AGC takes Biden administration to court over plan to expand Davis-Bacon Law

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Chicago Construction News staff writer

The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) filed a lawsuit in federal court recently to block the Biden Administration’s “unlawful” effort to expand the reach of a decades-old law that governs wage rates on federally funded construction projects.

Association officials say the administration “lacks the legal authority to expand the law” to cover manufacturing facilities miles away from projects, or to retroactively impose the measure on already-executed contracts, among other concerns.

“As an industry that largely pays above existing Davis-Bacon rates, our concerns are with the administration’s unconstitutional exercise of legislative power and not with the wage rate themselves,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, chief executive officer of AGC. “But we are challenging the fact president’s unlawful efforts to expand a construction wage law to cover a wide range of manufacturing and shipping operations.”

The association filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in response to the U.S. Department of Labor’s final rule proposing significant changes to the Davis-Bacon Act, which was first enacted in 1931. The measure sets construction wage rates for federally funded or assisted public works projects.

The lawsuit alleges that the administration is attempting to expand the construction wage law to cover workers in manufacturing facilities that produce building and infrastructure components, and to cover delivery truck drivers and to retroactively impose the measure on already executed contracts that don’t specifically require Davis-Bacon wage rates.

In its legal filing, the association noted that the Davis-Bacon Act is specifically limited only to “mechanics and laborers employed directly upon the site of the work.”

Also, in an amended version of the Act passed in 1935, Congress clarified that the Davis-Bacon law does not apply to materials suppliers. The administration’s attempt to apply the law to materials suppliers operated by contractors or subcontractors represents an illegal attempt by the executive branch to exercise legislative power, the suit notes.

The association also challenged the Biden administration rule for asserting that Davis-Bacon rules can be retroactively imposed on qualifying contracts that omitted inclusion of the Davis-Bacon requirements.

The lawsuit also states the administration “the legal authority, or legal precedent”, to retroactively impose Davis-Bacon stipulations on executed contracts that omitted them when signed.

The association is seeking to have the court order the administration to roll back its efforts to expand Davis-Bacon requirements to categories of work that were excluded in the initial legislation.

Click here for a copy of the association’s petition to the court.

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