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Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriation Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. LYNCH. I would like to refute the gentleman's last point, especially. I worked for 18 years as an ironworker. I've worked not only in the Massachusetts area, but New York, New Mexico, Louisiana. I worked in Indiana. I worked at a lot of the steel mills. I worked a lot of jobs where Davis-Bacon has been in effect.

What Davis-Bacon does--and the gentleman's amendment would provide--that none of the funds made available to this bill will be available to administer the wage rate requirements of chapter 31 of title 40, which is the Davis-Bacon Act. What Davis-Bacon was meant to do is to prevent the wages in any area of the country and every area of the country from being depressed by bringing in low-wage workers. This was the practice back before the prevailing wage, before Davis-Bacon was in effect. You would have large construction projects, but you'd have unscrupulous contractors who would pay very low wages to their employees, and they would move into an area where the cost of living required those workers to get a decent wage.

And what will happen now if we repeal Davis-Bacon, which is a very, very bad idea, not only for the gentleman's district but every State in the Union, is we will get one group of very low-paid workers, and they will be like locusts. They will go into areas, whether it be Houston, whether it be down in Texas or Louisiana or in the Northeast, we will have low-wage workers go in there and undercut the wages of the workers in those areas. This prevented that practice of undermining the wages of local workers.

The Davis-Bacon wage is established by a study in the gentleman's area. Specifically, they look at the wages for the construction trades. I was an ironworker. They look it at for plumbers, electricians--what is the area wage for that individual worker.

Now I'm sure we can find some workers over in Mexico that will come in and work for less money. That's supported by a lot of people in this body, unbelievably so. Davis-Bacon prevents that from happening. The contractor has to pay the wage for Houston, the wage for Tucson, the wage for New York, the wage for Boston. Those wages are different for each area because of the standard of living and the cost of living in those areas.

This protects workers, whether they're union workers or nonunion workers. And I've worked on Davis-Bacon jobs where there have been nonunion working across from me. I worked at the Shell Oil refinery down in Norco, Louisiana. Half the job was union, half the job was nonunion, because that was the deal. That's how they got enough workers to cover that job.

And I've worked 18 years. I strapped on the work boots every single day for 18 years. I've been a foreman. I've been a general foreman. I've worked on Davis-Bacon jobs. I've worked on many, many jobs. I've seen how this works, and I know the history here and why this law was put into place. This is a good law. It prevents piracy. It prevents undermining the workers in every State in this Union. If you strap on a pair of work boots, I don't care if you're union or nonunion, this is a good bill for you. This protects you.

They tried to repeal it after Katrina in the areas where Katrina affected Mississippi and Louisiana, and the President suspended it for a short while. You know what he had to do? He had to reinstate it because they couldn't get enough workers to come in because the wages were so low they could not get workers in there. So President George Bush repealed his own executive order suspending Davis-Bacon. And when they lifted that, the workers came in and worked. Workers from Louisiana, workers from Mississippi took those jobs.

This is another attack on the working people. This is just blue-collar jobs. If we don't support apprenticeship programs and decent wages and a set of skills in our workers, shame on us, shame on us, shame on us.

Mr. Chair, I rise in strong opposition to the King amendment.

The King amendment seeks to ensure that none of the funds made available through this bill may be made available to administer the wage-rate requirements of subchapter IV of Chapter 31 of title 40, United States Code, more commonly referred to as the Davis-Bacon Act.

The Davis-Bacon Act, enacted in 1931, requires Federal contractors to pay workers the local ``prevailing wage'' on construction projects. Its goal was to outlaw wage exploitation, since public contracts go to the lowest bidder.

We've come a long way since 1931 in terms of workers' rights and workplace safety. But, I believe, if general contractors on Federal jobs have an opportunity to pay a lower wage to their workers and increase their own profit margin, they're going to do it. It doesn't make them bad people, they're businessmen concerned primarily about the bottom line.

In these difficult economic times, when so many workers are unemployed or barely hanging on, it sets a dangerous precedent to waive these important worker protections.

Through the underlying bill the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will build dams, shore up vulnerable coastlines and maintain our navigable waterways. And this range of efforts will create good jobs. It's hard work, but good work for a lot of men and women across the country.

But because more than 20 percent of our construction tradespeople are out of work, there will be opportunity for some of the less scrupulous contractors to exploit this workforce, so desperate to get back on the job.

And waiving Davis-Bacon removes critical worker protections, compromising the work quality on these projects.

American workers deserve the kind of fair wage rates that Davis-Bacon provides, a wage that will lift up their circumstances, provide hope, and get them and our economy back on track. To deprive our workforce of these protections, of these opportunities, is an egregious abrogation of our responsibility as elected leaders.

I urge my colleagues to join me in opposition to this amendment.


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