A term for the cost per hour, for labor wages set by law, involving construction work for various and related trades for contractors that will use federal, state, or municipal monies (tax payer dollars) for work on projects that will be used for the public, by the public.

The Davis-Bacon Act (also known as the prevailing wage law) preserves local area wages and labor standards in the process of letting contracts for federal construction work.  Enacted in 1931, the law states that contractors for federal projects must pay their workers no less than the wage rates prevailing in the local area for each craft, as determined by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).  Although not mandatory, many states have enacted their own prevailing wage laws that apply to state and local public works projects as well.  California enacted its law in 1937.

In California, the “per-diem wage” or prevailing wage is set by the Department of Industrial Relations.  It is determined by county for several dozen construction job classifications.  The wage level is set at the “mode”, the wage level that the greatest number of workers earn.  This wage is often but not always the local union wage determined through collective bargaining with the local employers.

Click these links to the California Department of Industrial Relations to view the California prevailing wages in your local area.

Prevailing wage determinations 2005-1: Journeyman General 

Prevailing wage determinations 2005-1: Apprentice schedules