In the wee hours of the morning on February 19th, the U.S. House of Representatives did the unthinkable, achieving bipartisan defeats of two divisive amendments, one designed to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act and the other designed to deny funds for all federal Project Labor Agreements. This is arguably the most triumphant exhibition of bipartisan Congressional action on behalf of workers that the nation has witnessed since November, if not since Obama took office.
According to a statement by Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) President, Mark Ayers, these two votes prove that, “the fundamental, underlying principles that define both prevailing wage laws and project labor agreements are, indeed, mainstream American values.”
While partisan war raged in Wisconsin, with a Republican Governor refusing to bend and Senate Democrats reluctant to break, the 112th Congress, widely viewed as the most fiscally conservative in over 50 years, quietly fought off the Davis-Bacon repeal amendment, sponsored by Congressman Steve King (R-IA). 48 Republicans joined 185 Democrats in soundly opposing the measure by a vote of 189-233. A roll call of the Davis-Bacon vote can be viewed HERE. Recently, strong bipartisan support for the Davis Bacon Act was displayed in the Senate.
The second union victory, the defeat of an anti-PLA amendment, was achieved through a tie vote of 210-210. 26 Republicans joined 184 Democrats in turning away the Frank Guinta (R-NH) sponsored amendment. A roll call of the PLA vote can be viewed HERE.
A broad range of construction owners, contractors and employee organizations argue that Project Labor Agreements are the most surefire way to promote workforce development, safety and efficiencies on construction projects.
BCTD Chief of Staff and former labor advisor to Hillary Clinton, Mike Monroe, echoed Ayers’ sentiment that these bipartisan victories are the policy embodiment of necessary centrism representing the real American mainstream:
“It is my sincere hope that in the middle of the night, we have demonstrated that the rational center is alive and well. For decades, Davis-Bacon and PLAs have put people to work while fueling local economies. We must now build upon this and work together to promote similar models of progress in other policy initiatives.”
Monroe voiced his concern with recent Congressional propensity for symbolic, rhetorical behavior:
“Political attacks are not feeding our families. We need lawmakers to take note that there is an alternative. We do not need to spend needless time waging losing political battles that seek only to divide, rather than unite us as a nation.”
Both Davis-Bacon (born in 1931) and Project Labor Agreements (which date back to the Grand Coulee Dam of the late 1930s) seem to be in a revolving policy door, facing review every political cycle. PLAs, in particular, face constant state battles as well. It is likely that this national achievement will influence those state debates.
Monroe stresses the importance of recognizing the power of these measures, as evidenced by vote after vote:
“Regardless of who retains majorities in Congress, these matters of public policy are settled, and have been for some time now, by large bipartisan majorities.”