from the Trump administration.

President Donald Trump signed a bill Monday repealing a regulation that had encouraged federal contractors to follow labor laws. Under the Obama-era rule, companies with an egregious record of violating wage and safety laws would lose their government contracts if they didn’t come into compliance.

The idea behind the rule was to make sure unscrupulous employers didn’t receive taxpayer dollars. But Republicans in Congress thought the rule was too punitive and unfair to businesses. They used an arcane tool known as the Congressional Review Act in an effort to kill the regulation, which was called the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule.

By approving the legislation sent to him by the Senate, Trump has ensured not only that the regulation will die, but also that no similar regulation can be put forth by the Labor Department again. Trump signed the legislation at a White House ceremony in front of the press.

“When President Trump has a chance to stand with workers, he chooses not to,” Heidi Shierholz, a labor policy expert at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, said in a statement. “By blocking this rule, the president and congressional Republicans will ensure that taxpayers will continue to support contractors with a history of wage theft and health and safety violations.”

(Read More)

The Dotted Line: How employers can protect construction workers from external threats

This feature is a part of “The Dotted Line” series, which takes an in-depth look at the complex legal landscape of the construction industry. To view the entire series, click here.


AUTHOR Kim Slowey
PUBLISHED March 14, 2017

Construction sites are inherently dangerous places. Every year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration release data on injuries and deaths of construction workers, with many attributable to falls, excavation collapses, struck-by incidents – all the things one might expect to occur on a job site.

However, there are other threats facing construction workers that have nothing to do with the industry but everything to do with where construction sites happen are located. The potential danger of third-party violence and theft, drunk drivers and even terrorism all threaten today’s trade workers, more so if they are in what becomes the wrong place at the wrong time.

Employers must know their legal responsibilities when it comes to worker safety, from situations ranging from job site robbery to terrorism risks.

(Read More)

OSHA rolls out ‘Safe and Sound’ campaign to encourage employer action

March 16, 2017
Dive Brief:

  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has rolled out its “Safe and Sound” initiative, which asks employers to review their safety programs and identify areas for improvement, according to an agency press release.
  • OSHA said that aside from work-related injuries being detrimental to workers and their families, they also cost businesses money, which hampers company growth and job creation.
  • The agency highlighted the inspection areas of Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri – which saw a significant rise in fatalities related to trenching and excavating, confined space entry and struck-by motor vehicle incidents last year – as examples of the need for heightened attention to safety on job sites.


Dive Insight:

OSHA announced late last year that trench fatalities doubled from 2015 to 2016, confirming the agency’s position that construction excavation and trenching operations are among the most dangerous work site activities.
Last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that fatalities in the private construction industry rose 4% between 2014 and 2015, from 899 to 927. The injury rate for construction declined 0.1% in 2015 but still far outpaced the U.S. average across industries.

Minnesota OSHA – Excavation Safety Stand-down – April 17 through 21, 2017

For the first time, Minnesota OSHA, along with other safety professionals, will promote and participate in a statewide Excavation Safety
Stand-down from April 17 through 21.

The goal of the stand-down is to raise awareness among employers and workers about preventing excavation accidents, which have resulted in three fatalities to Minnesota workers since 2015, due to trench collapses.

During the stand-down, employers and workers are asked to pause their workday to talk about excavation safety and discuss topics like how to properly slope, shore or shield workers from hazards during excavation projects. Employers are encouraged to make a plan to protect workers and prevent accidents.

(Read More)

Two Top U.S. Research Organizations: Repealing Davis-Bacon Act Would Save 0%

MARCH 9, 2017
Published by Frank Manzo

The Brookings Institution and Wilson Center are two of the top 10 research organizations in the United States.

Together, these nonpartisan organizations have relaunched The Fiscal Ship, an online “game” that challenges people to put the federal budget on a sustainable course over the next 25 years. Picking from the menu of tax and spending options can be pretty eye-opening for many Americans.

Embedded in the game is one interesting policy option called “repeal federal construction wage law.” Picking this option means that you’d repeal the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires that workers on federally-assisted construction projects be paid the local prevailing wage. The posited argument for repeal is that it would save the government money. The argument against repeal is:

“This is just another way to push down wages of hard-working folks. Davis-Bacon blocks out-of-town firms from parachuting in with low-paid workers and under-cutting local contractors. It could lead to lower-quality work by less-skilled workers.

Interestingly, if you play the game and only choose to repeal the federal prevailing wage law from the list of tax and spending options, your plan results in a 0% change in federal revenue and a 0% change in federal spending. The game gives you a positive mark if your goal is to shrink government but a negative mark if you goal is to reduce inequality.

Ultimately, your plan gets declined as not helping to fix the budget.

(Read More)