Come to San Francisco for a Government-Mandated 35-Hour Workweek

Come to San Francisco for a Government-Mandated 35-Hour Workweek

Where in the United States can you get a government-mandated 35-hour workweek, like the French national government adopted in 2000 (but modified in 2008)?

Go to San Francisco and become a construction worker in the following trades on public works projects:

  1. Electrician: Inside Wireman
  2. Electrician: Cable Splicer
  3. Plumber: Air Conditioning & Refrigeration/HVAC – Service Work
  4. Sheet Metal Worker
  5. Terrazzo Worker
  6. Terrazzo Finisher

State law requires a 7-hour day and 35-hour work week for these trades in San Francisco on government projects or private construction projects receiving government financial assistance.

How does this happen?

Under California law, the state determines the government-mandated wage rate (“prevailing wage”) for construction trades based on the “modal” – that is, the most common – single wage rate. In practice, the California Department of Industrial Relations does not conduct surveys of contractors, contractor associations, or workers to determine the modal rate.

Instead, it assumes that the modal rate – and therefore, the prevailing wage – is the cumulative total of employer payments required in the applicable union Master Labor Agreement for that trade in that region for each hour worked. When the state looks at a union Master Labor Agreement to determine the prevailing wage rate, it dutifully incorporates all of the work provisions indicated in the union agreement. Here are some examples:

  • Section 1 of Article IV of the Inside Agreement between Local Union 6 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the San Francisco Electrical Contractors Association states that “Seven (7) hours shall constitute a day’s work: from 8:00 A.M. to 12:00 Noon, and from 12:30 P.M. to 3:30 P.M. five (5) days from Monday to Friday inclusive shall constitute the workweek. All work performed before or after the times specified above and on Saturdays, Sundays and the following Holidays shall be paid for at the rate of double time.”
  • Article 9, Section 52 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the United Association (U.A.) Local Union No. 38 and the Northern California Mechanical Contractors Association (MCA), the Master Plumber’s Association of California, and Independent Contractors states that “The regular workday shall consist of seven (7) consecutive hours…and the regular work week shall consist of thirty-five (35) hours of work…”
  • Item 7, Section B of the Union Agreement between the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association Local Union No. 104 and the Bay Area Association of SMACNA (Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors, National Association) states that “Commercial overtime in San Francisco shall be based on a seven (7)-hour day and not an eight (8)-hour day.”
  • Article XI, Section 51 of the Master Labor Agreement between the Terrazzo and Mosaic Association and the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 3 states that “The regular workday shall be seven (7) continuous hours, except for one-half hour off for lunch…”

And yes, the 35-hour work week for these trades applies to contractors on public works in San Francisco whose employees are not represented by a union. Occasionally a contractor is caught by the City and County of San Francisco’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE) for not recognizing the 7-hour work day or 35-hour work week as part of the prevailing wage rate.

There are apparently some other American unions that have a 35-hour work week in their collective bargaining agreements. For example, the New York Times Company and its Newspaper Guild has maintained this shorter work week in their contract despite attempts by the newspaper in contract negotiations to change it to 40 hours. Employees at other New York City newspapers represented by various unions also have or had 35-hour work weeks. The New York City Housing Authority has a 35-hour work week for some positions.

But where else besides California does the government establish a 35-hour work week as a matter of law, even for workers not in a union?

35 Hour Work Week San Francisco

Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.


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