The federal prevailing wage law is known as the Davis-Bacon Act and many states have prevailing wage laws of their own. These laws are the single most important tool we have for protecting ironworker wages. Under Davis-Bacon and similar prevailing wage laws, contractors are required to pay fair wages on construction projects that receive government funding. Prevailing wage laws ensure that taxpayer money is used to fund safe, quality work and isn’t used to take advantage of workers.
Prevailing wage laws provide a level playing field for union contractors. Without these laws, governments award construction contracts to exploitative companies who save money by underpaying workers and skimping on safety. This race to the bottom drives down industry standards across the country and devastates ironworker wages.
Anti-union interest groups spend millions of dollars every year spreading misinformation and working behind the scenes to repeal prevailing wage protections. Rather than pay workers a living wage, these contractors prefer to use their profits to influence our political system to pass laws that hurt working families—like repealing prevailing wage. As a result, several states have repealed their prevailing wage laws over the past decade.
These attacks have led to a decline in construction wages and construction wages adjusted for inflation are now lower than they were in 1970. Construction workers in states without prevailing wage laws make 21% less on state-funded projects. In Indiana, for instance, construction wages have fallen by 8.5% since the state repealed its prevailing wage law in 2015.
Every year, anti-union members of Congress try to repeal or weaken the Davis-Bacon Act. Our defense is a group of pro-building trades Republicans who vote with us on this issue. Without their support, federal prevailing wage would have been dismantled years ago.
Today, we have opportunities to go on the offensive with prevailing wage and other labor standards. Nevada restored prevailing wage to school projects after we elected our allies to office. Local unions in both red and blue states have won apprenticeship utilization and local hire ordinances in cities and counties.
Now is the time. With President Joe Biden in the White House, we must act to strengthen and expand Davis-Bacon to cover more government projects. Now is the time to add new labor standards to the mix and protect working people in every state.
To fight for better labor standards on infrastructure and energy, click on this Action Alert.