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Thursday, October 27, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Bush lifts post-storm prevailing-wage ban

Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — Under pressure from members of both parties, President Bush agreed Wednesday to lift an order that had allowed federal contractors on Hurricane Katrina reconstruction projects to pay workers less than the locally prevailing wage.

His decision elated Democrats, labor unions and moderate House Republicans from districts where organized labor is active. The reinstatement of the wage rules will take effect Nov. 8.

The prevailing wage is usually close to the wage level set in local union contracts. Critics had said that waiving the prevailing-wage requirement had allowed employers to pay "poverty wages."

"It was fundamentally wrong for the Bush administration to hit workers when they were down by slashing wages, exacerbating the very poverty that the hurricanes exposed," said John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO. As the devastation caused by Katrina became clear, Bush on Sept. 8 suspended the wage standards laid out in the Davis-Bacon Act for areas of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi. Some allies praised the move, saying the law, if not suspended, would have inflated costs and presented roadblocks to rebuilding. But Democrats, labor unions and some House Republicans resisted the move. Led by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., an effort was building in the House for an early November vote on reinstating the wage standard.

Bush's initial action had also posed problems for House Republicans. Thirty-seven of them objected to Bush in writing.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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