Thursday, October 27, 2005

Bringing Back the Bacon

Davis-Bacon, that is. In a gift to the construction industry and the anti-union right wing of the Republican Party, George W. Bush lifted provisions of the law requiring contractors to pay the prevailing local wage in federally funded projects as part of the Katrina recovery efforts. Apparently enough folks on Capitol Hill heard the screams of unions and blue collar workers to force the regime to back off on that stance, according to the Washington Post.

The White House yesterday reversed course and reinstated a key wage protection for workers involved in Hurricane Katrina reconstruction, bowing to pressure from moderate House Republicans who argued that Gulf Coast residents were being left out of the recovery and that the region was becoming a magnet for illegal immigrants.

The Bush administration decided in the days after the hurricane to waive a provision of the Davis-Bacon Act that guarantees construction workers the prevailing local wage when they are paid with federal money. The administration said the waiver on hurricane-related work would save the government money and speed recovery efforts.

The decision immediately was criticized by Democrats and labor unions. It also exposed fault lines in the president's party. Conservatives strongly backed the waiver. But a group of moderate Republican members of Congress -- many from districts in industrial areas populated by blue-collar workers -- lobbied the White House and the congressional leadership for the prevailing-wage provision to be reinstated. In recent weeks, the lawmakers wrote to President Bush, met with Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove and Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, and persuaded House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert to arrange a meeting with Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff.

Yesterday morning, leaders of that group were summoned to the White House, where Card told them that the administration had changed its mind. The prevailing-wage rule is to go back into effect Nov. 8, two months after the suspension. It will not apply retroactively.

The response to the roll-back was instantaneous from both the construction industry (many of whose members were awarded no-bid contracts for the clean-up and reconstruction of the areas devastated by the hurricane)and their allies in Congress, but apparently the more moderate Republicans (many of whom come from strong union states and are facing re-election next year)prevailed.

Although it won't be retroactive, this move will make it possible for local workers in these projects to get back on their feet. The article pointed to some of the difficulties these workers faced:

Gulf Coast workers and businesses have complained that they are being left out of the recovery. While the federal government spends more than $60 billion on recovery, they say that out-of-state companies receive most of the contracts and that many of those firms pay workers less than the prevailing wage -- which is often the union wage.

For example, 75 unionized electricians said they lost their $22-an-hour jobs rebuilding the Belle Chasse Naval Air Station near New Orleans because a Halliburton Co. subcontractor found workers to do the job for less.

The right decision was made this time, although obviously for questionable motives. Still, it's time that the people who suffered the most in the disaster get some assistance, especially since they're willing to work hard for it.


Blogger josh williams said...

Prevailing wage can cost taxpayers (you and I) millions. You have a crane operator, you pay him prevailing wage, you also have the oiler, who makes sure the crane has oil, he makes prevailing wage. For the most part the Unions have gone to the other side.In other words a form of communism. You and I are paying for their prevailing wage. I am in business, I pay people and I treat them well, if they do not work,if they steal, if they lower moral? I fire them. Drives up my unemployment aka (dole) tax.But I have to do this to keep a solid reputation with my paying customers.
I am not saying Halliburton is the right way. I am a small business man, and I know from years of first hand experience, that people do not have a clue as to what I pay in taxes and mental turmoil just keeping my business alive. I have good loyal employees and I have others that have cried foul. They that cry the loudest are the ones in line for the hand outs.
MY KINGDOM for the prevailing wage and benefits! Show me this perfect world in balance and I will sign with m own blood.

10:28 PM  

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