In 2011, an all-Republican group of members of the House responded to the ongoing economic slump by voting in favor of House Amendment 169. If passed, H.Amdt 169 would have forbidden any money from being spent to enforce the Davis-Bacon Act, which mandates that construction contractors with the federal government pay the prevailing wage for an area. That’s not an extravagant standard; prevailing wages for construction work pays below the poverty level in many places across the United States, as Rep. Timothy Bishop made clear in a speech on the House floor regarding abolition of the Davis-Bacon wage standard for federal workers:
"I want to be clear on what our friends on the other side of the aisle are fighting for. The prevailing wage for a bricklayer in Lee County, Florida, is $8.34 an hour. That is an annual rate of $17,000 a year. The Federal poverty level for a family of four is approximately $21,000 a year. Does this Congress really want to go on record as imposing a wage rate that consigns the hardworking people of our communities to living under the Federal poverty level? I would hope not."
That all-Republican group in the House didn’t manage to cut construction workers’ wages below the poverty level in 2011, but yesterday another all-Republican group in the Senate tried to do so again. Led by Senator Rand Paul, an all-Republican group of Senators voted in favor of Senate Amendment 3376, which again would have prohibited any enforcement of Davis-Bacon wage standards for American construction workers on federal projects. Rand Paul’s amendment would have pushed wages for full-time construction workers even farther below poverty levels — and every one of the 42 Senators who voted for the amendment yesterday was a Republican. Under this ongoing Republican plan, construction corporations reap extra profit while construction workers are ground into the dust. Fortunately, the Republican plan to cut construction wages even further below poverty level failed.
In the 2012 elections, Republicans lost elections for the House, the Senate and the Presidency because the American people felt that Republican politicians were a bunch of elitists who defended corporate riches while attacking workers. Yesterday’s vote will not help to change that perception.