Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Bush Surrenders: Restores Davis Bacon Wage Protections For Gulf Workers

It's so rare that I get a chance to report good political news that my fingers almost don't know what to do.

The Bush administration has rescinded the suspension of the Davis Bacon act for Gulf Coast recovery workers, forcing employers who receive federal funding to once again pay the prevailing wage.

Let's hear from the instigator of this coup, California Congressman George Miller who put not only figured out a way to challenge the administration's wage cut for Gulf Coast recovery workers, but also managed to collect the support of 37 Republicans to join with a solid Democratic caucus to force Bush's hand.

This is from Miller's press release:
WASHINGTON, DC -- Bowing to pressure from a united Democratic front, a small group of members of his own party, the religious community, and the labor movement, President Bush announced today he would reverse the decision he made in September to remove wage protections for construction workers in the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.

After Katrina, the President suspended the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act, which requires federal contractors to pay at least the prevailing wage to construction workers in a local area. The president’s action, which was widely denounced, followed requests from right-wing activists and Republican members of Congress who exploited Katrina to achieve a long-sought ideological agenda item.

“President Bush finally realized that his Gulf Coast wage cut was a bad idea that hurt the workers and their families affected by Katrina,” said Miller. “But let me be clear – the President is backing down today only because he had no other choice.

“The President’s wage cut was just another example of his incompetence as a leader in a time of crisis and of his constant need reward the private agenda’s of his special special-interest friends rather than attend to the needs of all the people affected by this storm.”
As I wrote last week, Congressman George Miller (D-CA), the senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, led the effort in the House to force Bush to rescind his Gulf Coast wage cut. Miller forced the surrender by using an little known parliamentary procedure to introduce a resolution to restore Bush’s Gulf Coast pay cut. Under the law, the House would have been required to vote on Miller’s resolution no later than Nov. 4—a vote many observers believed workers would have won, according to the AFL-CIO and other Congressional observers. In addition to Miller's action, the labor movement generated 350,000 e-mails and letters to Congress.

The move came after reports of union workers in Louisiana being replaced by low-wage workers, some undocumented immigrants from Texas, stories of horrendous working conditions and cheating immigrant workers out of their pay.

The administration denied surrendering to the inevitable and said they had planned to rescind the suspension all along:
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan disputed the notion that Bush was reversing himself.

"We always said it was a temporary waiver," he said. "This is similar to the precedent set by Hurricane Andrew, which is also a temporary waiver."

In a prepared statement, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao described the suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act as part of "an administration-wide effort to remove as many barriers as possible to aid the recovery efforts in the impacted areas." She gave no reason for lifting the suspension.

The construction industry and Conservatives saw the decision as another example of the Bush administration turning its back on conservative pro-business principles:
The decision was a rare victory for organized labor during George W. Bush's presidency. It was a defeat for traditional Bush allies, including the construction industry and conservatives in Congress. Yesterday, both groups said the president's reversal would inflate the cost of reconstruction.

"It's the kind of thing that shows they're turning their backs on the things that Ronald Reagan and those who built this party care deeply about," said Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.)

"Certain special interests and their allies in Congress are more concerned about reinstating this wasteful and outdated act than they are with fairly and expeditiously reconstructing the devastated areas," M. Kirk Pickerel, chief executive of Associated Builders and Contractors, said in a written statement.
Good point. If I were them I'd never vote for another Republican.