Six steps to ensuring that infrastructure investment creates good jobs
All companies supported by federal infrastructure spending must create good jobs, regardless of whether they receive grants, loans, loan guarantees, or tax credits. In order to do so, federal policymakers must include protections in any major infrastructure investment to ensure that all subsidized firms comply with the following requirements:
1. Pay fair wages and provide quality benefits
All jobs supported through the infrastructure package should pay decent wages and provide essential benefits. Yet the Davis-Bacon Act and the McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act, which set wage and benefit rates for contracted workers in the construction and service sector at existing market levels, do not automatically apply to new spending programs. Moreover, too often, prevailing wage rates are set at levels that undercut high industry standards and sometimes even pay poverty wages.13
Prevailing wage and benefit protections should apply to any future infrastructure spending. In addition, Congress should adopt reforms enacted by several cities and states to ensure that when significant numbers of workers in an industry join together in unions, the collectively bargained wage rates can become the prevailing wage rates.
Also, Congress should raise the minimum wage floor for all recipients of infrastructure funds to $15 dollars per hour and ensure that funded companies provide essential benefits such as paid sick leave. In occupations and geographies with low levels of union membership, prevailing wage rates often fall below the living wage needed to sustain a family. Raising minimum pay and expanding benefits protections would build on the work of President Barack Obama, who established minimum wage and paid sick leave protections for those working on federal contracts. Finally, policymakers should enact protections to ensure that publicly supported workers receive fair scheduling protections, extended paid family and medical leave, and access to quality and affordable child care.