Getting Americans Back to Work and Good Jobs – Center for American Progress

The government has a number of tools at its disposal to ensure that the jobs created by the investment are good jobs. House Democrats committed to ensuring that the jobs created through any infrastructure package are covered by Davis-Bacon Act protections, which require construction work to pay market wages and benefits.7 For example, the Moving Forward Act extends Davis-Bacon coverage to several spending programs; helps expand registered apprenticeship in surface transportation projects; and requires major purchases of transit vehicles to include incentives for manufacturers to pay decent wages as well as provide apprenticeships and recruit traditionally underrepresented labor. In addition, the package incorporates provisions of the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act to boost transparency and adopt guardrails to ensure that recipients meet labor and Buy America requirements.8

In addition, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) introduced the Build Local, Hire Local Act last summer, which would go even further to ensure that any major infrastructure package upholds high job quality standards and that local communities where infrastructure projects take place reap meaningful benefits.9 Finally, in their “Better Deal” agenda, Senate Democrats endorsed protections on all government spending that would help to ensure that workers who want to form unions are able to do so.10

These types of interventions are essential because existing job quality protections do not automatically extend to new spending programs. But there is more that can be done to support workers. For example, most safeguards—such as wage standards for service workers and affirmative action planning requirements—cover only employers receiving federal contracts, even though more than half of all federal spending to support private sector jobs comes in the form of grants, loans, loan guarantees, and tax credits.

Making matters worse, the Trump administration and his allies in Congress are working to undercut strong standards. The administration announced that it would not require federal contractors receiving coronavirus funding to comply with long-standing anti-discrimination protections that mandate that they take affirmative efforts to hire women, people of color, veterans, and people with disabilities.11 Moreover, the Senate majority stripped protections from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that would have required airlines receiving bailout funds to pay workers at least $15 per hour; and now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wants Congress to free companies from future liability when they fail to take reasonable steps to protect their workers from COVID-19 exposure.12

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