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President signs executive order suspending wage law in Katrina wake

[JURIST] President George W. Bush has issued an executive order [White House press release] allowing federal contractors working to rebuild areas damaged by Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive] to pay lower wages, effectively suspending regulations under the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act [US Department of Labor text; DOL backgrounder] requiring contractors to pay workers the minimum of prevailing wages [US DOL wage determinations] for federally-funded construction projects that are in excess of $2,000. The President is authorized to suspend the Act's provisions "[i]n the event of a national emergency." The order, signed Thursday, has drawn praise from conservative quarters [Heritage Foundation research memo] for speeding reconstruction, but has at the same time been castigated by Democrats and labor leaders. Rep. George Miller (D-CA) [official profile] called the move a "colossal mistake" and urged the President to rescind the order, accusing him of cutting the wages of those that are "desperately trying to rebuild their lives and their communities." Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy (MA-Dem) [official profile] was also critical and flagged the potential for "shabby" workmanship. The head of the AFL-CIO [advocacy website] called the order "short-sighted" and said Congress must not "allow the destruction of Hurricane Katrina to depress living standards even further." Read the full AFL-CIO press release. The wage provisions of the Davis-Bacon Act have been suspended three other times: once by President Franklin Roosevelt, once by President Nixon, and most recently by President George H.W. Bush after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Reuters has more.

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