This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) that would have exempted any construction project funded by a Homeland Security bill from Davis-Bacon Act requirements. (The Davis-Bacon Act requires that all public works projects pay the locally prevailing wage to workers. The Labor Department calculates each metro area’s prevailing wage in the following manner: “We [the Labor Department] first determine if more than 50 percent of the workers in a single classification [of worker] are paid the union wage rate or the same wage rate. If so, then the union or same wage rate prevails for that classification. If not, a weighted average wage rate is calculated.”) This amendment was offered to legislation providing annual funding for Homeland Security Department (DHS) programs.
Gosar urged support for his amendment: “As members of Congress, we are stewards of the public treasury. We have an obligation to spend taxpayer money wisely. The government does not earn money. The government does not generate wealth. The government takes money from those who work hard for a living. In order to justify that act, we have an obligation at a minimum to spend this money wisely. The Davis-Bacon Act adds unnecessary costs. Research shows that the Davis-Bacon Act imposes costs that average 22 percent above market wages. This is unacceptable. Every dollar wasted is a dollar we can't use on other projects. In most cities, the Davis-Bacon Act imposes wages that bear no resemblance to prevailing market wages. In some cities, the rates are more than double the market wages. I ask for everyone's support in stopping this wasteful use in taxpayer money.”
Rep. David Price (D-NC) opposed the amendment: “Davis-Bacon is a pretty simple concept and a fair one. It requires that workers on federally funded construction projects be paid no less than the wages paid in the community for similar work. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the differences in labor costs that this makes are insignificant. Average labor costs, including benefits and payroll taxes, are roughly one-quarter of construction costs. Thus, if there's an increase in overall contract costs due to higher wages, it likely would be modest to the point in many cases of being virtually undetectable. And in fact, Davis-Bacon, in ensuring that fair wages attract skilled workers, this might actually mean that the work is completed at a higher quality and in less time. This amendment flouts the basic concept of wage fairness. At the exact time we're trying to get people back to work across the country, is this House going to vote to drive down the wages of workers who do business with the government on the theory that it might cost a little less money on construction projects?”
The House rejected this amendment by a vote of 183-234. Voting “yea” were 182 Republicans and 1 Democrat. 182 Democrats and 52 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House rejected an amendment that would have exempted any construction project funded by a Homeland Security bill from Davis-Bacon Act requirements.