The Davis-Bacon Act: Suspension
CRS Report for Congress
The Davis-Bacon Act: Suspension
Updated February 8, 2006
William G. Whittaker
Specialist in Labor Economics
Domestic Social Policy Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
The Davis-Bacon Act: Suspension
The Davis-Bacon Act is one of several statutes that deals with federal
government procurement. (See also the Walsh-Healey Act of 1936 and the
McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act of 1965.) Enacted in 1931, Davis-Bacon
requires, inter alia, that not less than the locally prevailing wage be paid to workers
engaged in federal contract construction. The act does not deal directly with non-
federal construction. In addition to the act per se, the prevailing wage principle has
been incorporated within a series of federal program statutes through the years. And,
many states have enacted “little Davis-Bacon” acts of their own.
The act of 1931, as amended, provides that the President “may suspend the
provisions of this subchapter during a national emergency.” With slight variation,
that provision has been a part of the statute since it was enacted.
The act has been suspended explicitly on four separate occasions: (a) In 1934,
President Franklin Roosevelt suspended the act in what appears to have been for
administrative convenience associated with New Deal legislation. It was restored to
full strength in less than 30 days with few people, seemingly, aware of the
suspension. (b) In 1971, President Richard Nixon suspended the act as part of a
campaign intended to quell inflationary pressures that affected the construction
industry. In just over four weeks, the act was reinstated, the President moving on to
different approaches to the problem. (c) In 1992, in the wake of Hurricanes Andrew
and Iniki, President George H. W. Bush suspended the act in order to render
reconstruction and clean-up in Florida and the Gulf Coast and in Hawaii more
efficient. The impact of the suspension is unclear for the act was suspended on
October 14, 1992, just days prior to the 1992 election. President William Clinton
restored the act on March 6, 1993. And, (d) on September 8, 2005, President George
W. Bush suspended the act in order to render more efficient reconstruction and clean-
up of Florida and the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The act was
reinstated on November 8, 2005.
In the suspensions of 1934 and 1971, the suspension applied to the entire
country — possibly with the understanding that it would be restored once the
immediate emergency was over. In 1992 and in 2005, only portions of the country
were involved. In 1992, it remains unclear how long the suspension might have
lasted — if George H. W. Bush had been re-elected. Similarly, the suspension under
George W. Bush was intended to be open-ended — i.e., “until otherwise provided.”
But in fact, it lasted for about two months. The suspensions are also separated by the
definition of “national emergency” used to invoke them: administrative convenience
in 1934, inflationary pressures in the construction industry in 1971, and issues
associated with hurricane damages in 1992 and in 2005.
This report reviews the several cases during which the Davis-Bacon Act was
suspended and will likely be updated as developments make necessary.
The Davis-Bacon Act...............................................1
Franklin D. Roosevelt..........................................3
Richard M. Nixon.............................................4
Setting the Stage..........................................5
The Davis-Bacon Act Reinstated..............................7
Some Implications of the Nixon Suspension....................11
George H. W. Bush...........................................12
The President Acts on Davis-Bacon..........................12
Suspension of Davis-Bacon Draws Fire, Praise..................13
President Clinton and Restoration of Davis-Bacon.......................15
Suspension Under George W. Bush...................................16
Reaction from President Bush...................................16
Reaction to the Promulgation....................................17
The Davis-Bacon Act: Suspension
The Davis-Bacon Act (1931, as amended) provides for payment of at least the
locally prevailing minimum wage on federal contract construction. It also provides
that the President “may suspend” the act during a period of a national emergency.
The act has been suspended explicitly on four separate occasions: (a) in 1934,
by President Franklin Roosevelt, apparently for administrative reasons; (b) in 1971,
by President Richard Nixon, as a means of coping with inflationary pressures; (c) in
1992, by President George H. W. Bush, in the wake of Hurricanes Iniki in Hawaii
and Andrew in Florida; and (d) in 2005, by President George W. Bush, in the wake
of Hurricane Katrina with respect to Florida and the Gulf Coast. In the first three
cases, the suspensions were brief. In the case of 2005, the suspension lasted for two
months prior to reinstatement. This report reviews the several instances in which the1
Davis-Bacon Act was suspended and, in some measure, discusses their implications.
The Davis-Bacon Act
The Davis-Bacon Act of 1931, as amended, requires, inter alia, that
construction contracts entered into by the federal government specify minimum2
wages to be paid to the various classes of laborers employed under those contracts.
Minimum wages are defined as those determined by the Secretary of Labor (a) to be
prevailing (b) in the locality of the project (c) for similar crafts and skills (d) on
comparable construction work. The concept of wage was expanded in 1964 to
include a fringe benefit component. The act has a coverage threshold of $2,000 and
In addition to direct federal construction contracts, the Davis-Bacon prevailing
wage “principle” has been written into a series of federal program statutes. The act
is supplemented by the 1934 Copeland “anti-kickback” Act (which requires weekly
reporting of wages actually paid and an affirmation from employers that any
deductions from wages due to employees have been proper), and by federal overtime
pay and health and safety standards statues. Further, some states have enacted “little
Davis-Bacon” Acts within their respective jurisdictions.
The issues surrounding the act have changed little through the years. Does the
act protect workers, help stabilize the construction industry, and serve the federal
1 For a legal analysis, see CRS Report RL33276, Prevailing Wage Requirements and the
Emergency Suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act, by John R. Luckey and Jon O.
2 See 40 U.S.C. 276a-276a-7. The statute has now been re-codified at 40 U.S.C. 3141-3148.
contracting community? Or is it anti-competitive, preventing flexible workforce
utilization? Has it been administered effectively, and if not, can it be administered
in an equitable fashion? Is there sufficient objective information concerning the act
to allow for fair assessment of the statute and its impact?
The Davis-Bacon Act is a federal statute. It does not have any direct impact
upon non-federal construction or wage rates. In so far as it ensures that persons
employed on federal contract work receive not less than the prevailing wage, the act
could have a ripple effect upon non-federal construction and/or other work.3
Is the Davis-Bacon wage a union wage? And, does the act mandate that union
wages be paid on federal contract construction projects? It may be a union wage —
where the union rate is determined to be the locally prevailing wage. But it need not
be the union rate. It depends upon the rate that the Department of Labor (DOL) finds
to be prevailing in an area. If the union rate prevails, then the union rate becomes the
Davis-Bacon wage. If another rate (a non-union wage) prevails, then that rate
becomes the Davis-Bacon rate. A great deal depends upon the processes and
procedures of the Department of Labor which administers the act.
Does the Davis-Bacon Act inflate the cost of federal contracts? Theoretically,
it should not. The Department of Labor reviews the conditions under which public
(federal) construction occurs, determines the “locally” prevailing wage, and then
applies that wage to federal projects. But the Davis-Bacon rate need not be the actual
rate paid, since the market may require a higher rate in order to recruit employees.
Thus, the Davis-Bacon wage may be a floor and not necessarily the wage paid.
What is meant by locality? Traditionally, the department observes the wage
rates paid on several classes of construction (i.e., residential, public buildings,
highways, and heavy construction) for each jurisdiction (normally a county unit)
across the United States. It is usually upon that unit that locality is based.
Perhaps the most frequently asked question concerning the Davis-Bacon Act is
the following: How much money could we save (the taxpayer and the government
contractor) if the Davis-Bacon Act were repealed or modified to narrow its scope?
Many have claimed to have an answer, but there is little empirical evidence available.
The short answer would seem to be that no one really knows. Does the Davis-Bacon
Act, in fact, save money for the federal construction consumer? It may — but that
question is similarly open.
After nearly three-quarters of a century, why is the literature on Davis-Bacon of
such dubious value? First, given the number of projects covered by the act (and their
diversity), it is nearly impossible for an independent scholar to review the act’s
administration and to assess its impact. Second, there is the availability of basic
3 Alongside the Davis-Bacon Act are two other statutes governing labor standards on federal
contracts: the Walsh-Healey Act (1936), 41 U.S.C. 35-45, dealing with goods made under
contract for the federal government; and the McNamara-O’Hara Act (1965), 41 U.S.C. 351-
358 — otherwise known as the “service contract act” — which deals with contracts for
services entered into by the federal government.
documentation. How much information has actually been preserved? Third,
assuming that the data are available, securing such documentation (and access to
administrative personnel) may be problematic.
If one assumes that documentation exists, that the analyst is granted access to
it, that all of the parties are cooperative, and that the means, financial and other, are
available for such an undertaking, the analyst is left with a fourth complication. He
or she is comparing something that did happen with something that in fact, for
whatever reasons, did not happen. In the absence of a Davis-Bacon requirement,
would the contract have gone to the same contractor? If so (or if not), would it have
been managed in the same way? Did the act have any impact upon the wages
actually paid or upon workforce utilization? Without Davis-Bacon, would different
workers have been employed — and would they have been paid different rates?
These same questions confront a public agency in its efforts to investigate
Davis-Bacon’s impact. For a public agency, the task is no less massive than it would
have been for a private scholar. And, in the public sector, there may be other
constraints. Simply put, how much funding and staff time could (or should) be
devoted to an investigation of the Davis-Bacon impact on construction that is already
in place? What political or policy concerns may come into play?
One might like to be able to say, forthrightly, that a change in the statute could
have a positive or a negative impact. However, the state of current exploratory
research would probably be insufficient to justify just an assertion.4
Historically, it is not entirely clear why it was necessary for the Franklin
Roosevelt Administration to have suspended the act. Only very limited
documentation concerning the suspension appears to be available. For the more
recent Administrations (those of Richard Nixon and George W. H. Bush), it is also
difficult to define precisely their rationales — though the Bush Administration acted
in response to particular events. The case of George W. Bush, of course, is still
unfolding. The materials, here, are presented as something of an historical sketch.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
As noted above, the original version of the Davis-Bacon Act (March 3, 1931),
as in effect during the Roosevelt Administration, included the provision that “in case
of national emergency the President is authorized to suspend the provisions of this
By the early summer of 1934, with the enactment of various New Deal statutes,
there was some confusion as to which laws took priority where the wages of
construction workers were concerned. In this instance, there appears to have been
4 There is an extensive literature on the Davis-Bacon Act, pro and con. See CRS Report 94-
a conflict between the provisions of the Davis-Bacon Act and the National Industrial
Recovery Act (NIRA) — the latter, a very broad general statute designed to
restructure the economy and which was subsequently found to be unconstitutional
Acting upon the advice of the Secretary of Labor and the Administrator of
Public Works, Roosevelt declared, simply: “I find that a national emergency exists,”
and, under date of June 5, 1934, suspended the provisions of the Davis-Bacon Act
for an indefinite period. He did not define “national emergency” in his proclamation
of suspension beyond noting that concurrent operation of the two laws (Davis-Bacon
and the NIRA) caused “administrative confusion and delay which could be avoided
by suspension of the provisions of the Davis-Bacon Act.”6
The impact of the suspension of 1934 seems not to have been immediately felt.
Chester M. Wright, a former American Federation of Labor staffer and, at that time,
a Washington journalist, observed: “The suspension order did not become publicly
known for a week or ten days. Even then it was necessary to go to the State
Department for a copy.” When the President’s action did become public, building
trades unions protested, charging that the suspension was the “beginning of a national
On June 30, 1934, as quietly as it had been suspended (just 25 days earlier), the
act was restored to full force, the President simply remarking of the suspension
proclamation that “it appears that a revocation of the said proclamation would be in
the public interest.”8 As in the case of the first proclamation, the latter seems to have
been little noticed, the first press account appearing on July 4, 1934. Wright viewed
the second proclamation as tantamount to an acknowledgment that the President had
been “badly advised.”9 No other formal suspension of the act appears to have
occurred until 1971.
Richard M. Nixon
During February 15-25, 1971, the AFL-CIO Executive Council (and associated
groups) met at Bal Harbour, Florida. The Davis-Bacon Act was considered,
indirectly and directly, in two contexts. First, there was a demand that general
revenue sharing legislation, then pending before Congress (and which the AFL-CIO
opposed), provide, inter alia, for labor standards comparable to those in the Davis-
Bacon Act. Second, the 40th anniversary of the enactment of the Davis-Bacon Act
was at hand.
5 Concerning this period, see John W. Chambers, “The Big Switch: Justice Roberts and the
Minimum Wage Cases,” Labor History, winter 1969, pp. 44-73.
6 Statutes at Large, vol. 48, part 2, pp. 1745-1746.
7 Chester Wright is quoted in John Herling’s Labor Letter, Mar. 13, 1971, p. 3. (Hereafter
cited as Herling.)
8 Statutes at Large, vol. 49, part 2, p. 3400.
9 Herling, Mar. 13, 1971, p. 3.
Setting the Stage. In a resolution dealing with revenue sharing, the Council
affirmed, “There is widespread agreement on the responsibility of the federal
government to provide financial aid to the state and local governments, particularly,
in this time of rapid social and economic change.” However, the Council rejected the
Administration’s approach, urging in its place a diversified program of its own. The
AFL-CIO resolution noted of the then-current system for distribution of federal funds
to local jurisdictions that it provided for both labor standards and civil rights
standards — and has “served the nation well.” Then, turning specifically to the10
Nixon Administration proposals, encompassed in the Baker-Betts bills, the Council
Under the ‘general revenue sharing’ proposal, the federal government would
dispense about $5 billion a year to the states on a no-strings basis — with
formulas that would require a pass-through to the local governments. (...) ...
without specific and enforceable federal performance standards there is no
assurance that federal civil rights guarantees and fair labor practices will be11
applied to projects supported by no-strings federal grants.
Although the AFL-CIO Council made no specific reference to Davis-Bacon, it was
clear that it had that statute, among others, in mind.
In a separate statement, the Council took note that 1971 was the 40th anniversary
of enactment of the Davis-Bacon Act. “This principle of prevailing wages is
essential,” the Council stated, “to assure that work for the federal government is not
based upon exploitation of workers. Without such requirement, bidding on federal
contracts by unscrupulous employers could result in a competitive undermining of
fair wage and labor standards.” And, the Council concluded: “The Davis-Bacon Act
is as important today as it was 40 years ago. Its basic principle, as well as effective
enforcement, must be maintained. The AFL-CIO will not settle for less.”12
Davis-Bacon Suspended. With the dawning of the 1970s, President Nixon
had become concerned about the wage-price structure of the construction industry.
On January 18, 1971, he met with the tripartite Construction Industry Collective
Bargaining Commission at the White House to express his concerns.13
“The purpose of the meeting,” Labor Secretary James Hodgson said, “was for
the President to urge action on the part of these leaders to do something about
curbing the wage-price spiral in construction.” Various options were discussed,
including suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act (a proposal reportedly offered by
Federal Reserve Chairman Arthur Burns). In closing, the President set a 30-day
deadline during which the industry (labor, management and representatives of the
10 The Administration’s general revenue sharing legislation was co-sponsored by Senator
Howard Baker (R-TN) and Rep. Jackson Betts (R-OH), among others.
11 Gary M. Fink (ed.), AFL-CIO Executive Council Statements and Reports, 1956-1975,
vol. IV (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1977), pp. 2067-2071.
12 Ibid., p. 2090.
13 Herling, Jan. 16, 1971, p. 1. The Commission had been created by President Nixon under
Executive Order 11482, Sept. 22, 1969.
public — with Under Secretary of Labor Lawrence Silberman and Commission
Executive Secretary John T. Dunlop) should resolve the issues troubling the
President. On February 8, the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-
CIO, met at Bal Harbour (just prior to the winter meeting of the AFL-CIO Executive
Council) with the presidential deadline drawing near.14
At a February 17 presidential press conference (while the AFL-CIO Executive
Council was in session at Bal Harbour), the issue surfaced again. President Nixon
was asked what action he would take to hold down wages and prices in construction.
He responded that Secretary Hodgson was then meeting with industry leaders and
that he would await the Secretary’s report. But, he promised, “there will be action.”
And he noted: “The construction industry is a sick industry. It is a sick industry not
because of the quality of construction in the United States — it is the highest quality
construction in the world — but because it has had too rich a diet.” He noted that
construction wage increases, then averaging 16% (while unemployment in
construction was double the national average), were too high for the good of the
general economy — but he made no mention of Davis-Bacon, per se. However, he
did note that $14 billion of the federal budget, the next fiscal year, would be devoted
to construction. “Now, with this kind of financial interest in construction,” he
suggested, “it is essential that the federal government use its power to the extent that
it can to bring about more reasonable settlements within that industry” and to
promote “... wage and price stability.”15
The AFL-CIO Executive Council meeting was marked by rumors and
speculation. Secretary Hodgson moved between Washington and Bal Harbour while
trade union representatives met with Dunlop.16 Discussion between Hodgson and
AFL-CIO President George Meany on February 4 had been less than definitive but
Meany expressed his hope that the parties “will come up with something.”17
Following conferences with the President, OMB Director George Shultz and others
in Washington, Hodgson returned to Florida for additional talks with Meany on
February 19-20, 1971. Saturday evening (February 20), the Secretary and his staff
returned to Washington.
In a statement on February 23, 1971, President Nixon announced a decision. “I
am today suspending the provisions of the Davis-Bacon Act which requires
contractors working on federal construction projects to pay certain prescribed wage
rates to their workers,” he declared.
In my judgment, the operation of this law at a time when construction wages and
prices are skyrocketing only gives federal endorsement and encouragement to
severe inflationary pressures.
14 Herling, Feb. 13, 1971, p. 1.
15 Public Papers of the President of the United States, Richard Nixon, Containing the Public
Messages, Speeches, and Statements of the President l971 (Washington: GPO, 1971), p. l65.
(Hereafter cited as The Nixon Papers.)
16 Herling, Feb. 20, 1971, p. 1.
17 Ibid., p. 2.
The action I have taken today is based on the principle that government
programs which contribute to excessive wage and price increases must be
modified or rescinded in periods of inflation. This was the principle I applied to
industry in the case of recent excessive increases in steel and oil prices. This is
the principle I am applying to organized labor in the construction emergency.
The period, in President Nixon’s view, was marked by very high wages in
construction. Were the Davis-Bacon Act to apply, those excessively high wages
would have to be paid by federal construction contractors. He noted that the act had
been adopted in 1931 during a period marked by very different circumstances. In
1971, the act meant something else entirely. He affirmed: “I believe ... that this
preferential arrangement does not serve the interests of either the construction
industry or the American public at a time when wages are under severe upward
pressures.” Nixon continued:
The proclamation  I am issuing today also suspends the wage
determination provision of more than 50 other federal laws relating to federally
involved construction which incorporate the Davis-Bacon Act. I am calling upon
states and other governmental bodies with similar statutes to take similar action.
Suspension of Davis-Bacon may have been less an attack upon the act, per se,
than an effort to twist the arms of labor and management and to encourage, from the
President’s perspective, a more responsible wage/price policy. He closed his
statement of suspension not with an objection to Davis-Bacon but, rather, with a
word of advice — presumably both to industry and to labor:
I have suspended the Davis-Bacon Act because of emergency conditions in the
construction industry. The purposes of the Davis-Bacon Act can once again be
realized when construction contractors and labor unions work out solutions to the
problems which have created the emergency.
In the final analysis, those who are directly involved in the construction
industry must assume the leadership in finding answers to these complex
Then, Mr. Nixon added, “Construction contractors and labor leaders will have the
full cooperation of this Administration as they strive to carry out this crucial
The Davis-Bacon Act Reinstated. Secretary Hodgson explained the action
of the President in suspending the Davis-Bacon Act — the suspension occurring
several hours after the adjournment of the AFL-CIO Council meeting in Florida. The
Secretary noted with respect to plans for wage and price control,
In Miami, I met with a courteous reception and sensed great concern on the part
of the labor people. But they could not offer assurances on a voluntary plan, and
all I could report to the President was that they would discuss further a
government imposed plan. In this situation, the President really had only two
18 The Nixon Papers (1971), pp. 199-200.
options: to impose wage controls or to take some steps that involved less
government interjection into the bargaining process. He chose the latter, and the
course he took was to suspend relevant provisions of the Davis-Bacon Act.
You may wonder how effective this action will be. We believe that it will be
quite effective. It has long been [thought] that these provisions of the act[,] that
prescribe that wages in federal construction must be based on those prevailing
in the area[,] have often operated to support labor costs at an artificially high
level and to give an upward thrust to those rates, not only in contract construction
but throughout the industry.
Then, the Secretary concluded on an optimistic note, following the lead of President
Nixon: “We believe suspension should help produce more reasonable settlements
throughout the industry and restore a better balance to the bargaining process.”19
Organized labor was less enthusiastic. George Meany branded the suspension
as “punitive against workers without real effect on halting inflation” and added that
it presents “an open invitation to unscrupulous employers to exploit workers by
competitive undermining of fair wage and labor standards.” Iron Workers President
John H. Lyons suggested that the suspension really constituted a windfall for open
shop contractors since the non-union firms could bid competitively upon the basis of
union wage scales and then, in the absence of Davis-Bacon sanctions, pay whatever
wages they might wish.20 Meanwhile, Labor Reporter John Herling observed that the
President’s action “has certainly brought cheer to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
For decades,” he pointed out, the Chamber “has battled to remove Davis-Bacon and21
the related Walsh-Healey Act from the Statute Books.”
Of greater importance, however, both in the context of general revenue sharing
and the dispute over Davis-Bacon, was the interrelationship between state and federal
laws dealing with the prevailing wage issue. Some states had taken action to provide
prevailing wage protection in public construction several decades before enactment22
of the Davis-Bacon Act — and many states still have such statutes. By the early
In suspending the Davis-Bacon Act provisions, President Nixon had called upon
the “states and other governmental bodies with similar statutes to take similar
19 Herling, Feb. 27, 1971, p. l.
21 Herling, Mar. 6, 1971, p. 1.
22 See David B. Johnson, “Prevailing Wage Legislation in the States,” Monthly Labor
Review, Aug. 1961, pp. 839-845, for a discussion of ‘little Davis-Bacon’ prevailing wage
23 Armand J. Thieblot, Jr., The Davis-Bacon Act (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania
Press, 1975), p. 17.
action.”24 Normally, in the absence of federal legislation, applicable state statutes
would come into play — even, seemingly, on projects funded jointly by federal and
state funds or with local revenues. In the wake of the Nixon suspension of Davis-
Bacon, New York State Commission of Labor, Louis Levine, affirmed: “On a
publicly-funded construction project, financially assisted by the federal government,
the state law requiring prevailing wages remains in effect as mandated by the state
legislature.” (Emphasis in the original.) Levine added: “Therefore, I want to assure
the construction industry — labor and management — that wherever federally-aided
state projects are involved the wage structure will continue to be based on the state
prevailing wage rate law.”25
Opinion in Ohio seems, generally, to have paralleled that from New York state.
During a speech at the National Press Club, Ohio’s Governor John Gilligan termed
the suspension “misdirected, ineffective, carelessly drafted without any full
consideration of what is really meant.” Gilligan continued:
Let me suggest some of the realities that underlie that. We have a ‘little
Davis-Bacon’ act in Ohio on our law books. We guarantee the payment of
prevailing area wages in the construction industry. We had the question arise
immediately after Mr. Nixon’s statement that under emergency powers — still
not defined so far as I know — he suspended that federal law.
We have the proposition presented to us. We had a dozen road contracts
coming up — some of them joint federal-state road contracts with federal
funding in them, amounting to several millions of dollars. What were we to do?
Had Mr. Nixon set aside our state law as well? Or was it to suspend it? And
then what? And then throw the contracts open to bidding by any contractor who
came down the pike, who would hire labor at any price? What then would be the
floor? $1.60 an hour, the federal minimum — or what would apply?
The whole construction industry would have been thrown into total chaos
if that had been done. We informed the prospective bidders by telegram that they
would be expected to comply with that section of the state law. All of them came
and bid. All of the bids were awarded. They came in under the estimates of our
engineering department. They were awarded to union contractors who had union
contracts in full force and effect. And we are not going to suspend the provisions26
of that law in the state of Ohio.
Meanwhile, Peter G. Nash, U.S. Solicitor of the Department of Labor,
announced that “the President’s action in suspending the Davis-Bacon Act renders
inapplicable any state ‘little Davis-Bacon law’ in all federally assisted construction
where one of the federal requirements was that the federal Davis-Bacon Act would
apply,” affirming a federal preemptive power over the states. “Thus a new form of
federal-state conflict is under way,” suggested reporter Herling. “At a time when
24 The Nixon Papers (1971), p. 200.
25 Herling, Mar. 6, 1971, p. 1. New York had enacted a prevailing wage law for public
construction in 1897.
26 Herling, Mar. 13, 1971, pp. 2-3.
revenue-sharing has become the guideline for the Nixon Administration, new
restrictions may be implanted on state and local decision-making.”27
At the urging of the Administration, leaders of the building and construction
trades and of industry, with public and government representatives, met under the
guidance of John Dunlop in an attempt to achieve some solution to the problems in
the construction industry. The suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act, some suggested,
had not been entirely successful. Indeed, it may have succeeded primarily in
augmenting the irritation of trade union leaders toward the Administration. But it
allowed Assistant Secretary of Labor Arthur Fletcher (a former city councilman from
Pasco, Washington) an opportunity to predict, before a conference of the Associated
Builders and Contractors — generally an anti-Davis-Bacon industry group — that
“the era of union domination of the employment pattern in the construction industry
is over.” Further, Fletcher reportedly denounced the act as both inflationary and
Suspending the Davis-Bacon Act was more complicated than it may have
appeared at first. “The fact is,” Herling reported, “that the Davis-Bacon suspension
had not been operative in the month since it was ordered.... But in that time,” he
added, “the Administration was made to comprehend the legal quagmire into which
it might sink as a result of the suspension.” While building trades attorneys began
to explore the options open to labor, the tangled web of interapplicability of federal
and state statutes (the ‘little Davis-Bacon’ laws) began to emerge.29
On March 29, 1971, President Nixon issued another Executive Order,
“establishing a cooperative mechanism for the stabilization of wages and prices in
the construction industry.” The mechanism was the tripartite Construction Industry
Stabilization Committee30 — later to become a part of the Cost of Living Council —
again presided over by John Dunlop. Mr. Nixon pointed out that “contractors and
labor leaders have indicated their willingness to cooperate with the Government in
fair measures to achieve greater wage and price stability.” Then: “I am therefore
today reinstating the Davis-Bacon Act, which I suspended on February 23, 1971, and
I am substituting a system of constraints to which I expect all parties will
27 Herling, Mar. 6, 1971, p. l.
28 Herling, Mar. 27, 1971, pp. 1-2.
29 Herling, Apr. 3, 1971, pp. 2-3.
30 In a statement of Sept. 4, 1969, President Nixon had directed then-Secretary of Labor
George Shultz “to devise a way for union and employer groups to cooperate with each other
and the Government in the solution of collective bargaining and related problems in the
industry.” As a result, under date of Sept. 22, 1969, the President issued Executive Order
composed of four public representatives and “an equal number from labor and from
management.” Secretary Shultz was to serve as chairman; Dunlop, as secretary. See The
Nixon Papers (1969), p. 735. With Executive Order 11588 of Mar. 29, 1971, President
Nixon restructured the Commission as the Construction Industry Stabilization Committee
and, at the same time, created an interagency committee on construction. In Presidential
Proclamation 4040, issued that same day, the Davis-Bacon Act was formally reinstated. See
The Nixon Papers (1971), pp. 491-492.
subscribe.”31 Reaction to restoration was mixed. Generally, attention seems to have
shifted to the broader question of wage and price restraints/controls.
Some Implications of the Nixon Suspension. The Nixon suspension of
the Davis-Bacon Act, together with its subsequent reinstatement, had several
implications. But, perhaps, these may not have been entirely expected.
In 1931, Davis-Bacon had been enacted as an emergency measure at the urging
of the Herbert Hoover Administration. It was subsequently amended in 1935 and
thereafter (with some minor tinkering) remained a generally accepted (although not
universally accepted) part of the federal labor scene. Then, suddenly, the very
existence of the statute was called into question. Labor, of course, reacted, but so did
critics of Davis-Bacon. At least until the mid-1990s, repeal of Davis-Bacon had
become a cause célèbre for each side of the dispute.32
Given the interconnectedness of state and federal statutes, suspension of Davis-
Bacon was more complicated than it might have appeared. President Nixon, though
he called upon the states to act similarly, could not enforce such a commitment from
the states — nor did the President seem to imply that he had that authority. (“I am
calling upon states and other governmental bodies with similar statutes to take33
similar action.”) The pronouncement of Solicitor Nash, cited above, would seem
to have dubious value either as an interpretation of law — or, perhaps, as policy.
In retrospect, it appears the Nixon suspension of the act was never intended to
be of long duration. It was, it would seem, to have been an exercise in arm-twisting,
aiming to make the several parties (but, in effect, organized labor) take seriously the
Administration’s wage/price control policy. If so, it did not appear to have served
this purpose well, but rather it tended to create confusion within the industry. Bidding
would move forward. Projects were underway. What impact would (or could) the
suspension of the act have in that environment — in what, it turned out, was a
suspension of just over 30 days.
Finally, neither the Nixon Administration nor the Roosevelt Administration
before it had formally defined what constituted a national emergency.
31 The Nixon Papers (1971), pp. 491-492. See also Herling, Apr. 3, 1971, p. l; and Apr. 10,
32 During the mid 1990s, concern with repeal of the statute seemed to come to a head when,
with the proposals of Senator Mark Hatfield and Representative Curt Weldon, it subsided.
See CRS Report 94-408, The Davis-Bacon Act: Institutional Evolution and Public Policy,
by William G. Whittaker.
33 The provision of the statute merely stated, in its then current form: “In the event of a
national emergency the President is authorized to suspend the provisions of Sections 276a
to 276a-5 of this title.”
George H. W. Bush
President Bush faced challenges leading up to the 1992 election. Criticism from
his own party included Representative Newt Gingrich (R-GA) reportedly calling the
current situation “unacceptable” and urging that “[t]he president must define for his
team which vision and system he needs to govern effectively and win decisively.”34
Suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act appears to have been under consideration
by the Bush Administration at least through the early months of 1992. Senior
officials suggested that a number of items were on the presidential agenda including
“suspending the Davis-Bacon Act.”35 The Washington Times, editorially, confirmed
the notion on March 15.36 And, again on March 19, the Washington Times reported
that the President would likely “rely on proposals prepared by Richard Darman,”
OMB director, one of which would be to “lift the Davis-Bacon Act.”37 On March
20, the Washington Post reported that among other items that the President was
contemplating would be “limiting the Davis-Bacon wage law.”38 But nothing
occurred just then.
The President Acts on Davis-Bacon. The issue of Davis-Bacon continued
to appear through the next several months. On April 21, 1992, White House Deputy
Press Secretary Judy Smith confirmed that suspension of Davis-Bacon was still under39
consideration but that there was “no closure on it” yet. A day later, the Daily Labor
Report stated that the President “will not seek to suspend the Davis-Bacon Act by
declaring an economic emergency, believing that it would establish a precedent he
does not want to set.”40 But then, on June 5, it was reported that the White House
was “again giving ‘serious consideration’ to ordering a nationwide suspension” of the
act and, according to “one White House source,” the decision to suspend the act is41
now “more likely than not.”
Critics of Davis-Bacon continued to press the President to take action. As the
summer passed, however, the Davis-Bacon issue seemed to disappear from public
view. It is also possible that no identifiable emergency had as yet occurred. Behind
the scenes, the issue seems still to have been under consideration, for on October 7,
34 Ann Devroy and Richard Morin, “Bush Recasts His Message As Rating Falls to 39%,”
Washington Post, Mar. 10, 1992, p. A1.
36 Editorial, “It’s Time for President Bush To Send a Message of His Own,” Washington
Times, Mar. 15, 1992, p. B2.
37 Paul Bedard, “Bush Expected To Back Off on Threat to Hill,” Washington Times, Mar.
38 Ann Devroy, “Bush to Mark Today’s Deadline With Hill Offensive,” Washington Post,
Mar. 20, 1992, p. A6.
39 Bureau of National Affairs, Daily Labor Report, Apr. 22, 1992, p. A10. (Hereafter cited
as Daily Labor Report.)
40 Daily Labor Report, Apr. 23, 1992, p. A15.
41 Daily Labor Report, June 5, 1992, p. A12.
1992, OMB circulated a memorandum to agency heads seeking comment on a
proposed suspension of the act. The Daily Labor Report stated, “Consideration of
the suspension appeared to be on a fast track as comments were requested by noon
of the same day.”42 On October 9, 1992, Congress adjourned.
During late August, Hurricane Andrew struck Florida and Louisiana. On
September 12, 1992, Hurricane Iniki struck Hawaii. Taking note of the destruction
caused by the two storms, President Bush, on October 14, 1992, declared the two
areas “a ‘national emergency’ within the meaning of Section 6 of the Davis-Bacon
Act.” He stated in a Presidential Proclamation (No. 6491):
... I do hereby suspend, until otherwise provided, the provisions of any Executive
order, proclamation, rule, regulation, or other directive providing for the payment
of wages, which provisions are dependent upon determinations by the Secretary43
of Labor under the Davis-Bacon Act;....
The Proclamation went on to discuss the relative merits of the suspension in terms
of the general reconstruction in the three areas to which it applied: Florida,44
Louisiana, and Hawaii.
Suspension of Davis-Bacon Draws Fire, Praise. The action by
President Bush raised a number of questions. First, what constitutes a national
emergency for Davis-Bacon purposes? The answer may not have been beyond
dispute. Second, if the concept of national emergency under Davis-Bacon can be
made to include such disasters as hurricanes (and, perhaps, earthquakes, floods, riots,
etc.), did the act then empower the President to enter into a selective suspension of
the act? Third, is the presidential suspension authority limited to the Davis-Bacon
Act, per se, or could it be extended to the various program statutes into which the
Davis-Bacon “principle” has been incorporated? Fourth, in areas where there are
state and local prevailing wage requirements, how might these be affected, if at all,
by a presidential suspension of Davis-Bacon? Fifth, what was the impact likely to
be upon the entire contracting process in the several affected areas?
Some questioned the President’s authority “to selectively suspend” the act. “It
is clear that Congress delegated to the President authority to suspend application of
the Davis-Bacon Act in a national emergency,” stated Robert Georgine, president of
the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department. “But it is equally clear
that Congress did not authorize the president to pick and choose where application
42 Daily Labor Report, Oct. 13, 1992, p. A4.
43 Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, vol. 28, no. 42, Oct. 19, 1992, pp. 1936-
1937. Under the Bush suspension, the act remained in place for all areas other than those
directly effected by hurricanes in Florida, Louisiana and Hawaii.
44 The impetus for the proclamation may not have come from the affected areas. On Jan. 21,
1993, Senator Daniel Inouye introduced S. 138, a bill to provide that the President “shall not
suspend the provision of ... [the Davis-Bacon] Act within the state of Hawaii” and, further,
that Proclamation No. 6491 shall be amended “to eliminate all references to the state of
Hawaii and Hurricane Iniki.”
of the act would be suspended.”45 Others “questioned the wisdom of sending low-
wage, low-skilled workers to the hurricane-damaged areas where skilled and
experienced building tradesmen are needed.”46 Again, Georgine called it “a callous
election-year move” and “nothing more than a baldly calculated political ploy
designed to curry favor with those who oppose federal labor standards.”47
Within a two-week period, the President signed a second order — Executive
Order No. 12818 — which dealt, in part, with the concept of project labor
agreements. Taken together, the two were of critical importance, some within the
trade union movement asserted.48
Candice Johnson, writing in the AFL-CIO News, opined that “President Bush,
in a desperate attempt to win business support in electoral-rich Florida and Louisiana,
has suspended Davis-Bacon safeguards for hurricane relief efforts.”49 Frank
Swoboda, columnist for the Washington Post, was more direct — discussing the two
putatively anti-union directives. Swoboda cited Steven Westra, president of the
Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). Westra called Bush’s action
“courageous” and said “the president ‘deserves our votes and our full support.’”
With this, Swoboda said, the ABC, “a trade group representing 16,000 nonunion
contractors, immediately announced its support for Bush in the November 3
The Coalition to Reform the Davis-Bacon Act (which included the ABC) wrote
to express its thanks to the President. “We appreciate that your action will enable
federal assistance to go farther in rebuilding hurricane devastated communities and
create thousands of new jobs....” The Coalition spoke of “giving residents a chance
to assist in rebuilding their own communities” and of “expanded opportunities for
45 Daily Labor Report, Oct. 16, 1992, pp. A11-A12. See also, The White House, Office of
the Press Secretary, Emergency Suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act, Oct. 14, 1992, p. 1.
(Cited hereafter as White House Fact Sheet.)
46 Daily Labor Report, Oct. 13, 1992, p. A4.
47 Daily Labor Report, Oct. 16, 1992, p. A11.
48 On Oct. 23, 1992, President Bush signed Executive Order No. 12818: “Open Bidding on
Federal and Federally Funded Construction Projects.” The document was regarded by
organized labor as anti-union. See Daily Labor Report, Oct. 28, 1992, pp. A2-A3, and D1-
D2. See also (concerning the two proclamations): “Bush Bans Nonunion Labor Bias: Move
Seen as Effort To Shore Up Support of Builders’ Group,” unsigned, in the Dallas Morning
News, Oct. 24, 1992, p. 5A; and Stuart Silverstein and James Gerstenzang, “Order by Bush
Curtails Some Union Job Rules,” Los Angeles Times, Oct. 24, 1992, part A, p. 22. See also
Daily Labor Report, July 28, 1992, pp. 11-13, which explains the dispute between the
contractors and the Bush Administration over the Boston Harbor project.
49 Candice Johnson, “Bush Plays Politics with Davis-Bacon Worker Protections,” AFL-CIO
News, Oct. 26, 1992, p. 1.
50 Frank Swoboda, “Bush Shifts on Non-Union Contracts Bids,” Washington Post, Oct. 25,
contractors to hire local workers.”51 The National Utility Contractor headlined:
“President Bush Grants Davis-Bacon Reprieve for Hurricane Stricken Areas.” The
President’s action, it suggested, “could create as many as 11,000 new construction
jobs in the three states.”52 And Donald Lambro, reporter for Human Events, seemed
to have felt that a suspension was appropriate. Then, looking toward the future, he
suggested: “By suspending it everywhere, [the newly elected President] Clinton
could help combat high youth unemployment, give federal taxpayers more for their
tax dollars and help open up economic opportunities for inner-city minorities.”53
President Clinton and Restoration of Davis-Bacon
On February 1, 1993, President William Clinton issued Executive Order No.
12836, revoking Executive Order No. 12818, and restoring the use of project labor
agreements in public (federal) construction. It provided, inter alia, that the “heads
of executive agencies shall promptly revoke any orders, rules, or regulations”
impeding such project labor agreements.54 The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr.
Clinton has “pleased his political supporters in organized labor” by revoking the
prohibition on project labor agreements. But it continued: “The so-called project-
agreement order was issued in the heat of the presidential campaign by George W.
Bush last October 23 after the Associated Builders and Contractors, a trade group for
16,000 nonunion construction companies had threatened not to endorse his bid for
On March 6, Clinton issued Proclamation No. 6534, providing that the Bush56
suspension be withdrawn and that the Davis-Bacon Act be fully restored. “Within
51 Letter in file from Coalition to Reform the Davis-Bacon Act to George Bush, Oct. 15,
52 “Just from the Trenches,” The National Utility Contractor, Nov. 1992, p. 8.
53 Donald Lambro, “How Clinton Could Improve Economy,” Human Events, Jan. 23, 1993,
54 58 Federal Register, Feb. 3, 1993, p. 7045.
55 Bruce Ingersoll, “Clinton Cancels Bush Orders About Unions,” the Wall Street Journal,
Feb. 2, 1993, p. A2. The article goes on to note (p. A8) that Clinton had also revoked
Executive Order No. 12800 “to the extent consistent with law” which requires employers
to post notices concerning a worker’s Beck rights: the right to reject full union membership.
Stephen Moore, associated with the Cato Institute, moreover, was quoted as saying that
“‘any digging done on federal Projects is apt to be twice as expensive as it needs to be.’”
See Sylvia Nasar, “Some Dos and Don’ts for a Clinton Public Works Policy,” the New York
Times, Feb. 7, 1993, Sect. 3, p. 5. See also Rex Hardesty, “Clinton Strikes Balance, Lifts
Anti-Union Orders,” AFL-CIO News, Feb. 15, 1993, pp. 1 and 4.
56 58 Federal Register, vol. 58, Mar. 10, 1993, p. 13189.
back in force in the affected areas for all direct federal construction and for federally-
Suspension Under George W. Bush
On August 29, 2005, Florida and the Gulf Coast were hit by Hurricane Katrina.
The result was one of the greatest natural disasters in the history of the United States.
Gradually, the impact of the hurricane was assessed. Diverse public and private
funding was made available to the areas affected, while thousands of people were
displaced from their homes, often to other states.
Reaction from President Bush
“Year after year,” observed Representative George Miller, ranking Democrat on
the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, “Republicans have tried to
erase this law [the Davis-Bacon Act] ... But they do not have the votes in Congress
to do it.”58 The hurricane, however, may have made a difference, for the Washington
Post headlined, in an issue of September 10, 2005, “In the Floods, Parties’ Agendas
S u rface.”59
There had been large pockets of poverty in the New Orleans area. When the
announcement was made to vacate the city as the storm approached, the poor
apparently had few resources upon which to rely. Further, a lack of transportation
may have been critical and, perhaps as important, the lack of a destination. After the
storm passed, many poor remained amid the ruins of a once thriving city, still without
resources, but now without homes or jobs.
It was reported that on Wednesday, September 7, when Budget Director Joshua
Bolten briefed House Republicans on the President’s supplemental spending request,
“conservative lawmakers urged him to lift the wage rules” tied to Davis-Bacon.60
That same day, Representatives Tom Feeney, Jeff Flake, and Marilyn Musgrave
organized a letter to the President, urging him to use his presidential power to waive
Temporary suspension of Davis-Bacon will help avoid costly delays that impede
clean-up and reconstruction efforts along the Gulf Coast. Time is of the essence
57 Daily Labor Report, Mar. 9, 1993, p. A5. Charles W. Baird (a consultant with the Cato
Institute and a professor at California State University at Hayward) stated, “The actual
explanation was suggested by the president of the Teamsters, who boasted that Clinton
could not have been elected without the organized financial and in-kind support of unions.”
See Baird, “Clinton’s Bows to Big Labor,” Human Events, June 12, 1993, p. 16.
58 George Miller, Statement to the Press, Sept. 8, 2005.
59 Jonathan Weisman and Amy Goldstein, “In the Floods, Parties’ Agendas Surface,”
Washington Post, Sept. 10, 2005, A4. (Hereafter cited as Weisman and Goldstein, In the
and any action that can be taken to expedite this process need [sic] to be,’ stated
Feeney went on to state general arguments against Davis-Bacon and concluded that
the act often results in “driving up costs” of construction.61
In the letter to the President, signed by 35 Members of the House, the concept
of a “national emergency” was affirmed. It was also stated that compliance with the
wage processes of the Davis-Bacon Act could delay reconstruction (“... often a delay
of two weeks....”) and that the act’s “regulations effectively discriminate against
contractor employment of non-union and lower-skilled workers” and “can even raise
total construction costs by up to 38%.” The letter reviewed the past history of Davis-
Bacon suspensions and closed, “Faced with the massive rebuilding challenges ahead,
we respectfully urge you to make a presidential proclamation to suspend Davis-
Bacon until our country is once again whole.”62
On September 8, 2005, President Bush suspended the Davis-Bacon Act as it
relates to specific segments of the country (i.e., to portions of Florida, Alabama,
Mississippi, and Louisiana).63 He specified both the act and “the provisions of all
other acts providing for the payment of wages, which provisions are dependent upon
determinations by the Secretary of Labor” under the Davis-Bacon rules. The64
suspension would continue “until otherwise provided.”
Reaction to the Promulgation
Representative Charlie Norwood praised the President for his “quick action to
strip away unnecessary bureaucracy that may hamper our ability to recover....”
Davis-Bacon rules “are onerous and drive up the cost of any project to which they are
applied....” The nation, he stated, “can’t afford that kind of inefficiency, red tape, and
inflated costs when we have an entire region to rebuild, largely at taxpayer
expense.”65 The Daily Labor Report, quoting the President, suggested that
suspension “will result in greater assistance to these devastated communities and will
61 Tom Feeney, Statement to the Press, Sept. 7, 2005. In his release of Sept. 9, 2005, not
related to Rep. Feeney’s comments, Rep. Miller affirmed, “Davis-Bacon applies to all
workers, whether they belong to a union or not. Davis-Bacon helps to provide a floor for
all workers’ wages.” (Italics added.)
62 Rep. Jeff Flake, Statement to the Press, Sept. 7, 2005. The statement includes the letter
to the President.
63 Concerning the procedure for suspension of such acts as the Davis-Bacon Act, see CRS
Report 98-505, National Emergency Powers, by Harold C. Relyea.
64 See White House press releases, Sept. 8, 2005.
[http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/09/20050908-5.html]. Concerning the
duration and/or termination of suspension of an act such as the Davis-Bacon Act, see
Relyea, National Emergency Powers, op cit.
65 Rep. Charlie Norwood, Statement to the Press, Sept. 8, 2005. Reps. Norwood and Charles
W. Boustany (R-LA) had written to the President, Sept. 8, 2005, urging suspension of the
permit the employment of thousands of additional individuals....”66 Or, as
Representative Feeney stated: “Lots of people in Louisiana are willing to go to work
tomorrow, and the market will set the wage....”67
Organized labor opined that the President’s order “would allow contractors to
pay substandard wages to construction workers in the affected areas.” John Sweeney,
AFL-CIO president, explained: “Employers are all to eager to exploit workers. This
is no time to make that easier.” Sweeney stated: “Taking advantage of a national
tragedy to get rid of a protection for workers that corporate backers of the White
House have long wanted to remove is nothing less than profiteering.” Edward
Sullivan, president of the Building and Constructions Trades Department, likened the
effect to “legalized looting.”68 The New York Times editorialized, “By any standard
of human decency, condemning many already poor and now bereft people to sub-par
wages — thus perpetuating their poverty — is unacceptable.”69
Somewhat anticipating the President’s action, Representative Flake introduced
the “Cleanup and Reconstruction Enhancement Act (CARE Act)” on September 7,
2005. The Flake bill (H.R. 3684) would, whenever a “major disaster” has been
proclaimed under the Stafford Act, automatically suspend the Davis-Bacon Act for
one year in the area of concern. A companion bill (S. 1817) was subsequently
introduced by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC).
In the wake of the President’s action, several bills were introduced that would
have had the effect of overturning the President’s Davis-Bacon proclamation: H.R.
3763 (George Miller), H.R. 3834 (Pallone), and S. 1739 (Kennedy).70 Senator
Barbara Boxer introduced a two-pronged bill (S. 1763), first, to give employment
preference to workers who have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina; and second,
to restore the impact of the Davis-Bacon Act in the areas in which it had been
In addition to legislation dealing specifically with the Davis-Bacon Act, two
bills seemed to challenge Administration policy in that regard. Representative Miller
introduced H.Res. 467: a bill “[r]equesting that the President transmit to the House
of Representatives information in this possession relating to contracts for services or
construction related to Hurricane Katrina recovery that relate to wages and benefits
to be paid to workers.” The bill was referred to the Committee on Education and the
66 Daily Labor Report, Sept. 9, 2005, p. AA1.
67 Rep. Feeney is cited in Weisman and Goldstein, In the Floods, p. A4.
68 AFL-CIO: News for Working Families, Sept. 10, 2005.
69 “A Shameful Proclamation,” editorial, New York Times, Sept. 10, 2005, p. A26.
70 H.Res. 516 was introduced by Representative Charlie Melancon (D-LA), the thrust of
which was to provide for consideration of H.R. 3763.
Workforce — where, ultimately, it was rejected by a vote of 25 to 20.71 A separate
measure, but of similar content (H.Res. 488), had been introduced by Representative
Steve LaTourette (R-OH) and had been forwarded to the Committee on
Transportation and Infrastructure chaired by Representative Don Young (R-AK).72
Finally, H.J.Res. 69 was introduced by Representative Miller, the impact of which
would have been termination of the national emergency declared by the President and
reinstatement of the Davis-Bacon Act.
Gradually, conditions in the Gulf region became clearer and, in that context, a
movement was discerned for re-institution of the Davis-Bacon Act. In late
September, some 37 Republicans “signed on to a letter” to President Bush urging that
his proclamation be rescinded. In a more varied appeal, LaTourette stated: “When
you suspend Davis-Bacon, you also suspend the Copeland Anti-Kickback
prohibitions” of the act “so you have no more certified payrolls.” For those who are
“... worried about profiteering and other things, reinstating Davis-Bacon is a good
i d ea.”73
In late October, about 20 Republicans reportedly attended a meeting with White
House Chief of Staff Andrew Card at the office of Speaker Dennis Hastert. Card was
described as “more than receptive” to suggestions from those supportive of Davis-
Bacon and acknowledged that “they weren’t saving any money” through the
suspension.74 On October 25, according to one report, Card called Representative
LaTourette to invite him to a meeting at the White House the following day —
October 26. During the White House meeting, Card was quoted as having said,
according to LaTourette, that “there appeared to be no savings garnered from
suspending the Davis-Bacon Act.”75
On October 26, 2005, word began to surface that a change of policy was in the
works, and, by late afternoon, it seemed to have been confirmed. The Bush
Administration, the Daily Labor Report stated, would reinstate on November 8th —
71 See CRS Report RL31909, House Resolutions of Inquiry, by Louis Fisher.
72 Daily Labor Report, Oct. 21, 2005, pp. A1 ff. Rep. Young had been a signatory to a pro-
Davis-Bacon letter to the White House signed by 37 members of the Republican Party.
73 Daily Labor Report, Oct. 11, 2005, p. A2.
74 Daily Labor Report, Oct. 21, 2005, pp. A1 ff.
75 Daily Labor Report, Oct. 27, 2005, pp. AA1 ff. “The issue of prevailing wages under
Davis-Bacon really did not mean much because the market was driving wage rates,”
according to Derrell Cohoon, executive director, Associated General Contractors of
Louisiana. If there had been any positive impact from suspension of Davis-Bacon, Cohoon
indicated, it was release from the requirement of payroll reporting. “That’s the real issue.”
Later, Perry Nations, executive director, Associated General Contractors of Mississippi,
when asked about pay rates in construction in the Gulf States, indicated that they were then
well in excess of the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage. Of the impact of the reinstatement,
Nations explained: “...truthfully, none.” See Daily Labor Report, Oct. 21, 2005, p. A1 ff,
and Nov. 3, 2005, p. A6 ff.
just two months after its suspension — the “Davis-Bacon Act prevailing wage
requirements for reconstruction projects in the hurricane-battered Gulf Coast region.”
The article continued, quoting Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, that “[u]pon review of
current conditions in the declared areas, the administration will reinstate Davis-
Bacon....”76 Under the circumstances, the suspension-related bills became moot.
76 Daily Labor Report, Oct. 27, 2005, pp. AA1 ff. On Nov. 3, 2005, President Bush, while
at a conference at Mar del Plata, Argentina, signed the proclamation restoring the act to full
force. See Proclamation 7959, Nov. 3, 2005, in Weekly Compilation of Presidential
Documents, Vol. 41, No. 44, p. 1650.