It's big news when a regulation receives the most comprehensive review than it has in the past 40 years. That's the case for Davis-Bacon and Related Acts.
To better reflect the needs of workers in the construction industry and planned federal construction investments, on March 22, the DOL announced the publication of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking as it considers updating the regulations that implement the Davis-Bacon Act and Related Acts.
The proposal seeks to speed up prevailing wage updates, creating several efficiencies in the current system and ensuring prevailing wage rates keep up with actual wages. Over time, this would mean higher wages for workers.
“Federal dollars should be used to create good jobs in local communities all across our country,” said Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, in a statement. “These proposed regulations are good for workers, good for building high-quality infrastructure and for ensuring we have a strong construction industry, as we rebuild America.”
There are 71 DBRA laws applicable to federal and federally assisted construction projects that require the payment of locally prevailing wage rates for 1.2 million U.S. construction workers. The requirements currently cover approximately $187 billion in federal spending on construction each year.
The DBRA requirements also protect workers under the unprecedented federal investments in infrastructure across the country. These projects involve clean energy, power and water infrastructure improvements, legacy pollution remediation, and renovation to the nation’s broadband and transportation infrastructures.
Many of the proposed regulatory changes will improve the department’s ability to administer and enforce DBRA labor standards more effectively and efficiently. Proposed changes include:
- Creating several efficiencies in the prevailing wage update system and ensuring prevailing wage rates keep up with actual wages, which over time would mean higher wages for workers.
- Returning to the definition of “prevailing wage” used from 1935 to 1983 to ensure prevailing wages reflect actual wages paid to workers in the local community.
- Periodically updating prevailing wage rates to address out-of-date wage determinations.
- Providing broader authority to adopt state or local wage determinations when certain criteria are met.
- Issuing supplemental rates for key job classifications when no survey data exists.
- Updating the regulatory language to better reflect modern construction practices.
- Strengthening worker protections and enforcement, including debarment and anti-retaliation.
The DBRA’s stated purpose is to ensure employers on federally funded or assisted construction projects pay locally prevailing wages to construction workers and to prevent the unintended consequence of depressing workers’ wages during the government’s extensive construction contracting activity.
“Given recent unprecedented investments in our nation’s infrastructure, this comprehensive regulatory review is necessary to ensure employers on federally funded or assisted construction projects pay fair wages to the workers who build our roads, bridges, federal buildings and energy infrastructure,” said Acting Wage and Hour Division Administrator Jessica Looman, in a statement. “The Davis-Bacon and Related Acts benefit construction workers, their families, their communities and taxpayers by ensuring all contractors can compete on equal footing and by preventing employers who pay workers substandard wages from gaining an unfair competitive advantage.”