Political News

Vice President Kamala Harris touts ‘raise’ for union workers on federal construction projects

Vice President Kamala Harris Speaks On The Biden Administration's Economic Plan In Southeast D.C.
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(PHILADELPHIA) — Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Philadelphia Tuesday to highlight the administration’s new rule to raise wage standards for construction workers performing federally funded jobs as part of the broader “Bidenomics” push.

Speaking at the Finishing Trades Institute, a union training and education department, Harris highlighted the new rule that updates the prevailing wage regulations under the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts (DBRA), which determines the hourly wage for many union workers. This change will impact more than 1 million construction workers, most of whom do not have a college degree, senior administration officials said Monday.

“But here’s the problem. Those standards have not been updated for 40 years. And as a result, many workers are paid much less than they deserve, much less than the value of their work. And not just by little, in some cases by thousands of dollars a year. And that is wrong, obviously, and completely unacceptable in the Biden-Harris administration,” Harris said.

Harris announced the changes coming to some of the millions of union workers.

“A heavy equipment operator on federally funded construction projects, let’s say in Allegheny County, might earn $17 an hour. After today, that worker could earn up to $28 an hour. So that’s thousands of dollars more every year to help put a down payment on a home for example, or to save for retirement, or to simply take their family on vacation once a year,” she said.

Some Republicans were quick to criticize the new rule.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., is the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and said in a statement that DBRA would “inflate the cost of federal construction projects to the detriment of American taxpayers” and “drastically inflate the price of construction.” Cassidy said the regulations would separate wage calculations based on urban and rural regions, which, he said, would disproportionally inflate the cost of projects in rural areas.

“This is the last thing our country needs as families continue to live with the painful effects of the Biden administration’s inflation agenda,” Cassidy said in his statement.

During Harris’ comments Tuesday, she noted the effort was part of the administration’s overall “Bidenomics” push to help working class Americans, and was critical of the trickledown economic policies of the past.

“We know that the way we’re going to build our economy is to invest in working people,” she said.

Many union workers attended the event, and the vice president praised them throughout her remarks. She particularly called out those who helped repair the I-95 bridge that collapsed a few months ago.

“In June when a truck crash collapsed a section of I-95, the workers of Philadelphia, including many from the building trades who are here today, rebuilt and reopened I-95 In less than two weeks,” she said. “I noticed the TV cameras here so I’m gonna remind folks that those folks on TV were saying ‘Oh those repairs could take months.’ These workers did it in 12 days,” she said.

This update will take effect 60 days after it’s published in the Federal Register.

ABC News’ Justin Gomez and Sarah Beth Hensley contributed to this report.

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