Civic Engagement

PREVAILING WAGE

Enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1931, the Davis-Bacon Act has been vital in protecting prevailing wages on federal projects in local areas and promoting high standards for the good of construction workers and their communities. State prevailing wage laws (also known as “little Davis-Bacon acts) provide similar protections on state funded projects. These laws help ensure that construction workers, including BAC members, are paid fair wages.

A wage rate is considered prevailing if more than 50 percent of the workers in a single classification are paid at the same rate. If, for example, 50 percent plus (+) one (1) of the bricklayers included in the survey were paid the BAC wage rate, then this would become the Davis-Bacon Act prevailing wage.

Protecting federal, state and local prevailing wage laws from repeal or dilution by conservative opponents funded by non-union business interests is one of BAC’s highest legislative and political priorities.

RIGHT TO WORK

So-called “right to work” laws – intentionally misnamed by a network of nonunion business interests that have championed their passage – are currently in effect in 24 states. A more accurate name for these measures is “right-to-work-for-less,” because in practice, they have lowered wages, reduced benefits, diminished jobsite safety, and do not guarantee any “rights” that are not already offered under federal law. The average worker in a right-to-work-for-less state earns roughly $5,333 a year less than a worker in free-bargaining states (1).

In addition, states with so-called “right-to-work” laws are:

- More likely to be uninsured
- More likely to have higher poverty and infant mortality rates
- Have a higher rate of workplace deaths - 36% higher than other states
- Spending $3,392 less per pupil in elementary and secondary education

The true goal of these laws isn’t workers’ rights, but busting the union contract. So-called “right to work” laws say unions must represent all eligible employees, whether they pay dues or not. Unions are forced to expend time and members’ dues money to provide union benefits to workers who pay nothing and get all the benefits of union membership.

(1) Average Annual Pay, 2001 from Bureau of Labor Statistics, State average annual pay for 2000 and 2001 and percent change in pay for all covered workers.