Charles Hurt, Washington Times, July 13, 2006
The Senate immigration bill would require that foreign construction laborers here under the guest-worker program be paid well above the minimum wage, even as American workers at the same work site could earn less.
The bill “would guarantee wages to some foreign workers that could be higher than those paid to American workers at the same work site,” says a policy paper released this week by the Senate’s Republican Policy Committee. “This is unfair to U.S. workers, inappropriate, and unnecessary.”
The 11-page, harshly critical analysis of the Senate immigration bill on this one point reveals how torn Senate Republicans are over the larger issue of immigration.
Back in the Senate yesterday, Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter had an even harsher analysis of those — mostly fellow Republicans — who oppose the Senate’s approach, which would grant citizenship rights to some 10 million illegal aliens.
A recent article he read about immigration in Time magazine, he said during a hearing on immigration, “was right on target in identifying the underlying racism and xenophobia which really grips us despite our denial of it.”
But provisions of the Senate bill such as the wage guarantee for foreign workers raise concerns among more than just racists and xenophobes.
“That certainly is negotiable to me,” Mr. McCain said yesterday.
The Davis Bacon Act of 1931 (DBA) requires that the local prevailing wage be paid to all workers employed in federally contracted construction or projects done for the District of Columbia. Those wages — up to four or five times higher in some fields than the federal minimum wage of $5.15 per hour — are set by the Department of Labor.
The Senate’s immigration bill would require that the higher wages be paid to foreign temporary workers in all construction occupations, even if the project isn’t federally funded and doesn’t otherwise fall under DBA.
“In other words, foreign workers employed in a construction job for which a DBA wage rate has been determined could be guaranteed wages higher than those paid to American workers doing the same job on the same private construction project for the same employer,” the policy paper reports.
The DBA wage rate for an air conditioning mechanic in Alexandria or Montgomery County, for instance, is $30.27 an hour. That mechanic also is guaranteed paid holidays for New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King’s birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.