Prevailing Wage

The Pennsylvania State Prevailing Wage law requires that all workers on state funded construction projects that exceed $25,000 be paid the State Prevailing Wage.  The Federal Government requires the payment of Prevailing Wages for all Construction Contracts that have federal funding that exceeds $2,000, which includes federal, state and local public works projects. The Federal Davis/Bacon Act was signed into law by President Hebert Hoover in 1931 and amended in 1935 with wage conditions and amended again in 1964 to include the consideration of fringe benefits.

PA - Department of Labor and Davis Bacon Web Links:

US - Department of Labor and Davis Bacon Web Links:

Prevailing Wage News

Prevailing Wage A Good Deal For All



Economist's simplistic prescription would devastate workers: PennLive letters


Matthew Rousu, an economist from Susquehana University, recently wrote a commentary in the Patriot-News and PennLive calling for the repeal of Pennsylvania's prevailing wage law. His argument basically boiled down to this: Without prevailing wage, we could pay workers less and therefore construction projects would be cheaper. State or local governments could save money. 

In the strictest since, Mr. Rousu's point is mathematically true. But it is a terrible argument for repealing or weakening our prevailing wage law.

Of course we could save money (at least in the short term) by paying workers less. In fact, paying workers anything at all costs more than paying them nothing. So from a purely fiscal perspective, if we paid workers poverty-level wages, we could erect lots and lots of buildings.

The problem with this argument, of course, is that it completely ignores the impact on the workers themselves. In fact, Mr. Rousu explicitly dismisses any legitimate interest workers may have in earning enough to support their families when he says "whatever wage we can pay in which someone will accept the work." In a recession, or a soft economy such as we have now, workers might be forced to accept work at wages below the poverty level. Their lives would be dismal and their families deprived of even the basics of life. But heck, we'd have more cheap buildings.

In my view, Mr. Rousu's decidedly unbalanced perspective is profoundly misguided. Working men and women aren't disposable work-horses whose quality of life is irrelevant to us. They are human beings who are entitled to live decently and support their families. 

Paying a living wage is part of the cost of any project, just as much as the cost of lumber and wiring. A strong prevailing wage law is all that stands between many hard-working Pennsylvanians and poverty. It must be retained.

SEN. DAYLIN LEACH, Delaware and Montgomery Counties

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