September 21, 2005
The Davis-Bacon Act

In declaring Texas a disaster area as part of the preparation for Hurricane Rita, Rick Perry's spokeswoman Kathy Walt said:

"FEMA has already been part of this. They have offered whatever support we need," Walt said. "Texas is not Louisiana. You won't see that breakdown occurring here."

You can parse that any number of ways. I don't care to get into that right now, but I'm wondering just how much Texas is not Louisiana. In particular, I'm wondering if President Bush will attempt to suspend the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 for Texas as he did in Louisiana. That's the federal law which requires that a federal contractor pay "prevailing wages" in that region for construction work. If he does, I'm wondering what Governor Perry will think about that. After all, with Rita now a Category 4 storm, and with various models still allowing for landfall to be at Galveston, there's going to be a lot of federally-funded reconstruction work going on here.

As it happens, there's a Democratic proposal to overturn this decision and enforce Davis-Bacon. It has 171 sponsors, all of whom are Democrats. As Josh Marshall notes, that leaves a few Dems out, including three from Texas. I've come to expect this sort of thing from Henry Cuellar, but I expect more from Chet Edwards and Charlie Gonzalez. Not being a sponsor of HR3763 is not the same as not supporting it, but let's cut to the chase here. If you've got a minute, especially if you're in Edwards' or Gonzalez' districts, please contact their offices and ask them whether or not they support HR3763, and if so if they plan on joining in as cosponsors. This seems like a no-brainer to me.

Not too surprisingly, of course, this particular action by the President is being cheered by many Republican Congressfolk. As The Stakeholder notes, five Texas GOPers, including Houston's John Culberson, have signed a request by Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake that urges President Bush to suspend Davis-Bacon. Dishonorable mention goes to Smokey Joe Barton, one of the anti-reconstruction 11, for joining in on this.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 21, 2005 to Hurricane Katrina | TrackBack


My take on Davis-Bacon is that it was suspended in Louisiana and Dade & Broward Counties in Florida (Don't forget they did it for Katrina-damaged Florida counties too) for one major reason. So that large Texas and Florida construction companies could continue to use undocumented immigrant labor. Conveniently they also waived the documentation requirements so that anyone can get hired in Louisiana and Florida on these Federal projects with no ID or social security card.

Thing about who is going to get the big construction contracts in Louisiana. It will be the big Texan construction companies. The same ones who have owned Bush and the Republican party in Texas since he was nothing more than a shrub. And what is their business model? It is to hire huge numbers of undocumented immigrants who are much easier to underpay and dispose of than even poor blacks. The Houston metro area is what? nearly 20% black? And how many black laborers do you ever see on construction sites?

I'm willing to bet it will be the same thing in Louisiana and the same thing again here in Texas should Rita do much damage. These big firms will ship in their crews of undocumented laborers to do the private construction work. And they will want to use their same crews for all the federal construction contracts they happen to snap up. But God-forbid they might have to pay prevailing wages to their immigrant crews on federal job sites because they might not want to go back to being exploited on the non-federal sites.

You don't think that an emergency order for Texas will be exactly the same? Think again. It is the big Texas companies who were behind the order in Louisiana. Look at the list of fainthearted Democrats on Josh Marshall's site who haven't come out against the repeal of Davis-Bacon. It's embarrasing how many are Texas Dems.

Posted by: Kent on September 21, 2005 12:32 PM

So glad you highlighted the issue...David has been talking about this in Town Hall meetings in the district and blogged about it last week [read more] We have to continue to highlight this irresponsible group of people who treat us all like they have the moral and intellectual upper hand. I believe it will only be a matter of time before we see activists every where we turn!

Posted by: Michelle on September 21, 2005 1:20 PM