Bush Suspends Pay Act In Areas Hit by Storm
By Thomas B. Edsall
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 9, 2005; Page D03
President Bush yesterday suspended application of the federal law governing workers' pay on federal contracts in the Hurricane Katrina-damaged areas of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The action infuriated labor leaders and their Democratic supporters in Congress, who said it will lower wages and make it harder for union contractors to win bids.
The Davis-Bacon Act, passed in 1931 during the Great Depression, sets a minimum pay scale for workers on federal contracts by requiring contractors to pay the prevailing or average pay in the region. Suspension of the act will allow contractors to pay lower wages. Many Republicans have opposed Davis-Bacon, charging that it amounts to a taxpayer subsidy to unions.
AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney sharply criticized the president's suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act.
In a letter to Congress, Bush said he has the power to suspend the law because of the national emergency caused by the hurricane: "I have found that the conditions caused by Hurricane Katrina constitute a 'national emergency.' "
Bush wrote that his decision is justified because Davis-Bacon increases construction costs, and suspension "will result in greater assistance to these devastated communities and will permit the employment of thousands of additional individuals."
Nonsense. Louisiana is a "right-to-work" state, and so union wages are not out of line with the local prevailing wage.
An electrician in New Orleans would receive a wage of $22 an hour, a plumber $17 an hour, to rebuild residences.
Under this act, Bush is allowing wages of $9 an hour! Walmart pays more ($10.35 per hour) to its clerks!