Sep 25, 2015
Davis-Bacon: A Disgraceful Labor Law Ripe for Repeal
Post by Freedom Partners
Freedom Partners Senior Policy Adviser Andy Koenig explains in today’s edition of The Wall Street Journal why it’s time to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act, an 84-year-old law that makes federal construction projects more expensive for taxpayers. Read the full op-ed.
A Disgraceful Labor Law Ripe for Repeal
The ‘prevailing wage’ rule for federal projects is rooted in bigotry and still hurts minorities today.
Scott Walker has dropped out of the Republican presidential race, but many of his ideas still deserve time in the spotlight. One such proposal from the Wisconsin governor is an idea too wonkish for the press corps but too good to pass up for the U.S. economy.
He vowed, if elected, to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act, an 84-year-old law that makes federal construction projects more expensive for taxpayers. This proposal is so worthwhile that Congress should consider it when the Highway Trust Fund comes up for debate.
Davis-Bacon has one of the most despicable back stories of any law on the federal books. When it passed in 1931, organized labor was upset that contractors were ignoring its members in favor of more affordable employees, especially minorities.
William Green, then president of the American Federation of Labor—half of the modern AFL-CIO—testified before Congress that “colored labor is being brought in to demoralize wage rates.” New York Rep. Robert Bacon, one of the act’s sponsors, was incensed at an Alabama contractor employing African-Americans to build a hospital in his district.
Despite this disturbing history, Davis-Bacon is still beloved by unions and their allies in Congress. No wonder: It mandates that private contractors pay “prevailing wages”—typically the union wage in any given area—on all federal construction projects that cost more than $2,000….