Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The more you know 3: The McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act

You can read all about the Fed's perception of fair wages at: Short story -- the Dept of Labor generates a Register of Wage Determinations that are contract specific and list the minimum wage that a worker has to be paid for certain contracted positions including Archaeologist. In a recent wage determination for Greenlee County the archaeological wage determinations are:

Archaeological Technician I - $15.21/hour
Archaeological Technician II - $17.00/hour
Archaeological Technician III - $21.82/hour

If you are a tech or crew chief, do you get paid that much?

On top of that, these occupations are to receive additional benefits: $606.67/month for health and welfare and a minimum of 10 paid holidays per year. Oh yeah, and overtime over 40 hours of work too.

Get that too?

So, here's the catch, the loophole if you will....

The 1965 law intended to set living wages for a broad list of occupations. This act, as well as the Fair Labor Standards Act, both viewed as fundamentally anti-business, were significantly weakened in the 80s and 90s. The most damaging to field archaeologists was the definition of an exempt employee. Adapted from DOL's website:

Professionally exempt work means work which is predominantly intellectual, requires specialized education, and involves the exercise of discretion and judgment. Professionally exempt workers must have education beyond high school, and usually beyond college, in fields that are distinguished from (more "academic" than) the mechanical arts or skilled trades. Advanced degrees are the most common measure of this, but are not absolutely necessary if an employee has attained a similar level of advanced education through other means (and perform essentially the same kind of work as similar employees who do have advanced degrees).

When was the last time you saw a job ad that didn't ask that you have a Bachelor's in Anthropology or similar? Guess what - AS AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL FIELD TECH YOU ARE EXEMPT FROM FEDERAL LABOR RULES!!!!

So the recent round of stimulus has tried to enforce these (toothless) laws. Some companies even advertise that they pay these higher-than-industry-standard rates for field projects, just to convince the Feds they are playing along. But, since contracts are exclusively best value (aka low bid) and firm-fixed price, the Gov't never knows if you are getting paid what the boss says you are.

How much do you get paid? Get benefits? Overtime? Days off? Minimum of $15.21 per hour?

In future posts we'll try to dissect some published hourly GSA rates to find out how much companies pay you, how much they spend on overhead costs, and how much they put in the bank... stay tuned

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