By Karen Stokes
Vice President Kamala Harris, Chair of the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, visited Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Tuesday. She revealed plans to gradually increase wage standards for over one million construction workers nationwide.
The Vice President delivered remarks and met with rank-and-file union construction workers and national and local union leaders. Later, the Vice President received an on-site briefing at the construction site of the Betsy Ross off-ramp to I-95.
“Many workers are paid much less than they deserve, much less than the value of their work,” Harris said. “And not just by a little. In some cases, by thousands of dollars a year. And that is wrong.”
This latest initiative unites two core aspects of Bidenomics, ensuring that infrastructure investments result in good-paying, family-supporting employment opportunities. The Vice President is joined in making this announcement by Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su.
This new rule, under the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts, advances President Biden’s Executive Order 14008, and will mean thousands of dollars more per year in workers’ pockets.
The rule will raise wage standards of construction workers by updating prevailing wage regulations issued under the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts, which require payment of locally prevailing wages and fringe benefits to more than one million construction workers delivering $200 billion of federally funded or assisted construction projects. These numbers will continue to grow given that nearly all of the significant construction programs contained in President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, CHIPS and Science Act, and Inflation Reduction Act require or strongly incentivize the use of Davis-Bacon prevailing wages.
With no comprehensive update in over 40 years, the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage regulations have led to underpayment for workers. Given the new jobs from significant infrastructure investments, the Department of Labor updated rules are crucial for fair wages. They not only ensure good construction jobs but also attract talent for quality projects funded by historic legislation while preserving local wage standards.
“We have divided our resources among the various sectors of those who are actually building America and you see that evident in the various labor unions that are represented here today,” Harris said. “We know that we must invest in the working people of America if we are to strengthen America’s economy, and so we are fighting to build a nation, where every person, not just the wealthy or well connected, have the opportunity to thrive and that, all my friends here, is called Bidenomics.”
The VP has traveled the country to engage with workers and labor leaders on the frontlines.
The Department of Labor is announcing this rule as inflation has fallen by two-thirds over the last year. Independent analysts have attributed the strength of the economy to infrastructure investments.
Since last year, inflation-adjusted wages are up 1.6% for all production and nonsupervisory workers (the 80% of workers who are not managers), 2.4% for construction nonsupervisory workers, and 2.0% for workers without a college degree. This rule keeps up momentum by continuing to invest in America’s workers.