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9/13/2005

AFT president's statement on Bush's decision to allow no-bid contracts for Katrina

Source: AFT

The newspapers and airwaves have been filled with discussion about the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. Some issues are surely beyond the control of government at any level. But two recent actions the Bush administration is directly responsible for—suspension of the Davis Bacon Act in the Gulf Coast, and the awarding to friends of large-scale rebuilding contracts without a bidding process—are a national disgrace and the wrong response.

The president’s suspension of Davis Bacon Act protections in areas affected by Katrina means that workers on federally funded projects will be paid less than they were before the storm. The prevailing wages on the Gulf Coast are already among the lowest in the country—under $10 per hour in most job categories. For the president to drive down wages further at a time when so many are in need is both exploitative and cruel.

At the same time that the president chose to undercut working people who live in the disaster areas, he awarded his friends at firms such as Halliburton, Bechtel Group and Fluor Corp. with billions in noncompetitive, cost-plus contracts. These agreements guarantee profits regardless of how much those companies spend or waste. This is happening at the same time that the local hires of these firms will, in many cases, not earn a living wage.

It is unconscionable that our national government would act to hurt those most in need while delivering a windfall to wealthy contractors. These decisions must be reversed.

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