Comment Period Begins for Davis-Bacon Reforms

Proposed revisions to the law would alter how the prevailing wage for public construction works is determined and bring standards more in line with the intent of the original law as well as make needed reforms to make the application of the law more efficient and enforceable.

The Department of Labor is opening a 60-day comment period regarding a proposed revision to the Davis-Bacon Act. Initially passed in 1931, the Act established the standard of paying local prevailing wages to workers employed on government construction projects with values exceeding $2,000. If implemented, the rules for determining prevailing rates would revert to those used prior to the changes the Reagan administration installed over the recommendations of union contractors' lobbying and legal protests. For decades the process identified prevailing as: (1) any wage rate paid to most workers. (2) if there is no wage rate paid to most workers, then the wage rate paid to the most significant number of workers, provided it is paid to at least 30 percent of workers (i.e., the so-called "30-percent rule"); and (3) if the 30-percent rule is not met, DOL would use the weighted average rate. DOL asserts this reform is essential "to ensure prevailing wages reflect actual wages paid to workers in the local community."

Other notable reforms contained in the proposed rule change include:

  • Periodically updating prevailing wage rates to address out-of-date wage determinations.
  • Providing broader authority to adopt state or local wage determinations when specific criteria are met.
  • Issuing supplemental rates for key job classifications when no survey data exists.
  • Updating the regulatory language to reflect modern construction practices better.
  • Strengthening worker protections and enforcement, including debarment and anti-retaliation.

Earlier this month, SMACNA applauded this effort to revise the Davis-Bacon act, believing that the revisions would significantly "encourage employers to provide skilled workforce quality wages, benefits, and training."

SMACNA also offered to provide DOL's Wage and Hour Division with "our best counsel and input" as they carefully reconsider the critical role that prevailing wage standards play in expanding a well-trained, highly-skilled, and productive construction workforce during a time of widespread skilled labor shortages and insufficient registered apprenticeship participation by construction contractors outside the organized sector.  

SMACNA encourages members to positively comment on the proposed Davis-Bacon revisions. Please click here to comment on the proposed Davis-Bacon revisions (open until May 17th, 2022). Click here to find the U.S. Labor Department proposal.