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President Restores Davis-Bacon To
Katrina-Stricken Areas

October 28, 2005

Public pressure from union members, worker advocates and lawmakers in both parties has forced President Bush to announce his intention to rescind his September 8 suspension of the Davis-Bacon wage rules in parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.   Union members rebuilding the storm-torn region will be paid prevailing wages starting on November 8.

“It was fundamentally wrong for the Bush administration to hit workers when they were down by slashing wages, exacerbating the very poverty that the hurricanes exposed,” said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.   “Workers deserve prevailing wage protections, which guarantee a living wage, especially for work done with America’s tax dollars.”

Mounting bipartisan pressure from Congress played a key role in Bush’s reversal.   Every Democratic lawmaker in the House of Representatives had signed on to a bill in favor of overturning the president’s proclamation.   Rep. George Miller (D- Calif.) was planning to invoke a little-known resolution under the 1976 National Emergencies Act, which provides for fast track action by Congress when the president unilaterally suspends a law, as he did via executive order.  

Although thousands of IBEW members are playing a vital role in rebuilding the Gulf Coast, the Davis-Bacon suspension hurt many.   New Orleans Local 130 members were yanked off a prevailing wage project shortly after the Davis-Bacon suspension.   Seventy-five workers from St. Bernard’s Parish, the Lower Ninth Ward and the Lake Charles lost out to nonunion workers brought in from out of state after less than three weeks on the job.   (Click here for more...)

“Refusing to retreat from his callous error, the president found himself trapped in a box constructed by a unified Democratic party in the House of Representatives and a small group of Republicans,” Miller said in a timeline of the events.   “The president had nowhere to turn.   The President’s ignominious Gulf Coast wage cut has been overturned.”

A Congressional Research Service report released in October concluded that the Davis-Bacon wage rule suspension does not ensure reconstruction costs are lowered.   But Republicans emboldened by the president’s actions have introduced their own bill that would automatically trigger a wage law suspension when the president declares a disaster.