Davis-Bacon has one of the most despicable back stories of any law on the federal books. When it passed in 1931, organized labor was upset that contractors were ignoring its members in favor of more affordable employees, especially minorities.
William Green, then president of the American Federation of Labor—half of the modern AFL-CIO—testified before Congress that “colored labor is being brought in to demoralize wage rates.” New York Rep. Robert Bacon, one of the act’s sponsors, was incensed at an Alabama contractor employing African-Americans to build a hospital in his district.
Despite this disturbing history, Davis-Bacon is still beloved by unions and their allies in Congress. No wonder: It mandates that private contractors pay “prevailing wages”—typically the union wage in any given area—on all federal construction projects that cost more than $2,000.
Sweden is a relatively wealthy country despite being a welfare state, not because of it.