Harris says new rule means 'thousands of dollars' for workers on federal construction projects

FILE - Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the UnidosUS 2023 Annual Conference July 24, 2023, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday announced changes to labor rules that could give higher wages to construction workers on federal projects.

In a speech in Philadelphia, Harris said the Labor Department has provided the first update in decades to the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931, a law that requires the payment of prevailing local wages on public works.

“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.”

The new rule is something of a return to the past in that it will use the definition of prevailing wage that the Labor Department previously used from 1935 to 1983, likely raising the hourly earnings of contractors and subcontractors.

More than 1 million construction workers with jobs on roughly $200 billion worth of federally supported projects will benefit, the Democratic vice president's office said in an emailed statement.

The new rule “will mean thousands of extra dollars per year in workers’ pockets to help put a down payment on a home, save for retirement, or simply have more breathing room,” the statement said.

While workers would earn more money, critics such as the Associated Builders and Contractors have said the Davis-Bacon requirements make construction projects more expensive for taxpayers.