WASHINGTON, D.C. — The executive director of the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) told members of a Congressional subcommittee that the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) recent decision to categorize survey crew members as “laborers and mechanics” was “detrimental to the surveying profession,” and requested Congress’ help in reversing DOL’s decision. NSPS Executive Director Curt Sumner told members of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce that DOL deliberated on this policy change for 18 months with “no notice to affected parties.”
Sumner’s testimony on June 18 was during a hearing on “Promoting the Accuracy and Accountability of the Davis-Bacon Act.” The change to the Davis-Bacon Act, a controversial law that that requires the payment of the “prevailing wage” to “laborers and mechanics” on federally funded construction projects, was effected with “no request for public input or comments, no notification seeking advice, comment or input from the surveying profession… and, in fact, no public announcement of the new policy,” Sumner told the subcommittee.
“We believe the manner in which the Department of Labor acted is a violation of the spirit if not the letter of the Administrative Procedures Act, the Regulatory Flexibility Act, and the Paperwork Reduction Act,” he continued.
Sumner cited four reasons the ruling by DOL is detrimental to the surveying profession:
•The classification of members of survey crews as “laborers and mechanics” is contrary to virtually every other classification for surveying technicians employed by the Federal government. Sumner noted that NSPS administers a “Certified Survey Technician (CST) program, used by government entities and private companies.
•There has been no legislation, court ruling, Comptroller General decision or other governmental action that would call for such a change in classification.
•There is no evidence that members of survey crews are paid substandard wages and no demonstrated need for including such workers in a “prevailing wage” law.
•This ruling will be an “administrative nightmare” for surveying firms, contracting agencies, and DOL. “This will result in confusion and costly compliance issues,” he added.
Sumner told members of Congress that survey crews are not like construction workers.
“A survey crew member may be on a construction site a few hours a day, one day a week, and otherwise on an intermittent basis, but rarely an entire 40 hour work week. Some work may be preliminary to construction, post-construction, or not related to construction at all,” he explained.
“Moreover, with today’s computerized data collectors, survey crews can commonly consist of one person. That skilled individual is certainly exercising judgment and working in a supervisory capacity. Today’s technicians are performing services that are mental in nature, requiring certain expertise, and are not ‘apprentices, trainees or helpers.’ Therefore, they do not meet the criteria for a laborer or mechanic.”