Sources: Associated Builders and Contractors, Washington, D.C.; CP staff
Capping a 28-month rulemaking process, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a final rule, Updating the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts Regulations, which revises prevailing wage calculations and increases paperwork for contractors on federal and federally assisted construction projects.
“This is yet another handout to organized labor on the backs of taxpayers, small businesses and the free market,” says Associated Builders and Contractors Vice President of Regulatory, Labor and State Affairs Ben Brubeck. “Unfortunately, the DOL’s final rule disregards the feedback of ABC contractors, construction industry stakeholders and thousands of small businesses urging the withdrawal of this unnecessary, costly and burdensome regulation. Instead, the DOL is moving forward with dramatic changes to prevailing wage regulations, reversing much-needed reforms that were established nearly 40 years ago, and unlawfully increasing the regulatory burden on small businesses, new industries and public works projects.”
“With this final rule, the DOL has abandoned any possibility of instituting commonsense reforms to Davis-Bacon regulations to ensure accurate and prompt prevailing wage determinations while providing the regulated community with the clarity needed to deliver high-quality projects at an affordable cost to taxpayers,” he adds. “Instead, the rule makes it much more likely that the DOL will adopt union wage scales at the prevailing wage at a greater frequency than in current practice, which already adopts union wage scales at improbable rates considering just 11.7 percent of the construction industry is unionized. ABC will now be forced to take appropriate action to address the numerous illegal provisions of the final rule and protect our members, and ultimately hard-working taxpayers, from the harmful impacts of this regulation.”
The 1931 Davis-Bacon Act and related regulations require contractors and subcontractors that perform work on federal and federally funded construction projects of $2,000 or more to pay a government-determined prevailing wage and benefit rate on an hourly basis to on-site construction workers. According to the DOL rulemaking, the Davis-Bacon Act and 71 active Related Acts collectively apply to an estimated $217 billion in federal and federally assisted construction spending per year—about 63 percent of all government construction put in place—and provide government-determined wage rates for an estimated 1.2 million U.S. construction workers.
“The final rule comes in the midst of challenging economic conditions facing the construction industry, including high materials costs and a skilled labor shortage of more than half a million in 2023,” Brubeck concludes. “The onerous new requirements and artificial inflation of construction costs imposed by this rule will only exacerbate these headwinds and undermine taxpayer investments in infrastructure.”