Prevailing wages is a term used in a legislative effort to provideorganized labor a fair chance to bid for government contracts. Federal law requires all employers engaged in the performance of federal contracts to pay "prevailing" wages to their workers. This ensures that nonunion employers cannot gain an unfair bidding advantage by paying wages far below the union rate and passing the savings on to the government in lower bids. A prevailing wage is a rate of pay determined by the U.S. Department of Labor based upon the particular geographic area for a given class of labor and type of project. The Davis-Bacon Act, the McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act, and the Walsh-Healy Act are the primary laws governing federally funded construction projects in the private sector.
The Davis-Bacon Act requires that all contractors and subcontractors performing on federal contracts (and contractors or subcontractors performing on federally assisted contracts under the related Acts) in excess of $2,000 pay their laborers and mechanics not less than the prevailing wage rates and fringe benefits (as determined by the Secretary of Labor) for corresponding classes of laborers and mechanics employed on similar projects in the area.The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor determines prevailing wage rates to be paid on federally funded or assisted construction projects. It is the responsibility of the federal agency that funds or financially assists Davis-Bacon covered construction projects to ensure that the proper Davis-Bacon wage determination(s) is/are applied to such construction contracts.