The Senate has been jockeying over procedure, watering down funding and inserting partisanship into a package of bills intended to marshal bipartisan support for improving U.S. business competitiveness with China for months. A pivotal vote on June 8 struck down an amendment to the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act intended to remove the bill’s prevailing wage, or Davis-Bacon, provisions.
In the first major floor vote on Davis Bacon in the U.S. Senate in over a decade, 58 senators voted to reject an amendment that would have stripped labor standards from the bill.
The International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers applauded the U.S. Senate for affirming strong labor standards in the $52-billion Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) Act. This important legislation would help rebuild the American semiconductor industry, bringing manufacturing jobs back from overseas.
“As a union representing 128,000 workers in construction and manufacturing, we recognize that semiconductors are a critical link in the supply chain supporting many industries,” the association’s statement reads. “The labor standards, including Davis Bacon prevailing wage, that are attached to the bill would help ensure that the industry creates good, local construction jobs.
“We thank the members and leadership of the Democratic Caucus for their stalwart support of labor standards. We applaud Republican Senators Roy Blunt, Steve Daines, John Kennedy, Shelly Moore Capito, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman, Marco Rubio, and Dan Sullivan for their principled votes in favor of standards and in favor of workers. This expanded list of Republican Davis-Bacon supporters proves that bipartisan agreement is still possible on commonsense issues such as the quality jobs supported by prevailing wage.”
After voting to maintain the prevailing wage requirement in CHIPS Act funding, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), an original CHIPS cosponsor, said, “I have been making the case for years that America needs to make targeted, but robust investments in critical industries like semiconductors. The CHIPS Act was an important step in that direction because it will help build a strong, resilient semiconductor industry in America. That means we will not be nearly as reliant on foreign nations for these critical products. It also means we will begin to bring good jobs back to America.
“Good, dignified work is critical to the success of the country. As we invest tens of billions of dollars into critical industries through large, publicly traded companies, it is only right that we require that those funds also invest in the men and women who will build and maintain these cutting edge facilities,” Rubio continued. “Ensuring these Americans receive a prevailing wage for this work -- work that is critically important to the future of our nation -- is common sense.”
A June 8, 2021 story at TheVerge.com summarizes the path and the politics behind the Senate’s push to fund investment in invest in science, research and development, manufacturing, and innovation. A turning point came in May. The package appeared to be doomed as Republicans withheld their votes to end debate on the bill. Hours after the initial cloture vote was called, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) reached an agreement with Republicans to hold votes on parts of the bill they were contesting. Specifically, Republicans were concerned about the prevailing wage language in the semiconductor bill.
The package now goes to the House of Representatives.