Biden Administration Plan Would Raise Wages on Federal Projects

A labor department plan to strengthen federal prevailing wage rules and enforcement under the Davis-Bacon Act would put more money in the pockets of an estimated 1.2 million U.S. construction workers.


Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said the changes would “help us make sure our skilled workers and wages can’t be undercut” and are especially timely as projects funded by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law surge nationwide.


“Federal dollars should be used to create good jobs in local communities all across our country,” Walsh said. “These proposed regulations are good for workers, good for building high-quality infrastructure and for ensuring we have a strong construction industry as we rebuild America.”


The 1931 law, signed by President Herbert Hoover, was weakened by a Reagan-era overhaul 40 years ago. Most notably, it reduced the rate paid to workers on federally funded construction projects by changing how local prevailing wages are calculated.


The DOL wants to restore the original formula and review it more frequently so that rates set for federal contractors continue to align with local construction wages.


The update includes anti-retaliation language to protect workers who raise concerns about payment practices from being fired or discriminated against. There are also new strategies for recovering back pay.


The long-sought revisions are welcome news to the IBEW and its building trades partners.


“The proposed updates 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,” IBEW President Lonnie R. Stephenson said.


The DOL, which has been setting a record pace for pro-worker initiatives during the Biden administration, made its proposal public on March 11.


“Our members are the nation’s best-trained, most highly skilled construction workers and for 40 years, the law has let federal contractors get away with paying them less than they deserve, along with their building trades brothers and sisters,” said Austin Keyser, assistant to the international president for government affairs.


Click here for more on this important update to Davis-Bacon.

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