Legislative & Political

Davis-Bacon Law: Protecting Paychecks and Building Stronger Communities

Journal: Issue 3 - 2017





Federal Davis-Bacon law mandates payment of locally prevailing wages on projects funded by the federal government. In addition, there are a number of states that have “Little Davis-Bacon Acts” or state prevailing wage mandates. Davis-Bacon laws help prevent contractors working on government financed projects from undermining a local area’s wages and living standards. Where unions are strong, the prevailing wage is likely to be close to what a local union construction worker makes. Where unions are not strong, the prevailing wage is likely to be less than what union workers earn. In short, the federal Davis-Bacon Act protects workers’ paychecks and helps ensure that federal contractors pay a fair wage for an honest day’s work.

Here are the facts about prevailing wage laws:

  • Prevailing wage laws level the playing-field for contractors, preventing a race to the bottom by cutting wages.
  • Prevailing wages are not the union rates; rather it is the area’s prevailing wage rate determined by the Department of Labor after examining both union and nonunion pay.
  • Because prevailing wages are a reflection of the typical construction pay in a locality, Davis-Bacon helps maintain the existing standard-of-living for any given locality.
  • Wages paid to local workers stay in the community while a greater percentage of wages paid to imported workers are spent outside the local area. The taxes paid on Davis-Bacon wages support schools, public services such as those provided by police and firefighters, and a host of other essential community-based programs.  
  • By using the area-standard prevailing wage rate, Davis-Bacon offers lifelong careers that provide fair pay and benefits to the local workforce, including the unemployed, underemployed, veterans and minorities.

Despite how much Davis-Bacon helps communities, greedy special interests are attempting to repeal state prevailing wage laws and change the way that federal Davis-Bacon rates are calculated.  


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