House Republicans Push Back on Davis-Bacon Prevailing Wage Expansion

Contributed by Jonathon Hoag

On July 11, 2013, House Republican Committee leaders sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) requesting it explain why it issued guidance to cover land & field surveyors under federal prevailing wage law (i.e. Davis-Bacon Act).  This type of work has historically been excluded from prevailing wage requirements as preconstruction work.  In fact, a wage determination in accordance with the Davis-Bacon Act currently does not exist for this type of work.  However, the DOL, under extreme pressure from the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), changed its position to include this type of work as covered by the Davis-Bacon Act.  The DOL knows that it has not recognized this work under prevailing wage law and does not have a wage determination applicable to this work, but it has requested that contractors pay survey crews the applicable wage for the classification of work that most closely matches the work performed.  The July 11, 2013 letter to the DOL points out that this abrupt change could have significant impact on contractors and it was made with little notice or justification. 

The House Republican Committee leaders have asserted that this type of change should only be made after the DOL goes through a transparent rulemaking procedure.  These House Committee leaders have requested numerous documents from the DOL that purportedly support the change and illustrate the involvement of organized union.  Only time will tell if this push back will have any impact on the DOL’s efforts to expand the prevailing wage law requirements.

Illinois contractors are very accustomed to this type of abrupt change in state prevailing wage law.  The aspect that is undoubtedly transparent is that organized labor is on a mission to widen the net with respect to the type of work covered by prevailing wage laws.  Contractors should be prepared for more arbitrary expansion to prevailing wage laws at the state and federal level.