The final rule is slated to be published in the Federal Register on Aug. 23.

The final rule is slated to be published in the Federal Register on Aug. 23. Kiyoshi Tanno/Getty Images

Labor Dept. will offer training on new rules to boost some federal contractors' wages

Earlier this week, the Biden administration announced a major overhaul of regulations governing the compensation of construction workers on federally funded projects.

The Labor Department on Friday announced that it will offer training to federal contractors on recently announced updates to regulations governing how much construction workers on federally funded projects are paid.

Vice President Harris on Tuesday announced that the Labor Department would propose a new final rule updating regulations issued under the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts, which require companies working on federal construction projects to pay their workers a “prevailing wage.” The final rule is slated to be published in the Federal Register on Aug. 23, and will go into effect 60 days later.

“We strongly believe every worker deserves fair wages for their work,” Harris said at an event in Philadelphia. “So, I’m here today to announce that we are updating this law and giving workers across the nation a raise. That’s thousands of dollars more every year to help put a down payment on a home, for example, or to save for retirement or simply to take their family on a vacation.”

The regulations mark the first major update to Davis-Bacon rules since the Reagan administration weakened the rules in 1983, changing the basis of construction contractors’ wages from at least 30% of workers in a region to at least 50%.

The regulations being proposed this month would revert the prevailing wage criteria back to the 30% threshold. And it makes it easier for the Labor Department to update the federal prevailing wage in a location in the future, allowing officials to adopt prevailing wages as measured by state and local governments rather than go through a laborious process of surveying contractors.

“Prior to the new rule, if the majority of workers in a given trade and locality did not earn a single wage rate, then the prevailing wage was determined by the average wage in a given trade in a locality,” the White House wrote in a fact sheet summarizing the new regulations. “This average can pull down the prevailing wage if some employers pay very little. Setting the prevailing wage to the wage paid to at least 30% of workers makes it more likely that workers are paid a true prevailing wage.”

The new rule also will add a new provision protecting workers who raise concerns about their workplace and wages from retaliation by their employer, and expands the Labor Department’s ability to withhold money from a contractor to pay victims of wage theft and other instances of lost wages.

The Labor Department will host a pair of free online seminars on Sept. 13 and 14 to provide contractors with an overview of the upcoming changes and to clarify their concerns. Associated Builder and Contractors, a trade association representing builders who employ non-union labor, has decried the measures as a “handout to organized labor.”

“Prevailing wage laws ensure that people employed on federally funded construction projects across the nation are paid fair wages and benefits,” said Jessica Looman, principal deputy wage and hour administrator at the department. “With the historic investments being made in our nation’s infrastructure, these online Wage and Hour Division seminars will provide employers and others with information about compliance with regulations governing federal contracts.”

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