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Letter: Wage laws meant to keep work local

A stock image of a pile of money.

A stock image of a pile of money. Credit: iStock

Contrary to "Rationale for NY's wage law" [News, Nov. 1], the invidious 1931 prevailing-wage laws, passed during the Great Depression, are relics of the Jim Crow era intended to prevent nonunion Southern "coloreds" from competing with local white workers.

"Unskilled, fly-by-night and poorly paid" is veiled doublespeak for blacks and immigrants workers.

Then-Rep. Robert Bacon should not, as your article suggests, be admired for his "key role" in the legislative process. He made sure the Alabama contractor working in his district, as well as his all-black workforce, wouldn't visit Long Island again.

By applying union rates as the standard for prevailing wages, the law ensured that local white union workers would receive all federal public work jobs, particularly since the unions controlled the only approved apprenticeship programs, which in turn trained the required skilled workers. Nice trick. Does the fox guarding the henhouse ring a bell?

Ironically, states in the deep South with discriminatory laws caused the reactive Northern states to sponsor and pass the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act.

Larry B. Hollander, East Hills

Editor's note: The writer is a partner in the construction law firm of Hollander & Strauss in Great Neck.
 

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