NSPS has learned that the Obama administration's Department of Labor reversed 50 years of precedent, first established by John F. Kennedy, and ruled that members of survey crews are now subject to the construction prevailing wage law known as the Davis-Bacon Act.

The ruling was issued at the request of the Operating Engineers Union. The Labor Department did no public notice, no request for public comment and made no effort to engage the surveying profession or employer groups in any dialogue.

Then-Secretary of Labor Arthur Goldberg, from the Kennedy administration, first ruled in 1962 that surveying crews were exempt from the controversial prevailing wage law, except to the extent survey crews are "clearing brush and sharpening stakes." This position has been reaffirmed by the department and secretaries over the past 50 years.

The Obama administration's new interpretation is an expansion of the law and a regulatory reach that harms private firms, particularly small business, and will unnecessarily cost money.

The ruling expands the department’s mandated "prevailing rate" of wages on federally-funded contracts for construction to surveying technicians engaged in "laying off distances and angles to locate construction lines and other layout measurements. This includes the setting of stakes, the determination of grades and levels, and other work which is performed as an aid to the crafts which are engaged in the actual physical construction of projects," and classifies such workers as "laborers or mechanics."

NSPS government affairs consultants, John M. Palatiello & Associates, Inc., is developing a response for the society, including an appeal of the Labor Department ruling and mobilizing members of Congress to oppose the new policy.