Thursday, March 4, 2021

Building trades and service unions have expressed support for the Biden administration’s focus on enforcing the Davis-Bacon Act, which covers public construction projects and the McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act, which applies to government service contracts which include food, security and janitorial work. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who is waiting for a final Senate vote on his nomination to be the United States Labor Secretary promised, “I will do everything I can to make sure that Davis-Bacon’s enforced.”

The Biden Department of Labor (“DOL”) has already started to focus on enforcement of prevailing wage. Acting wage and hour administrator, Jessica Looman is the former executive director of the Minnesota Building and Trades Council with experience advocating for wage enforcement for construction workers. This effort reverses the trend from the Trump era when the DOL gutted its Wage and Hour Division (“WHD”) and placed limits on regional offices’ ability to enforce government contract law. The overall headcount for investigators at the end of January 2021 was 794 investigators, down from more than 1,000 field enforcers during the Obama presidency. The Trump DOL often ignored violations of prevailing wage and benefits consistent with what similar workers in the same geographic area receive. 

The enforcement of prevailing wage is a major focus for organized labor as they prepare for a potential federal infrastructure bill. Eric Dean, the general president of the Iron Workers International Union who attended a meeting with President Joe Biden on February 17 said, “we just need a level of fairness on behalf of workers, and the Department of Labor using its enforcement mechanisms to enforce the existing standards is a welcomed sign.”


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