Pro/Con: Strong Prevailing Wage Requirements Help Grow Economy – Duluth News Tribune

The trickle-down strategies of the past several decades—defined by tax cuts for the wealthy—have not worked and, in fact, have led to stagnant incomes for everyone else. Still, the Biden administration’s vision for growth is clear: The Deinflation Act, the bipartisan Infrastructure Act and the CHIPS and SCIENCE Act chart a new path based on the philosophy that the economy is stronger when it grows.

Middle and lower top

,” the White House encourages.

These broad economic laws build public investment in 21st century infrastructure and support domestic competitiveness in key sectors, while strengthening safeguards to ensure new public investment benefits working people of all walks of life.

At times, pundits depicted Bidenomics


But key elements of middle-class protections in laws like prevailing wage standards are proven strategies that raise standards for workers, support law-abiding contractors, and ensure the public gets good value for investments paid for by tax dollars.

The majority of the bipartisan Infrastructure Act, CHIPS and Science Act funds and IRA tax credit programs are protected by the Davis-Bacon Act, a 90-year-old law that requires companies that receive federal funds to pay construction labor market — or “go to” — wages and benefits.

De facto wage standards, often adopted by state and local policymakers, prevent quality reduction when acting as a buyer of goods and services. Private sector recipients must provide workers with wages and fringe benefits comparable to wages paid to other workers in the region.



Prevailing wage laws improve the lives of workers by supporting middle-class wages, ensuring that union wages are not reduced, and expanding and covering health insurance and pension insurance.

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income gap

between white and black construction workers.





Responsible contractors and the public by increasing worker productivity, reducing injury rates and increasing vocational training. This helps address the shortage of skilled labor in construction and ensures that projects are completed on time and on budget.

Despite significant evidence that prevailing wage laws benefit workers, business owners, and the public, some lawmakers attempt to undermine these pro-worker laws in favor of trick-down policies. It has done so through perennial campaigns to roll back federal standards and a handful of measures in recent years to overhaul state-level prevailing wage laws. However, studies show that prevailing wage barriers

to reduce

Wages of workers and


Competition for government projects because decent-paying contractors are discouraged from bidding.

The good news for working families is that the tide may be turning. This spring, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer repealed Michigan’s wage freeze.


„We’re coming together to restore workers’ rights, protect working Michiganders, and grow Michigan’s middle class.”

Similarly, last year alone 41 Republicans


All Democratic members of the House of Representatives have joined a bipartisan effort to defeat a measure that would repeal federally enforced wage protections.

Ultimately, the question is not whether existing wage standards work, but whether they and other job-quality protections will be widely adopted to make a difference for working people across the country. While Bidenomics expands prevailing wage standards for construction workers, the same standards do not automatically apply to all workers funded by federal spending.

To ensure that all federal government investments comply with President Joe Biden’s „middle-out” commitments, prevailing wage standards must be combined with the administration’s other efforts to expand high-quality training to a new generation of publicly supported jobs. Have a free and fair shot at joining a union, and prevent labor disruptions in publicly funded programs. Doing so will ensure the administration delivers on a vision to grow the middle class and improve the lives of American workers.

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Carla Walter is senior director of employment policy at the Center for American Progress (, a liberal think tank in Washington, DC.

Carla Walter

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