WASHINGTON—Building trades and government workers unions’ lobbying paid off as the GOP-run House defeated two anti-worker amendments offered by right-wing Republicans on April 30.
One was yet another chapter in the perennial attempts by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, to trash the Davis-Bacon Act. The other came from Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., who tried to cut out lost-time payments for union work at the Veterans Affairs Department. The two tried to attach their amendments to a bill funding the VA and other agencies.
Both measures lost on bipartisan votes, with dozens of Republicans defecting from the party line, supporting workers, and opposing the amendments, as did all House Democrats.
North America’s Building Trades – formerly the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department – called King’s measure “politically motivated.” King lost, 186-235.
King has tried repeatedly to cut construction workers’ wages nationwide by eliminating the Davis-Bacon Act and its prevailing wage requirements. It’s a top cause of the anti-union Associated Builders and Contractors and of the Republican right.
The building trades called the vote against King’s move “acknowledgment by lawmakers of both parties that there is currently no good evidence demonstrating that repeal of prevailing wage statutes, at any level of government, has actually resulted in cost savings for taxpayers.
Hice charged the $45 million paid yearly for lost official time to reps should instead be spent on veterans care. He disregarded the fact that at least one-third of VA workers – and their union, the Government Employees – are veterans.
AFGE added another reason that official lost time is needed: Protecting whistleblowers, such as those rank-and-file workers who exposed the VA’s scandals in the past few years.
“Without official time, AFGE Local President Kathleen Dahl wouldn’t have been able to blow the whistle on a faulty water system that led to a Legionnaires disease outbreak that killed six veterans. Her courageous actions saved lives and protected patients at the Pittsburgh VA hospital.
“Had the union not been available” and able to use official time to defend and aid the whistle-blowers, VA workers “would have remained intimidated, and more veterans’ lives would be at risk,” the union concluded.
Hice’s amendment lost 190-232, with 49 Republicans joining all 183 Democrats against it.