The truth about the Davis-Bacon Act

Letters to the Editor – Opinion
June 25 at 7:42 PM

George F. Will’s hit piece on the Davis-Bacon Act, “To create, destroy this law” [op-ed, June 18], was hardly surprising from a columnist who once wrote “the minimum wage should be the same everywhere: $0.”

We take issue with the absurd myth Mr. Will recycled about the intention of the law. As other right-wing ideologues have done, Mr. Will used an 85-year-old quote from Rep. William Upshaw (D-Ga.) to support his charge of racism but neglected to share the response by Rep. Robert Bacon (R-N.Y.) – one of the act’s namesakes – which refutes Upshaw’s comments and shows the Davis-Bacon Act was meant to address the concern that without any wage standards public construction was driving down wages for both white and black workers.

The truth is that the Davis-Bacon Act simply requires payment of “prevailing” wages and benefits when federal money is used for construction projects. These standards have kept public investment from undermining local standards for decades.

The politicians and policy hacks pushing to repeal Davis-Bacon are eager to distract us with baseless charges because if they reveal their true aim – to eliminate all wage and benefit standards – they will have no support.

Terry O’Sullivan, Washington
The writer is general president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America.

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Democrats, Veterans Continue Battling Possible Prevailing Wage Repeal

GOP Proposal Would Eliminate Prevailing Wage On State-Funded Construction

Tuesday, June 20, 2017, 3:55pm
By Laurel White

Democrats and veterans groups are continuing to fight a repeal of Wisconsin’s prevailing wage laws.

The laws set minimum salary requirements for workers on government-funded construction projects. In 2015, GOP lawmakers repealed those requirements on local projects. This session, they’ve introduced a bill that would extend that to state-funded projects.

At a state Capitol press conference Tuesday, Democratic lawmakers argued the change would lower wages in a field that employs a proportion of veterans.

Matt Bell, an Army veteran and owner of a contracting business in McFarland, said the repeal of prevailing wage would hurt his business.

“If you create a work environment that suppresses wages, drives people from a meaningful career in construction and encourages out of state construction companies to take Wisconsin jobs, you will drive people of out their jobs that they love and deny them the ability to provide for their families,” Bell said.

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Prevailing Wage Repeal Could COST Wisconsin Taxpayers Over $300 Million Per Year

Analysis of studies cited by advocates of prevailing wage repeal highlights massive social costs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 19, 2017
Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Madison: While critics of Wisconsin’s prevailing wage law have long claimed that repeal would save money by cutting the wages of blue-collar construction workers, a Midwest Economic Policy Institute (MEPI) analysis of two reports frequently cited to support the claims of prevailing wage critics shows that repeal could actually cost Wisconsin taxpayers over $300 million each year.

For its study, MEPI examined how construction wage cuts would affect overall state tax revenues and reliance on five different government assistance programs utilizing the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance’s recent claim of a 44% cut, and a 2015 Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau analysis that suggested repeal of prevailing would reduce wages by 14.1%.

“If an entire segment of Wisconsin’s blue-collar workforce faced a wage cut of 14% to 44%, it would mean thousands more Wisconsin workers would be on government assistance, and Wisconsin’s state government would have significantly less tax revenue to pay for these benefits,” said MEPI Policy Director Frank Manzo IV. “Using the wage cut figures promised by the law’s critics, we can assess that prevailing wage repeal would impose a potential social cost to Wisconsin taxpayers of hundreds of millions of dollars each year-without producing any real savings in total project costs.”

The current average wage for skilled construction workers, on which MEPI’s analysis is based, is $51,600 per year. The 44% wage cut claimed by the Wisconsin Taxpayer Alliance would reduce this average to less than $29,000 per year for those employed on public works projects. This would leave affected construction working families of four eligible for well-over $16,000 per year in government subsidized health, food and heating assistance, plus another $5,000 per year in Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC). The reduction in wages would also reduce their state and federal income tax payments by an average of $4,800 per year, for a potential annual social cost of more than $26,000. Similarly, a 14% wage cut would result in a potential social cost of over $17,000 per year for a family of four.

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(Full PDF of Report)

Chowdhury: Repeal of prevailing wage would hurt Wisconsin economy

Abdur Chowdhury
10:17 a.m. CT June 6, 2017

Out-of-state companies received $32 million in contracts for municipal projects in Wisconsin between January and April of this year, up from about $21 million during the same period in 2016. That represents a 53% increase.

Contracts that should be going to Wisconsin companies are now being given away to out-of-state companies from Florida, Kentucky and Missouri. The difference? No prevailing wage protection on municipal projects.

In 2015, the Wisconsin Legislature voted to end prevailing wage in local projects – a provision that took effect this January. Republicans in the Legislature are now considering a full repeal of the state’s prevailing wage law.

This law requires that construction workers on state construction projects be paid the wages and benefits prevailing for similar work in or near the locality in which the construction project is to be performed. The concept arises from the concern that unbridled competition among employers to pay low wages in low-bid public construction environment would lead to a less-skilled and less-productive workforce and to shoddy construction practices and unsafe public buildings and infrastructure.

While the Legislature was debating this issue in 2015, many of us had expressed concern that eliminating the law would cut wages and invite so-called “gypsy contractors” from out of state to bid on Wisconsin projects. Research conducted by Frank Manzo and his co-authors indicated that the amount of construction work that would be leaked to neighboring states would cost Wisconsin 6,700 jobs and $40 million in tax revenue, and reduce economic activity in the state by $1.1 billion. For every dollar of construction value that is completed by an out-of-state contractor, economic activity would decrease by $2.26 in Wisconsin.

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Push for Prevailing Wages at State Transit Hubs Passes Assembly

By Alyana Alfaro * 06/22/17 5:43pm

The New Jersey General Assembly on Thursday passed legislation requiring that subcontracted Newark Liberty Airport, Hoboken Terminal and Newark Penn Station employees be paid prevailing wages, a move that is estimated to bring wages for those employees up to $17.98 per hour according to the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.

The bill, A-4870/S-3226, was sponsored in the Assembly by Democrats including Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) and in the state Senate by Democrats including Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester). It passed the Assembly on Thursday with 51 yes votes, 23 no votes, and one abstention and will now go to the state Senate for consideration. The measure passed without Republican support.

“When you look at Liberty International, it is one of our biggest employers,” said Prieto (D-Hudson) from the Assembly floor prior to the bill being posted for a vote. “When these individuals live near these centers that should be an economic engine for the region, they should be able to be paid fair wage that is put back into the economy.”

The New Jersey minimum wage is currently $8.38 per hour. Subcontracted workers at Newark Airport make $10.20 per hour. Labor groups around the country are pushing for those wages to be boosted to $15 per hour, a figure lower than NJBIA estimates for the prevailing wage bill.

While Democrats in the legislature favor the initiative, the NJBIA says that the sharp wage boost would “substantially increase the costs for business, which will then be passed along to consumers.” While they estimate the $17.98 prevailing wage for these workers under the legislation, NJBIA says that mandated sick leave, health insurance and paid vacation days would have the same effect as boosting the minimum wage to $22.25 an hour. Michele Siekerka, President and CEO of NJBIA, said that by including such “expensive fringe benefits” as part of the legislation, the bill also eliminates collective bargaining and contract negotiation.

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AG: Company failed to pay correct wages at Bresnahan, other public works jobs

Bresnahan School one of public works projects involved

Staff Reports
July 13, 2017

NEWBURYPORT – A New Hampshire construction company was fined more than $160,000 in restitution and penalties for failing to properly pay employees on nine public works projects, including Bresnahan Elementary School, the attorney general said Wednesday.

Attorney General Maura Healey’s office issued three citations against Northeast Partition Specialties Inc. and owner Fredrick Breth for their failure to pay the prevailing wage, pay overtime and submit accurate certified payroll records for the projects done in 2014-15.

“Companies that do business in Massachusetts must play by the rules,” Healey said. “Prevailing wage laws are intended to ensure a level playing field for companies and provide a real, living wage to workers.”

Northeast is a small, privately held corporation in Manchester, New Hampshire.
The Attorney General’s Office began an investigation of the company after the Fair Labor Division received a complaint from a former employee claiming he was not paid the prevailing wage rate for two public works projects between April 2015 and September 2015.

The investigation found that Northeast failed to pay the proper prevailing wage rate to 27 employees for these public works projects: Staff Sergeant James J. Hill School, Revere; Bresnahan Elementary School, Newburyport; the Acushnet police facility; the Chelmsford Fire Department; Dracut Town Hall; the Sudbury Police Department; Park Avenue Elementary, Webster; West Bridgewater Middle-Senior High School; and the Westborough Fire Department.

Under the Massachusetts Prevailing Wage Law, contractors and subcontractors working on public projects must pay their employees a special minimum wage, which is based on the occupational classification for the type of work the employees perform.

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Construction workers walk off Omni Louisville site protesting wage discrepancy

By CAITLIN BOWLING
May 24, 2017 12:53 pm

 

Some of the construction workers who are helping erect the more than $320 million Omni Louisville hotel and luxury apartments walked off the site this morning.

Roughly 100 workers who have been installing metal studs and hanging drywall at the Omni claim that they are being paid roughly $20 less an hour compared with other construction workers on the job, WDRB News first reported.

Marco Cruz, one of the workers who walked off the construction site, told Insider that he is not so much upset that they are making less than other workers as he is troubled by the fact that they were told they’d earn $24 an hour but are only receiving $17 to $20 an hour.

“I saw that that’s not right,” he said. “We feel like they are taking advantage of us.”

Louisville labor attorney Dave Suetholz told Insider in a phone interview that the construction workers, most of whom are Hispanic immigrants, were told that their wages were lowered because Gov. Matt Bevin repealed Kentucky’s prevailing wage statute this year.

Suetholz, an attorney with Kircher, Suetholz & Associates PSC, argued that construction on the Omni “started before the repeal of the prevailing wage,” making the argument invalid.

“Their employer has lied to them,” he said. “It’s all immigrant workers. They are the only ones being paid lower rates. …Just on the face, it looks very bad.”

The prevailing wage law required construction workers to be paid a wage and receive benefits comparable to what workers receive on average construction sites in the area. It applied to public construction projects, according to an article by Stites & Harbison attorney Joseph L. Hardesty.

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Ohio House eyes prevailing wage law for public works projects

By Marc Kovac, staff writer
Published: May 9, 2017 3:50 PM

COLUMBUS – The Ohio House launched hearings Tuesday on legislation that would give local communities discretion on whether to follow the state’s prevailing wage law on public works projects.

Backers of HB 163 and companion legislation in the Ohio Senate say the proposal stops well short of an outright repeal, as has been attempted in the legislature in past sessions.

Instead, Rep. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) said, it would give affected local governing authorities the power opt out of “state-mandated wage” requirements.

But Democrats on the Economic Development, Commerce and Labor Committee voiced concern about the bill Tuesday. Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton) questioned whether the bill would lead to fewer jobs, lower wages and more people needing public assistance.

“Is this bill worth losing billions of economic activity…?” he asked.

And Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) asked whether it would be more appropriate to increase local government funding.

Union groups also do not support the change – according to the Ohio State Building & Construction Trades Council, Ohio’s prevailing wage law “protects and preserves local area wages on federal and state construction projects. It guarantees that workers are paid fairly.”

Matt Szollosi, executive director of the Affiliated Construction Trades of Ohio, who attended Tuesday’s hearing, said his group is “adamantly opposed” to the legislation.

“Based on data that we have from a recent study that was commissioned and completed by professors at Kent State University, Bowling Green State University and Colorado State University, a severe weakening or repeal of prevailing wage would result in construction workers’ incomes being reduced by 16 percent and would push a significant percentage of construction workers below poverty level and onto public assistance,” he said.

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Video: Indiana GOP Leader Admits Repealing Prevailing Wage ‘Hasn’t Saved a Penny’

With Senate Committee Set to Vote on Repeal Bill, April 24 Video Debunks Prevailing Wage Supporters’ Claims about Savings
PRESS RELEASE · MAY 2, 2017
MEDIA CONTACT | MIKE BROWNE
DEPUTY DIRECTOR

MADISON, Wis. – With the Republican-controlled Senate Labor Regulatory Reform Committee poised Wednesday morning to vote for a misguided repeal of prevailing wage laws for public works projects, video has surfaced from a forum April 24 in Milwaukee where Republican Indiana House Assistant Majority Leader Ed Soliday angrily reveals that similar legislation passed in Indiana which went into effect in 2015 “hasn’t saved a penny.”

“We got rid of prevailing wage and so far it hasn’t saved a penny,” Soliday says during the question and answer session last week hosted by the Wisconsin Transportation Development Association in Milwaukee. “Probably the people most upset with us repealing [prevailing] wage were the locals. Because the locals, quite frankly, like to pay local contractors and they like local contractors to go to the dentist in their own town.”

One comprehensive analysis showed repealing Wisconsin’s prevailing wage laws will result in a projected $500 million in construction value being completed by out-of-state contractors on an annual basis and a yearly total of over $1.2 billion being lost due to reduced economic activity. A second analysis revealed 885 public construction jobs left Indiana after repeal of prevailing wage and 770 jobs popped up across the border in Kentucky.

One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross said he “wasn’t surprised the Wisconsin Republicans are using lies and deception to level yet another attack on Wisconsin workers.” Ross said the list of Republican co-authors on the bill was “a who’s who of Wisconsin’s anti-worker extremists.”

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(See a Copy of Video Here)

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Arrest Of Public Works Contractor Charged With Wage Theft Of Nearly $700K

Defendant Allegedly Failed To Pay $691,040 In Prevailing Wages And Benefits To Ten Workers Performing Construction On Bronx Public Schools.

BY LONG ISLAND NEWS & PR – PUBLISHED: MAY 03 2017

New York, NY – May 3, 2017 – Today, Attorney General Eric T. Schneideman and New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer announced the arrest of contractor Vickram Mangru on charges that he underpaid wages and benefits to workers on a publicly-funded New York City construction project. The arrest is part of an ongoing investigation into widespread allegations of prevailing wage theft at New York City public works projects.

Contracted to perform work on several New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) public schools in the Bronx between December 2012 and April 2014, Mangru – while doing business as Vick Construction out of Valley Stream, New York -was charged with allegedly cheating six workers out of $301,683 in wages. Vick Construction and Mangru had previously been debarred and banned for a five-year period from performing public work projects by the New York City Comptroller’s Office for failing to pay proper prevailing wages to workers. On December 31, 2013, Mangru entered into a settlement agreement, admitting he underpaid workers by $34,347 in prevailing wages and supplements.

Undeterred, Mangru allegedly continued to operate in several public schools and continued to pay well below proper prevailing wage rates, forming AVM Construction in January 2014. AVM Construction was purportedly owned by Mangru’s son Ravi Mangru and his wife Gayatri Mangru, who both claimed to be the company’s president. However, according to workers, Mangru ran the day to day operations of AVM Construction, including directly supervising the work and paying employees.

Between April 2014 and February 2015, Mangru is alleged to have continued working on multiple NYCDOE school projects in the Bronx. An investigation determined that Mangru, now operating under the umbrella of AVM Construction, allegedly failed to pay proper prevailing wages to ten workers on those school projects by an additional $389,357 during the ten-month period.

In total, Mangru allegedly failed to pay $691,040 in prevailing wages and benefits to ten workers, from December 2012 to February 2015.

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