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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Sen. Jacque’s Davis-Bacon views misguided

Dear Editor:

The June 18 opinion column by State Sen. Andre Jacque is, unfortunately, only an opinion.

There is simply no credible research evidence that the federal Davis-Bacon wage standards add costs to public projects. This wage standard is established by the U.S. Department of Labor through a wage survey of contractors in the area, thereby establishing what is the most commonly occurring private wage rate in a county. So, when Sen. Jacque says there is a big difference between the ”private” rate and Davis-Bacon, that is simply not true. Are there some contractors that pay below the Davis-Bacon rate in an area, possibly. But it does not mean that that the rate is artificial or inflated as he posits.

Furthermore, the quote from economist Milton Friedman in this context is simply offensive. No one in the trades, and certainly not Mr. Bukiewicz, is suggesting a “make work” program. We are suggesting investments to create ongoing employment for people who have chosen a career in the skilled trades. Working men and women in Wisconsin (our neighbors!) who earn their living as plumbers, pipe layers, carpenters, laborers, electricians, etc.

One doesn’t need to be an expert to know that Wisconsin has a great need for road, bridge and other infrastructure repairs. In fact, the American Society of Civil Engineers rated Wisconsin a D+ in their most recent report. The report estimates that every Wisconsin driver pays on average $737 per year due to driving on roads in need of repair. The report also notes that Wisconsin has billions in needed water infrastructure work, for clean drinking water and for wastewater treatment. President Trump promised extensive infrastructure investment when he campaigned in 2016, but once in office he has done next to nothing to address the country’s needs in this regard.

“Davis-Bacon has stymied competition in federal contracting for nearly 100 years.” This is something people of a certain political persuasion repeat, with no proof. Jacque’s entire piece is filled with repeated tropes that are old and tired. Public projects are already awarded through a fair and competitive bidding system that allows all qualified contractors, to the lowest responsive responsible bidder by state law.

The Davis-Bacon act was created so government work did not undercut the private market, but rather to meet it where it was.

Pam Fendt
research director
Wisconsin Laborers’ Union

 

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