America’s bridges, roads and
tunnels are in a sorry state, desperately in need of major investment, but
Republicans on Capitol Hill are trying to make sure union labor has no part in
rebuilding the country’s infrastructure.
| Syracuse, N.Y., Local 43 member Dave Colton pulls cable under the Ogdensburg Bridge, spanning the St. Lawrence River from Ogdensburg, N.Y., to Prescott, Ontario. Projects receiving federal money could be out of reach for signatory contractors if the GOP’s attack on prevailing wage is successful.
Photo by Rochester Local 86 member Thomas Zielke.
On Jan. 24, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona introduced a bill to suspend the prevailing wage requirements of the Davis-Bacon Act for federal highway spending, a move that would severely hamper union contractors from competing on potentially trillions of dollars of infrastructure investment under consideration in Washington.
Davis-Bacon has ensured that federal dollars were spent on fair wages, creating good jobs for highly-skilled American workers since its passage in 1931.
“Donald Trump promised the people who voted for him that he’d rebuild this country’s infrastructure and create quality jobs for hard-working Americans,” said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. “But his party in Congress is trying to lower wages and hand over tax dollars to underpaid workers who don’t have the training to get the job done right. If Trump is serious about helping the working class, he’ll stop this bill dead in its tracks.”
During the 2016 campaign, a major infrastructure bill was one of the few areas on which both parties agreed. Both President Trump and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer have said the federal government needs to undertake major spending to shore up crumbling bridges and roads, and lists of potential projects are already circulating on Capitol Hill.
The result is that nearly a trillion dollars in federal infrastructure spending, despite still having a few hurdles to overcome, looks closer than it has in decades to becoming a reality.
“These attacks on prevailing wage aren’t anything new,” said Construction Department Director Jim Ross, “but if it becomes law, our contractors would be at a huge disadvantage in the bidding process on these kinds of projects.”
All over the country, he said, inside and outside wiremen are the ones responsible for highway lighting and traffic signals, for powering bridges and installing tunnel ventilation. “Any project that gets U.S. taxpayer dollars is under threat right now,” he said. Numerous studies show that properly-trained union workers provide better value to taxpayers despite earning higher wages because they consistently work more efficiently and produce higher quality results.
And it’s not likely the attacks will stop here. Ross said project labor agreements and prevailing wage on other projects receiving federal money, including schools and hospitals, could find themselves in the crosshairs next.
“It’s on us to make sure these attacks on working people don’t make it out of Congress,” Stephenson said. “I hope everyone will take a few minutes to call or email your representatives in Washington and tell them to stand against this bill.”
Find your representatives and how to contact them at www.whoismyrepresentative.com, and ask them to oppose Senate Bill 195, Sen. Flake’s “TIRE” Act, and any future attacks on fair wages.