This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) that would have exempted any construction project funded by a military construction and veterans bill from Davis-Bacon Act requirements. (The Davis-Bacon Act requires that all public works projects pay the prevailing wage to workers.) This amendment was offered to legislation providing annual funding for military construction projects and veterans programs.
Amash urge support for his amendment: “…My amendment blocks application of Davis-Bacon to the Military Construction and Veterans' Affairs appropriations bill. There are two main reasons why the House should block Davis-Bacon. First, Davis-Bacon wastes taxpayer dollars on overpriced contracts. A recent study showed that, on average, nationwide, the government-set rate is 22 percent higher than the true market rate. For example, if sheet metal workers in Long Island, New York, are paid $28.79 per hour, while the government-set rate for that area is $45.40, factoring in the cost of materials and other supplies, studies suggest that the federal government overpays for construction contracts by between 10 percent and 15 percent. Second, Davis-Bacon gives an unfair advantage to union employees. Small businesses, many of which are nonunion, lower their prices to compete against larger union firms. The trade-off for nonunion employees is a lower-wage rate but more work. We should not disadvantage nonunion employees who are willing to perform more construction for less money. By eliminating government-mandated wages, we can better allocate resources, increase efficiency, and put hardworking Americans back on the job.”
Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA) opposed the Amash amendment: “Under the prevailing wage laws, contractors are forced to compete on the basis of who can best train, best equip, and best manage a construction crew, not on the basis of who can assemble the cheapest, most exploitable workforce, either locally or through importing labor from outside. The Davis-Bacon Act does not require a union wage; it requires prevailing wage based upon surveys of wages and benefits that are actually paid to various job classifications of construction workers, such as iron workers in a community, without regard to whether they belong to a union or not. According to the Department of Labor, a whopping 72 percent of prevailing wage rates issued in 2000 were based upon nonunion wage rates. A union wage prevails only if the Department of Labor survey determines that the local union wage is paid to more than 50 percent of the workers in that job classification. Now higher wages and skills result in greater productivity and lower cost. It's so much greater among high-wage, high-skill workers that projects that use high-skilled workers and high-paid workers often cost less than those that use the low-wage, low-skilled workers due to repairs, revisions, and lengthy delays.”
The House rejected Amash’s amendment by a vote of 178-232. Voting “yea” were 177 Republicans and 1 Democrat. 178 Democrats and 54 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House rejected an amendment that would have exempted any construction project funded by a military construction and veterans bill from Davis-Bacon Act requirements.