Bush reinstates Davis-Bacon Act

President Bush reinstated the Davis-Bacon Act Nov. 3 in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. The law that requires employers to pay locally prevailing wages to construction workers taking part in federally financed projects had been suspended almost two months.

After a group of pro-labor Republicans discussed the issue with White House chief of staff Andrew Card last week, the administration promised to restore the act on Nov. 8, according to the Associated Press. Bush’s signature came five days ahead of schedule.

The Davis-Bacon act, a 1931 statute, established the requirement for paying “prevailing wages” on public works projects. Under the act, prevailing wages, which are usually similar to the pay scales in local union contracts, must be paid on all federally funded construction contracts in excess of $2,000.

President Bush had said that the suspension of the act would reduce the federal government’s cost of providing assistance to areas damaged by Hurricane Katrina. He suspended the Davis-Bacon Act Sept. 8, and, unlike the prior three suspensions in the act’s history, didn’t give a date for when it would be reinstated.

Critics and union leaders said the suspension would result in lower pay for workers. Democrats in the House of Representatives and Senate had introduced legislation to overturn the suspension.

But Kirk Pickerel, president and chief executive of the Associated Builders and Contractors, said the Gulf region would have been better served by leaving the suspension in place for a longer period of time. “As a result of the administration’s action, our members were able to act swiftly to begin the reconstruction effort,” he said. “ABC members were able to hire local displaced workers quickly, helping those workers rebuild their lives.”