Is Davis-Bacon unconstitutional?

Is the Davis-Bacon Act–the federal law that inflates the cost of government construction and keeps unions in business by requiring payment of “prevailing wages”–unconstitutional? Newsalert posts this still-relevant 1993 Cato Institute argument. … If the case turns on the discriminatory or racist “intent” of those who first passed the law, Davis-Bacon is in trouble.  I’ve never been comfortable with using legislators’ “intent” as the test of constitutionality–as opposed to what a law is and does–but I’m not the Supreme Court. …

P.S.: Even Minnesota is thinking of relaxing its local version of Davis-Bacon. But Minnesota’s state-determined “prevailing wage” is even higher than the federal “prevailing wage.” The proposed reform would simply let it slide down to the federal level. Not Wingnutty enough! …

  • Janeway

    Yesterday, I filled out reports for a Fed funded project for a very small subcontractor. The amount of money per hour plus the fringe benefits in cash are really impressive. Range $40-50 per hour to the men, this doesn’t include other tax and insurance costs by the employer. The men need the money since they haven’t worked all year and before but if they had some more reasonable costs, there would be more work for all. Davis Bacon may have had a good reason to start with but like most government ideas, it has gone over the cliff. I don’t know whether it is constitutional or not but the 3 men on this job would rather have a steady income job than a few weeks of very high pay. Constuction Industry is dying and the craftsmen (or women) with it. You can not build anything from behind a computer screen, somewhere along the way someone has to do the actual work and I fear there just won’t be anyone to do the work trained left. There are only 2 kinds of jobs, ones that the illegals have who work for next to nothing (I don’t blame them) or prevailing wage that are few and far between and at great expense to the taxpayer. Extremes are rarely successful.

  • tompaq

    Working in the construction industry at several different architectural engineering companies, Davis Bacon costs between 25%-33% more than normal non prevailing wage construction. Schools, roads, parks any public buildings cost so much more.

  • jfr13

    I wonder how much a nationwide repeal of Davis Bacon could save at all levels of government. Often I have heard that using contractors for repair work etc would not really save all that much money. That is probably skewed by the fact that the contractors are covered by prevailing wage rules. Sonoma County in northern CA is planning on letting all but 150 miles of its roads revert to gravel because it can’t afford the $50 Million to maintain them. They currently use county employees. How much more could they maintain by contracting without Davis Bacon? Carry across by all levels of government….Might be another case for your assignment desk.