What is the Davis Bacon Act?
The Davis–Bacon Act of 1931 is a United States federal law that establishes the requirement for paying the local prevailing wages on public works projects for laborers and mechanics. The Davis Bacon Act applies to “contractors and subcontractors working on federally funded or assisted contracts in excess of $2,000 for the construction, alteration, or repair (including painting and decorating) of public buildings or public works”.
The act is named after its sponsors, James J. Davis, a Senator from Pennsylvania and a former Secretary of Labor under three presidents, and Representative Robert L. Bacon of Long Island, New York. The Davis–Bacon Act was created and signed into law on March 3, 1931.
The Carter Administration’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and it’s (OFPP) had formed a task force to review DBA and the Services Contract Act. They published new regulations just as they were leaving office. The Reagan Administration froze all pending regulations in order to review them, and then issued its own set of regulations in 1982. These consisted of five changes:
(1) Setting the threshold for how much of the workforce must be paid a common wage for that wage to become the “prevailing wage” at 50% (previously 30%);
(2) Strictly limiting the importation of urban rates for projects in rural areas;
(3) Limiting the use of wages paid on other DBA-covered federal projects in the determination of prevailing rates to prevent bias in the base rate;
(4) Expanding the potential use of unskilled “helpers” on federal construction; and
(5) Eliminating the weekly payroll report requirements of the Copeland “Anti-kickback” Act of 1934, opting instead to require reports only in support of enforcement actions. These rules were challenged in Building and Construction Trades’ Department. AFL-CIO v. Donovan, 712 F.2d 611 (D.C. Cir. 1983).
Of the five changes, all were eventually upheld except for the change in reporting requirements.
In addition to these changes, DBA prevailing wage principles have been included in more than 50 federal statutes.
In September 2013, the United States House of Representatives passed the Streamlining Claims Processing for Federal Contractor Employees Act (H.R. 2747; 113th Congress). This bill, if it becomes law, would amend the Davis–Bacon Act by transferring authority from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to the United States Department of Labor for processing claims for wages due to laborers and mechanics hired by contractors on public works projects.
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