CommunityPam's House Blend

White House Reinstates Davis-Bacon Act for Katrina Rebuilding

One of the first things Bush did in response to the Gulf Coast devastation from Katrina was to suspend the Davis-Bacon Act for construction and rebuilding. The Act mandates that all companies receiving government contracts must pay the prevailing wage in the area for their labor. Bush wanted it suspended so companies like Halliburton that are handling the rebuilding could pay less than the average wage scale to the workers they hired.

Thankfully, Democratic Representative George Miller of California led a united Democratic front to pressure the president into reinstating the Act. Families hard hit by Katrina, they argued, are the ones most needing the protection of the Act. Not only should local residents be helped with the income from rebuilding and construction jobs, but that income shouldn’t be unfairly reduced just so Halliburton can make another record profit off of the taxpayer’s dime.

Because of the pressure, Bush has reinstated the Davis-Bacon Act. Here’s more from Labor Blog:

Bowing to pressure from a united Democratic front, a small group of members of his own party, the religious community, and the labor movement, President Bush announced today he would reverse the decision he made in September to remove wage protections for construction workers in the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.

After Katrina, the President suspended the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act, which requires federal contractors to pay at least the prevailing wage to construction workers in a local area. The president’s action, which was widely denounced, followed requests from right-wing activists and Republican members of Congress who exploited Katrina to achieve a long-sought ideological agenda item.

Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, led the effort in the House to force Bush to rescind his Gulf Coast wage cut.

“President Bush finally realized that his Gulf Coast wage cut was a bad idea that hurt the workers and their families affected by Katrina,” said Miller. “But let me be clear – the President is backing down today only because he had no other choice.

“The President’s wage cut was just another example of his incompetence as a leader in a time of crisis and of his constant need reward the private agenda’s of his special special-interest friends rather than attend to the needs of all the people affected by this storm.”

The President’s wage cut was facing a congressional showdown as early as next week because of a Joint Resolution Miller recently introduced that would have forced the House to vote by early November on whether or not to allow the wage cut to stand. Miller said that Democratic action – coupled with pressure from some members of the President’s own party – left the President no option but to reverse his own mistake.

Miller said that until the President formally issues a proclamation reversing the Gulf Coast wage cut, he will closely monitor the situation, and remains prepared for a vote on his Joint Resolution if necessary.

Miller also said that the Bush Administration has taken other actions that undermine Gulf Coast workers – actions that it should also reverse. These include suspending affirmative action requirements and safety standards for truck drivers.

“Americans deserve a lot better than the failed leadership our President has shown in the Gulf Coast,” Miller said.

Well said.