House dumps GOP anti-construction worker scheme, again
January prevailing wage rally in Michigan. | North American Building Trades Unions, Facebook.

WASHINGTON (PAI)—In what is a perennial battle, a bipartisan coalition of representatives once again defeated right wing Republican Steve King’s scheme to cut construction workers’ pay by dumping the Davis-Bacon Act.

The 172-243 vote came during debate April 26 on legislation renewing the Federal Aviation Administration for another several years. Workers picked up another win on that measure when lobbying by all but one of the unions representing airline workers forced panel chairman Bud Shuster, R-Pa., to dump his plan to privatize the U.S. air traffic control system.

Privatization would have put the system under a supposedly non-partisan board dominated by the airlines. It also would eliminate current worker protections, the anti-privatization unions – including the Communications Workers, the Teamsters and others – said.

Only the National Air Traffic Controllers Association backed privatization. It claimed Shuster kept the worker protections in the new FAA bill, HR4. The House later passed the bill. The AFL-CIO supported the final version.

King tried to take out the construction workers’ pay by his perennial amendment, saying the Davis-Bacon Act would not apply to airport construction. Since the federal government, through ticket taxes, funds most airport construction, that would have cut the wages of any workers toiling on such projects.

Davis-Bacon was introduced and approved by Republicans in the depths of the Great Depression, in 1931. It mandates contractors on all federally funded construction pay locally prevailing wages, set by Labor Department surveys, to their workers.

King keeps screaming that really means union wages, but DOL points out it often doesn’t, since its wage surveys include both union and non-union contractors. This time, King trotted out an anti-worker letter from right-wing GOP heavyweight Grover Norquist to bolster his case. It didn’t work.

“This is about this desire to engage in this race to the bottom to pay working families less money,” retorted Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich. “Coming from a community like Flint, Saginaw, Bay City, where we have seen continuing and significant loss of income by working people, we have a chance to say to the American people that when it is your tax dollars being spent, we are not going to use them to undermine the ability of a family to have a decent wage.”

Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades, told his legislative conference, which occurred before King’s latest attack on Davis-Bacon, that “we engage lawmakers” of both parties “to ensure our tax dollars are not used to undermine standards or promote a race to the bottom.”

“The battles aren’t going away – if long-term victories, economic opportunities and retirement security is what we seek,” he added.

“Bipartisan political engagement is all the more important, particularly when misguided politicians in some states look to undermine long fought health, safety and wage standards for the construction industry.”

“Together, we can effectively bring an end to the ‘race to the bottom’ that has devastated countless American workers and their families. Together, we can protect prevailing wage standards, promote fair contracting, and expand the use of project labor agreements.”


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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