Herrera Beutler, McMorris Rodgers vote to repeal construction wage standards
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sept. 8, 2017) — As the U.S. House of Representatives has been voting this week on appropriations bills to keep the federal government running, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has been attempting to amend every piece of legislation to undo Davis-Bacon protections that ensure fair prevailing wages are paid on publicly funded construction projects.
Although King’s efforts to cut wages have been unsuccessful, they have been supported by Washington Republican Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Both voted multiple times (roll calls here, here and here) in favor of King’s amendments to take away prevailing wage standards. Every Democratic member from Washington state — and in fact, in the entire country — voted “no,” as did Washington GOP Reps. Dan Newhouse and Dave Reichert.
In the wee hours of Thursday morning Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-6th) rose to speak out against King’s attack on wages:
“Davis Bacon is about embracing the premise that when we use taxpayer dollars to build a project, it’s not just about building that project. It’s about building the middle class,” Kilmer said.
Each vote on King’s amendments failed 173-240, with 54 Republicans siding with all Democrats in voting “no.”
Prevailing wage standards are a minimum wage for skilled construction work on publicly funded projects — including bridges, roads, water projects, tunnels, pipelines, municipal buildings, courthouses, schools and libraries. It is a market determination based on government surveys of the average pay rate (wages, fringe benefits, training contributions) for each construction craft in a geographic area. These standards are intended not only promote a level playing field for local businesses, but to support the training programs needed to prepare local workers for careers in the skilled crafts.
Research consistently shows that prevailing wage standards lead to better economic and industry outcomes — including more local jobs, less poverty, and safer, more efficient and productive worksites — with no significant impact on total project costs.
By voting to repeal the standards, Herrera Beutler and McMorris Rodgers are siding with one of the most virulently anti-labor and racist members of Congress. King has espoused racist, white nationalist views, recently tweeting that “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”
King’s policy agenda reflects those white nationalist views. He is also the author of the federal bill that would impose a so-called “right-to-work” scheme nationally, which would be devastating to our country’s economy and would hit workers, especially people of color, square in the pocketbook. Right-to-work and other such anti-union laws have racist origins in the quest for super-exploited labor.