WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today joined Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) in introducing a bill to reverse President Bush’s recent Executive Order stripping key wage protections from workers rebuilding the troubled Gulf region. Harkin also announced that he will offer the bill as an amendment to the Supplemental Appropriations bill expected for Katrina relief. The Senate is expected to consider the Supplemental measure soon. Harkin is a senior member of the Appropriations Committee and the Ranking Democrat on the Labor HHS Appropriations Subcommittee.

“The President’s Executive Order would prevent workers rebuilding the highways, homes, hospitals and schools along the Gulf Coast from earning a fair wage,” said Harkin. “These are the workers who will do the hazardous-waste clean-up in areas rife with bacteria, molds, and chemical contaminants. Many working families in the Gulf Coast region were struggling to provide for their families before the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. It defies logic to argue that they should be paid less money after the hurricane than they were before. Paying prevailing wages will also help spur an economic recovery in the region, as those higher earnings will find their way back into the local economies.”

The Davis-Bacon Act requires that workers employed on federally-funded construction projects be paid the prevailing wage rate of the area where their work is conducted. It is intended to ensure that employees performing work on government contracts are paid wages that reflect the fair market value of their work. On September 8, President Bush issued a proclamation suspending indefinitely the application of Davis-Bacon on federal construction contracts in areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida impacted by Hurricane Katrina. The Harkin amendment block the Bush order, ensuring that workers who toil to rebuild the Gulf Coast region will be paid wages that will also allow them to rebuild their lives.

Statistics show that wages in the Gulf Coast region are already low. For example, most carpenters and laborers in Alabama make less than $19,000 per year; Mississippi highway workers between $ 12,770 and $17,325 per year; and pipe-layers and dump truck drivers working on water and sewer lines and flood control projects in Louisiana earn approximately $20,000 per year.