Posts

"Other" in California Prevailing Wage Creeps Higher

The California Department of Industrial Relations does not determine state prevailing wage rates for construction trades by surveying contractors or workers or by using statistics gathered by the California Economic Development Department. By law, the state uses union agreements to set prevailing wages. Thus, the prevailing wage is always the “union wage.” And the geographical region of a prevailing wage is based on the jurisdictional boundaries of the relevant union.

Calculating a prevailing wage starts when a union official provides the Department of Industrial Relations with its master labor agreement negotiated with representatives of contractors signatory to the union. State personnel then review the union agreement and identify all of the payments an employer is required to make per hour worked by an employee represented by the union. Those payments are assigned to categories identified in state law and added up to determine the prevailing wage.

For example, the state calculates the prevailing wage for a inside wireman electrician working in Sacramento County by identifying and adding up all the payments made by a National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) contractor per hour worked by an inside wireman represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 340.

A prevailing wage determination includes a “Basic Hourly Rate” paid directly to the employee (from which union initiation fees and dues are deducted). Fringe benefits are categorized as “Health and Welfare,” “Pension,” “Apprenticeship and Other Training,” and “Vacation/Holiday.” There is also a Travel/Subsistence amount for workers who travel a certain distance from a certain location, as indicated in the master labor agreement.

Sacramento County Inside Wireman Prevailing Wage

Then there is the mysterious “Other,” comprised of payments to “worker protection and assistance programs or committees,” “industry advancement and collective bargaining agreements administrative fees,” and “other purposes” similar to those listed above. Basically, employer payments in master labor agreements that don’t fit in one of the direct employee fringe benefit categories get classified as “Other.”

“Other” was added to prevailing wage determinations on January 1, 2004 after the soon-to-be-recalled Governor Gray Davis signed the union-backed Senate Bill 868 in 2003. Union lobbyists and lawyers are very protective of this new category incorporated in prevailing wage rates and fought an effort in 2006 to impose regulations on it.

Federal and state law do not establish any specific regulations or reporting requirements for the trust funds that receive payments indicated in “Other.” Most of them file an annual Form 990 with the Internal Revenue Service, and they will file a Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) form when making a campaign contribution to a ballot measure. But union members are not informed about how these trust funds spend money, and these trust funds don’t need to file any reports with the federal Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) or Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS).

Sacramento County Inside Wireman Prevailing Wage - OtherDuring the past 16½ years, a little bit of taxpayer money has been diverted to these union-affiliated “Other” trust funds as workers represented by unions built government facilities and private developments with government funding. But now that “little bit” is becoming “quite a bit” in some cases.

On June 1, 2014, the master labor agreement for inside wiremen electricians in Sacramento County (and surrounding counties in the IBEW Local No. 340) increased Other from 47 cents to $3.47. On June 1, 2015, Other increased to $5.47. On June 1, 2016, Other increased to $7.47. The union informed the California Department of Industrial Relations that the money was going to “LMCT,” meaning a Labor-Management Cooperation Committee.

Sacramento County Inside Wireman Prevailing Wage LMCT Increase 2014IBEW Local 340 Wages as of June 1 2015Provisions in the IBEW Local No. 340 master labor agreement suggest this LMCC is the Sacramento Electrical Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperation Committee. Gross receipts for this trust fund from June 1, 2014 to May 31, 2015 totaled $2,420,684. It gave a “distress grant” of $107,946 to the Shasta Butte Electrical Workers Training Fund. (94-2584061). It was also somehow “providing wage supplementation” to union employers to compete against non-union employers, perhaps through a program sometimes referred to as “job targeting.” No other specific expenditures are known.

Obviously “Other” is becoming a taxpayer-funded bonanza of millions of dollars to union-affiliated non-profit organizations that provide little information to union members, government, or the public. Consider the number of trades and the number of unions representing these trades in California. How much is being collected for “Other?” How is it being spent? Shouldn’t union members know where that money goes?

More relevant for the general public is knowing how much of that money goes to lobbying and campaigning. The California Department of Industrial Relations is supposed to exclude employer payments for political purposes from prevailing wage determinations. Perhaps the state needs to begin scrutinizing the expenditures of “Other” trust funds receiving $7.47 per hour on behalf of each worker.

Sources

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 340 Master Labor Agreement 2014-2017

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 340 Wage Rates as of June 1, 2015

California Prevailing Wage for Inside Wiremen Electricians in Sacramento County as of February 22, 2016 (before $2.00 increase June 1, 2016 for Other)

Sacramento Electrical Construction Industry LMCC Trust – IRS Form 990 – 2015

Sacramento Electrical Construction Industry LMCC Trust – IRS Form 990 – 2014

Sacramento Electrical Construction Industry LMCC Trust – IRS Form 990 – 2013

Sacramento Electrical Construction Industry LMCC Trust – IRS Form 990 – 2012

Sacramento Electrical Construction Industry LMCC Trust – IRS Form 990 – 2011

Sacramento Electrical Construction Industry LMCC Trust – IRS Form 990 – 2010

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 340 USDOL LM-2 2015

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 340 USDOL LM-2 2014

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 340 USDOL LM-2 2013

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 340 USDOL LM-2 2012

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 340 USDOL LM-2 2011

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 340 USDOL LM-2 2010

 


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 www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

Now in California: Nation's Most Prominent Union-Oriented Prevailing Wage Scholar

A leading intellectual advocate for government policies that favor and benefit construction trade unions is on sabbatical from his home university and spending several months in proximity to one of California’s union-oriented labor institutes, the Institute for Labor and Employment (an affiliate of the Miguel Contreras Labor Program) based at the University of California, Berkeley.

IMG_5333Over the past 20 years, University of Utah economics professor Peter Philips has become the nation’s preeminent academic in support of government-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wage”). Construction union leaders appreciate his studies that purport to show that prevailing wage did not increase the cost of school construction in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and other states in the 1990s. In addition, they appreciate his testimony before state legislative committees and local governments throughout the country. His article about prevailing wage in British Columbia was published this month, and his article about prevailing wage (“common wage”) in Indiana is supposed to be published in January 2015.

Some of his recent work has argued that California’s charter cities do not benefit from using their constitutional authority to enact municipal prevailing wage policies that deviate from state prevailing wage law. His study entitled The Effect of Prevailing Wage Regulations on Contractor Bid Participation and Behavior: A Comparison of Palo Alto, California with Four Nearby Prevailing Wage Municipalities was published in Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, described as “the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment’s top-ranked academic journal.”

(For a response to this article, see the www.UnionWatch.org article Journal Article on Prevailing Wage Debunked, But Only Outside Academia and my analysis entitled University of Utah Study on Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Policies in Five California Cities: Not a Reliable Tool for Policymakers. Also, see Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions? – 4th Edition.)

Professor Philips has also written studies on other construction labor issues. For example, he released The Economic and Environmental Impact of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in March 2013, when the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California was opposing proposed changes to environmental laws that would hinder their ability to exploit these laws to obtain Project Labor Agreements from developers. This study was reported in www.UnionWatch.org in the article Opponents of CEQA Reform Cite New Study with Union Connections(For examples of this practice of environment permit extortion, or “greenmail,” see the www.UnionWatch.org article Revised List of Union Actions in 2013 Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).)

Professor Philips reports that his study on the employment impact of solar power plant construction in California will be released in November 2014, in conjunction with a press conference in Oakland featuring the Sierra Club, Obama Administration officials, and construction union leaders. Most solar developers in California have signed Project Labor Agreements with construction unions to avoid delays caused by union objections to the projects under the California Environmental Quality Act. (See the www.UnionWatch.org articles Unions Extensively Interfere with California Solar Photovoltaic Power Plant Permitting and Did Unions Hasten Demise of California’s Solar Thermal Power Plants?)

On October 13, 2014, Professor Philips was the lecturer for a colloquium at the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California, Berkeley entitled Prevailing Wage Laws in Construction: Wage Mandates as a Means of Promoting Collective Bargaining. Attendees appeared to be predominately graduate students and labor institute personnel, although a researcher of the union-affiliated organization Smart Cities Prevail was also there.

I reserved a spot in advance for myself, as instructed in the announcement for the colloquium, and no one hassled me about being there. In fact, Professor Philips asked me a question at the end of the colloquium. I was able to make a few remarks at a forum where different views about the fundamental roles of government and unions are probably quite uncommon.

Here are some of my observations from the hour-long presentation on prevailing wage by Professor Philips.

    Labor Institute director Michael Reich introduces Professor Peter Philips.

    Labor Institute director Michael Reich introduces Professor Peter Philips.

  • Professor Philips was introduced by Michael Reich, Professor of Economics and Director of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. They met in the 1970s in the very room where this colloquium was held 40 years later. Older generations seem to dominate the fading academic field of what was once called “industrial relations.”
  • Professor Philips genuinely believes in the “virtues” of collective bargaining and supports the concept of government intervention to encourage collective bargaining in the construction industry. He frequently refers to the development and support of “human capital” in a “turbulent” industry and believes unions fulfill that role by providing sustained employee benefits and training. One of his slides appeared to show a “Non-Union” maid throwing bathwater out the window with “human capital” in it. (A slide showing a union official throwing bathwater out the window with “taxpayer money” in it was not included in the presentation.)
  • He emphasized to the PhD students at the colloquium that “being effective” requires speaking and crossing three arenas: economic, legal, and political. This conforms to the contemporary idea of university labor institutes as not merely research operations, but activist programs meant to pursue advancement of society through a progressive political agenda. (Your tax money in action.)
  • He asserted that groups such as Associated Builders and Contractors (my former employer) and conservative think tanks claim to oppose government-mandated prevailing wages because of concern for fiscal responsibility, but in reality are motivated by a desire to eliminate government policies that allow unions and unionized contractors to be competitive. At the same time, he claims prevailing wage does not increase costs of construction. A few students asked about this apparent contradiction: why does government need to impose a prevailing wage to help unions if prevailing wage does not increase costs? In response, Professor Philips hedged his bets and suggested that prevailing wage raises the cost of construction about 5%. Then he claimed that prevailing wage opponents cite higher percentages of savings because 5% does not inspire elected officials to eliminate the policy.
  • He contended that “Merit Shop” was a much better “descriptor” for non-union construction than “non-union,” because in this system workers are paid “variegated” wages based on merit, rather than a common wage based on collective bargaining. (Obviously he does not regard this particular recognition of “merit” as beneficial to human capital.) He briefly discussed the rise of the Associated Builders and Contractors construction trade association from its founding in 1950 through its dramatic expansion in the 1970s as it worked with the Business Roundtable to curb inflation.
  • He contended that class lines were blurred in construction: someone who starts in the industry as an apprentice can become a company owner. This is a challenging statement for union activists and academic advocates of unionism who believe class consciousness is essential to establishing “workplace democracy” through collectivism. It reminded me of claims I’ve heard over 20 years from both union and non-union officials that the ultimate ambition of a union apprentice is to become a union business agent, while the ultimate ambition of a non-union apprentice is to become a company owner.
  • Professor Philips is critical of what he sees as non-union efforts to infect construction with “Taylorism,” that is, breaking the work process down into small distinct responsibilities within a mass production system. He sees “human capital” developed through comprehensive union-sponsored apprenticeship training as a contrast to Taylorism. He also describes the non-union business model as “myopic bidding,” which I took to mean narrow consideration for a specific project without consideration of long-term costs.

It seems that Professor Philips is spending some of his time in California working on a project to describe how the Merit Shop operates, with the intent of contrasting it to the alleged virtues of a collective workforce. Here’s how Professor Philips seems to perceive Merit Shop construction:

  • A large Merit Shop company has a core workforce of very-well-paid, exceptionally talented and motivated long-term employees who travel regionally to work on significant construction projects. Some of these workers participated in or graduated from union apprenticeship programs but ultimately become disgruntled with their unions for ideological reasons or personal grievances. They tend to be zealous backers of the Merit Shop movement.
  • Below these core workers are two systems: (1) workers hired through a traditional process of submitting resumes in order to perform single jobs and then casually released at the end of the project without health insurance or other benefits; and (2) an extensive “highly articulated” network of small non-union subcontractors, either self-employed or with a small number of loyal, closely-tied employees.
  • For training, Professor Philips claims that the Merit Shop wants government to provide subsidies to train workers in vocational programs, as opposed to choosing to fund worker training themselves through employer payments to formal apprenticeship programs.

While Professor Philips is in California, he would like to talk with some Merit Shop contractors about their business practices. Keeping in mind that Professor Philips has some presuppositions about labor relations (as all people have), you may contact me as an intermediary if you are interested in talking to him about your business.


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 www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

 

4th Edition Released: California Charter City Prevailing Wage Policies

California city council members who believe local government authority spurs economic growth and job creation more effectively than centralized state control now have access to the newly-published 4th edition of Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?

In 2009, an organization now known as the California Construction Compliance Group published the first edition of this comprehensive research report. It reviews the status of so-called “prevailing wage” policies at California state and local governments and explains how California’s 121 charter cities take advantage of their constitutional right to exercise local control by setting their own prevailing wage policies.

Needless to say, special interests that advocate for more intrusive centralized government detest this report. Union-instigated state laws have been enacted in an attempt to hinder its publication and circulation and neutralize the power of its information and arguments.

If you live or work in an incorporated city in California, you may want to consider providing this report to your elected city council members, top city administrators, and leaders of your city’s business and taxpayer organizations. That simple act can subvert millions of dollars spent on lobbying at the California state capitol.

Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions? – 4th Edition – April 2014


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 www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

Journal Article on Prevailing Wage Debunked, But Only Outside Academia

A survey of academic journal articles in the fields of labor relations, labor economics, and labor history reveals scholarly consensus: union-backed public policies are good for the economy!

No one ever rebuts these journal articles, so they must be true. And why would anyone assume otherwise? As a union official said about one of these studies at a city council meeting in the San Francisco Bay Area many years ago, “It’s from a college. Written by a doctor!”

Public deference to college professors can be a powerful political weapon. For example, union lobbyists and elected officials across the country frequently cite a recent article published in an academic journal when arguing for policies that impose or expand “prevailing wage” laws on public works construction projects. It was written by a University of Utah economics professor and two other researchers and appeared in October 2012 in Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society.

This journal is published under the auspices of the Regents of the University of California by the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, an affiliate of the University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program. This is one of the numerous taxpayer-funded labor institutes at state universities that produce studies meant to advance the union political agenda.

Slapping the university logo on such studies provides instant credibility that cannot be attained from the logo of an openly union-affiliated organization such as “The California Labor Federation Institute for Policy Research.” After all, the California Labor Federation does not have the scholarly cachet attained from faux-Gothic buildings, cap-and-gown graduations, or sports teams playing in bowl games or “March Madness®.”

Coasting on the reputation of the University of California, this highly-cited journal article “The Effect of Prevailing Wage Regulations on Contractor Bid Participation and Behavior: A Comparison of Palo Alto, California with Four Nearby Prevailing Wage Municipalities” claims to prove that government-mandated wage rates on construction contracts have not negatively impacted bidding for public works projects in the San Francisco Bay Area.

It sounds like the economics is settled on government-mandated prevailing wage rates. Or is it?

You will not find many college professors who specialize in investigating and debunking the claims of university-based labor institutes. And the concept of “peer review” seems tenuous in an intellectual field where every expert necessarily holds the same enlightened ideology.

I don’t have any graduate degrees hanging on the wall or the honor of being called “Professor” by my community, but I pretend expertise on government-mandated prevailing wage laws in California. For example, I have written four editions of an influential but detested report on the issue, entitled “Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?

With this feeble credential, I decided to take a closer look at what people with doctorates say about prevailing wage policies in California. In my first scan of the article, I saw numerous statements worthy of rebuttal, or at least quibbling. But one item caught my attention.

The study claims that the five cities used for comparison purposes – Palo Alto, San Jose, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, and San Carlos – are in Santa Clara County. But San Carlos is actually in San Mateo County.

Why does this matter? The California Department of Industrial Relations determines prevailing wage rates by obtaining the applicable union Master Labor Agreements for each construction trade or construction professional service occupation. It adds up all of the employer payments indicated in the union agreement, and the total of those payments becomes the prevailing wage.

This means prevailing wage rates are based on the geographical jurisdictions of each local union. While some construction trade unions have large geographical jurisdictions (some as large as the entire State of California), other unions have jurisdictions as small as one county. As a result, prevailing wage rates will differ for some trades even when job sites are only a mile apart, simply because they are in different counties.

Apparently the Utah-based authors of the study actually believed the union rhetoric that claims California determines prevailing wage rates by region based on surveys of employers. Actually, the state has not conducted surveys of employers to ascertain dollar amounts of prevailing wage rates in at least 25 years, if ever. (A few surveys have been conducted to determine which construction trade union has jurisdiction of a disputed job classification, such as installation of metal roofs or off-site hauling to-and-from a job site.)

This geographic error ended up as one of many identified mistakes. In the end, I outlined 17 problems with the journal article. Even the raw data set for the key city of Palo Alto appeared to be inaccurate and incomplete. If someone had the time and money to replicate the entire study, the whole thing would probably be exposed as false.

My report, entitled University of Utah Study on Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Policies in Five California Cities: Not a Reliable Tool for Policymakers,” should create appropriate concerns about the study as policy guidance for state and local governments.

Will I seek to have the editors of Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society retract the faulty article? Of course not!

Even if I possessed academic credibility with a PhD and a professorship at a well-known secular liberal arts college, professors and administrators associated with university labor institutes are in cahoots with the union movement, sometimes explicitly through boards of directors, advisory committees, and funding sources. In academic circles nowadays the definition of truth is malleable, especially when progressive principles of social justice are at stake.

They’ll keep publishing, and maybe once in a while a layman will expose a flawed study or two.


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 www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

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 www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

 

2013: A Dismal Year for Freedom in California Public Works Construction

Elections matter. The November 2012 election was a disaster on the state and local level for advocates of economic and personal freedom in California. It was a culmination of setbacks going back to the November 1996 election and only mildly interrupted by the recall of Governor Gray Davis in October 2003.

Construction trade unions entered the year confident about their political preeminence. How could they not be, with a pro-union Democrat two-thirds super-majority in the California State Assembly and the California State Senate? Here are excerpts from “Prevailing Wage: Moving Forward in California, Backward in Other States,” the monthly column from the head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California for July 2013:

California’s working people have fought together with a tenacious resolve and unity in recent election cycles to elect forward-looking individuals to our Legislature and statewide offices, and we are now working hard as ever to enact good new laws that will secure them a better standard of living. It is gratifying to know that the future is looking brighter for hard-working Californians. But when I read news from elsewhere, I am saddened to see that in many other states, the ultra-rich big business interests are pushing workers backwards, removing hard-won worker protections and slashing their wages, lowering their quality of life and prospects for the future…These attacks on working people around the country illustrate the importance of our work here in California, where we want to protect and expand prevailing wages for workers…We, all of the Building Trades, and each individual local union, fought hard to defeat Proposition 32, which tried to silence our voice. We worked tirelessly to elect public officials that would listen to the concerns of everyday blue collar workers. When we compare these worthy actions with the sad developments in many other states, we see the clear benefits of our unity and activism, and the price Californians could pay if we ever fail to be vigilant, vigorous and united in our fight for a decent quality of life.

As the new head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California (previously the head of the Los Angeles-Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council), Robbie Hunter had something to prove. And he did it.

Has Labor Leader Overreached?” was the provocative headline of an October 9 column written by Dan Morain in the Sacramento Bee. Morain reported on the ambitious legislative agenda of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California and concluded with this thought: “as he seeks to leave his mark, Hunter risks a backlash from powerful forces.”

Hunter didn’t overreach. Governor Brown signed several key union-backed bills, in particular Senate Bill 7, which cuts off state construction funds to charter cities that exercise their right under the California Constitution to establish their own policies concerning government-mandated wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”) on purely municipal government construction and private projects receiving city financial assistance. In the article “Brown Signs Prevailing Wage Bill,” Capitol Weekly called SB 7 “arguably the most important bill to emerge this year from the Legislature” – for good reason.

Meanwhile, 2013 set a new record for the number of Project Labor Agreements adopted by California state and local government agencies that construction contractors will have to sign with unions as a condition of working on taxpayer-funded projects. Most disturbing was that four of those Project Labor Agreements were implemented without any public deliberation or votes. (See the September 17, 2013 article “California Construction Unions Circumvent Public Scrutiny of Project Labor Agreements” in www.UnionWatch.org.)

Advocates of fair and open competition and fiscal responsibility in the California construction industry fought aggressively to derail the construction union agenda at the state and local level. But their victories were mainly defensive or related to the public exposure of backroom union deals. It will be interesting to see if California shows a significant gain in 2013 in the percentage of construction workers who are members of a union or are represented by a union. The percentage has been steadily declining for 40 years, as reported in the February 5, 2013 article “California’s Unionized Construction Workforce: Surprisingly Low Rates…and Dropping” in www.UnionWatch.org.

2013 Year in Review – Timeline of Political Activity at the State and Local Level for California Public Works Construction

Date

Accomplishment for Advocates of Economic and Personal Freedom

Accomplishment for Construction Trade Unions

January 22 Newport Beach City Council votes 7-0 to exercise its constitutional right as a charter city to establish its own policy concerning government-mandated wage rates (“prevailing wages”).  
January 27   In response to an administrative appeal from construction unions, the California Department of Industrial Relations reverses an earlier prevailing wage determination and declares that a proposed hotel and restaurant at Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding is a public works project and therefore subject to state-mandated construction wage rates (“prevailing wage”). The developer then suspends the planned project because of the increased cost of construction.
February 12   Board of Lynwood Unified School District votes 5-0 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for Measure K projects.
February 13   Board of Ohlone Community College District votes 6-0 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for Measure G projects.
March 19   El Monte City Council votes 5-0 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for all capital projects above $500,000.
April 8   Pasadena City Council votes unanimously to negotiate a Project Labor Agreement for the Glenarm Power Plant Repowering Project. California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) had commented on Draft Environmental Impact Report.
April 16   Board of College of Marin votes 6-1 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for New Academic Center.
April 16 American Canyon City Council holds discussion of Project Labor Agreement for future projects but doesn’t take any action.  
April 18 The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction files a lawsuit against the City of San Diego to obtain withheld public records related to the imposition of a Project Labor Agreement on the San Diego Convention Center Expansion. The city promptly releases a copy of the long-demanded Project Labor Agreement.  
May 7   Board of Harnell Community College District (in Salinas) votes 4-3 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for a new science building.
May 7 Board of San Joaquin-Delta Community College District receives presentation from legal counsel on Project Labor Agreements. No action is taken.  
May 15 Board of Coast Community College District (in Orange County) votes 3-2 to end consideration of requiring contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for Measure M projects.  
June 2 A Sacramento Bee investigative report reveals that the proposed $2.8 billion Morning View movie studio for the City of Dixon is a fraud. Local construction union officials were major proponents of the project and claimed a commitment for a Project Labor Agreement.  
June 3   Without a vote of the Judicial Council, the construction manager selected by the California Administrative Office of the Courts for the New San Diego County Downtown Courthouse enters into a Project Labor Agreement.
June 6   Board of Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority votes unanimously to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for parking structures at Milpitas and Berryessa BART stations.
June 7   Board of El Monte Union High School District votes 5-0 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for Measure D projects.
June 11   Alameda County Board of Supervisors votes unanimously to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for capital projects above $1 million.
June 11   Marin Healthcare District votes unanimously to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for the Marin General Hospital Replacement project.
June 17 The California Department of Industrial Relations proves that state-mandated construction wage rates (“prevailing wage”) are inflated by announcing a settlement regarding its determination of the San Diego Hilton Bayfront Hotel as a public works project. Workers on the project from 2006 to 2008 will be paid $8,072,273 to receive their full prevailing wage.  
June 18   Board of Alum Rock Union Elementary School District (in San Jose) votes 5-0 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for Measure G projects.
July 2 Board of Harnell Community College District (in Salinas) votes 4-3 to rescind the requirement for a Project Labor Agreement it imposed at its May 7 meeting for a new science building. This is the first Project Labor Agreement mandate rescinded by a vote at a California local government.  
July 8 The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction triumphantly announces that it has finally obtained internal documents from the City of San Diego outlining a secret backroom deal for unions to drop lawsuits and environmental objections to the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 expansion in exchange for facilitation of a Project Labor Agreement and other economic and political concessions.  
July 18 A proposed Project Labor Agreement on the North Bay Maintenance and Operations Facility, approved for negotiations on June 27 by a 5-0 vote of the board of the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority, derails after negotiations are removed from closed session and fundamental differences among negotiating parties are revealed during board meeting.  
August 5   San Pablo City Council votes unanimously to negotiate a Project Labor Agreement for future projects.
August 13   Without a vote of the board, the California High-Speed Rail Authority administratively enters into a Project Labor Agreement for all California High-Speed Rail contracts.
August 20   Board of West Valley-Mission Community College District (in Silicon Valley) votes 5-2 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for an upcoming “pilot project.”
August 27   Board of San Francisco Unified School District votes 6-0 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for Measure A (2011) projects.
August 27   Gov. Brown signs Senate Bill 776, which restricts contractors’ ability to take prevailing wage credits for employer payments to labor compliance programs. Eligible programs for the credits must now be established under a union collective bargaining agreement.
August 29   Without a vote of the Sacramento City Council, owners of the Sacramento Kings professional basketball team enter into a Project Labor Agreement for the city-subsidized Entertainment and Sports Center (a new arena). As of December 31, the public still did not have access to the Project Labor Agreement.
September 4 Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson hosts a press conference to announce a Project Labor Agreement on the new Kings basketball arena. Protesters distract from event and mar it by holding an impromptu press conference immediately afterwards to condemn the backroom union deal.  
September 10   San Diego City Council votes 5-4 to impose state-mandated construction wage rates (“prevailing wage”) on city construction contracts after 33 years of setting its own policies. (Vote on first reading was on July 30.)
September 12   Board of Sacramento City Unified School District votes unanimously to extend a dormant Project Labor Agreement through the end of 2013 to allow time to negotiate a new Project Labor Agreement for Measures Q and R.
September 12   In the last hours of the 2013 legislative session, the legislature passes Senate Bill 743, which gives the Sacramento Kings arena special breaks for review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). With a Project Labor Agreement in place, unions allow this bill to move forward for enactment by Gov. Brown.
September 12 In the last 90 minutes of the 2013 legislative session, Republicans in the Assembly stop the last-minute union-backed Assembly Bill 158, which would have modified Senate Bill 743 – passed hours earlier – and restored full CEQA authority over development surrounding the Sacramento Kings arena.  
October 8   Watsonville City Council votes 5-1 for policy to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for projects with estimated construction cost of $600,000 or more. (Vote on first reading was on September 24.)
October 8   Mountain View City Council votes 6-1 to impose state prevailing wage mandates on contractors for private affordable housing projects receiving city financial assistance.
October 13   Gov. Brown signs Senate Bill 7, which cuts off state funding for construction projects to any of the state’s 121 charter cities with city policies that deviate in any way from state prevailing wage laws.
October 13   Gov. Brown signs Senate Bill 54, which imposes state prevailing wage law and apprenticeship laws on private contract work at refineries.
October 22   Long Beach City Council votes 8-1 to incorporate a Project Labor Agreement into the Request for Proposals for the new Civic Center.
October 23   Board of Alameda-Contra Costa Transit (AC Transit) votes unanimously for contractors to sign Project Labor Agreement for Bus Rapid Transit Project.
November 12 Board of Rancho Santiago Community College District votes unanimously to continue a practice adopted in August 2013 not to discuss its Measure Q Project Labor Agreement negotiations in closed session until the college chancellor gets legal clarification from the California Attorney General.  
November 13   Board of Antioch Unified School District votes 4-1 to require contractors to sign Project Labor Agreement with unions for new high school funded by Measure B.
November 14 Board of San Bernardino Community College District approves a plan for local hiring, local business participation, and training opportunities, without union favoritism or a government mandate for contractors to sign a union contract. Unions had actively lobbied for a Project Labor Agreement.  
November 19 In a primary special election for Mayor of the City of San Diego, former Republican Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher comes in third and fails to advance to the general special election. Fletcher changed parties and positions on issues such as Project Labor Agreements and government-mandated construction wage rates (“prevailing wages”). Political and business groups informed voters about Fletcher’s “evolution” on construction labor issues.  
November 20 Board of West Contra Costa Unified School District approves a deceptively-named report that reveals costs for construction far exceeded anticipated amounts. Contractors are required to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions to work at this district.  
November 25 Ruling in two cases that the California High-Speed Rail Authority failed to comply with state law, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge imposes significant obstacles to continuation of the union-only construction project.  
December 3   Alameda City Council votes 5-0 to direct Catellus Development Corporation to implement a Project Labor Agreement for the Alameda Point development at former Navy base.
December 3 Staff report to Berkeley City Council shows Project Labor Agreement failed to achieve any meaningful increase in local hiring and perhaps increased costs on some city projects. Despite a lackluster staff report about the existing Project Labor Agreement for city projects, Berkeley City Council votes by consent (unanimously) to extend it to 2015 and consider lowering project cost threshold.
December 4   Board of Solano Community College District votes 5-2 to require contractors to sign Project Labor Agreement with unions for certain projects funded by Measure Q, approved by voters in November 2012.
December 10   Legislative/Human Resources Committee of East Bay Municipal Utility District votes 2-0 to recommend that contractors sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions for the Chabot Dam seismic upgrade project.
December 10   With their terms expiring, Gov. Brown replaces the last of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s fair-minded appointments to the California Apprenticeship Council with union officials.
December 11   Board of Southwestern Community College District (in Chula Vista) votes 7-0 to require contractors to sign Project Labor Agreement with unions for certain projects funded by Proposition R, approved by voters in November 2008.
December 12 Construction companies and trade associations opposed to the backroom Project Labor Agreement deal on the new Kings basketball arena provide essential campaign funding for the collection of signatures on petitions to allow citizens of the City of Sacramento to vote on a charter amendment requiring voters to approve public subsidies for sports facilities. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and supporters of a new Sacramento Kings arena (including union officials) announce the establishment of a political committee called The4000 to discourage voters from approving a charter amendment requiring voters to approve public subsidies for sports and entertainment facilities. “The 4000” refers largely to the construction jobs that unions will control.
December 12   Board of Hacienda La Puente Unified School District votes to require contractors to sign Project Labor Agreement with unions to work on energy efficiency projects.
December 18   Board of Oxnard Union High School District votes 3-2 to require contractors to sign Project Labor Agreement with unions to build a new high school funded by Measure H. The board had convened a special meeting on November 25 to push for negotiations.
December 19   Board of Sacramento City Unified School District unanimously votes for amendments to contractor prequalification questionnaire to favor unionized contractors.

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 www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

 

Unions “Using Political Leverage to Punish Those Exercising Rights” in California Constitution

On October 13, 2013, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 7, which cuts off state funds designated for construction to any California city that exercises its right under the California Constitution to establish its own policies concerning government-mandated wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”) on contracts. This was a major victory for the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, the construction union umbrella lobbying organization that sponsored the bill.

There are 121 California cities that govern their own municipal affairs through a charter, a mini-constitution authorized in Article XI of the California Constitution. In its letter unsuccessfully requesting for a gubernatorial veto, the League of California Cities declared that “using political leverage to punish those exercising rights provided by the Constitution is unjust” and a veto was needed to “protect the integrity of our Constitution and the communities operating in lawful compliance with it.” (Coming from the professional association of California city officials, these statements cannot be easily brushed off by California Democrats and their union allies as irrelevant “Tea Party” rhetoric.)

In California, the “Progressive” movement is determined not to let the structural protections of constitutional government impede the quest for democratic socialism and societal justice. Passing Senate Bill 7 through the state legislature and getting it signed is the type of government activism that earns praise from the national news media, as it compares the State of California favorably against the “gridlock” in Washington, D.C.

Senate Bill 7 has a practical fiscal impact as well as a constitutional significance. Out of California’s 121 cities governed under a charter, 43 do not require construction companies to pay state-mandated prevailing wages on any city contracts, and 10 do not require construction companies to pay state-mandated prevailing wages on some kinds of city contracts. The cities of El Cajon, Bakersfield, and Newport Beach are the most recent cities to establish their own prevailing wage policies. Meanwhile, unions have successfully lobbied the city councils in San Diego and Mountain View in recent months to abandon their own wage rate policies and submit to state prevailing wage law.

A couple dozen “general law” cities have recently proposed charters to voters or plan to propose charters to voters. Evading the costly state prevailing wage mandate for construction contracts has been a primary motivation for these cities, and construction unions have been aggressive in lobbying and campaigning to undermine these local efforts. In 2012, voters in the cities of Auburn, Costa Mesa, Escondido, and Grover Beach rejected proposed charters.

It’s likely that a charter city or group of charter cities will file a lawsuit in 2014 to strike down Senate Bill 7, along with two similar laws implemented by Senate Bill 922 in 2011 and Senate Bill 829 in 2012. These two laws, also sponsored by the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, cut off state construction funds to charter cities that adopt Fair and Open Competition policies prohibiting the cities from entering into contracts requiring construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions.


Sources

Article XI of the California Constitution

Senate Bill 7 (2013) – to be California Labor Code Section 1782

League of California Cities – SB 7 (Steinberg) Undermining Constitutional Exercise of Municipal Affairs – Request for Veto

Information on Charters from League of California Cities (includes list of 121 charter cities)

State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, AFL-CIO v. City of Vista et al. – California Supreme Court decision of July 2, 2012 upholding constitutional right of charter cities to establish their own policies concerning government-mandated wage rates for municipal construction contracts.

Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions? (3rd edition – Summer 2012) – the most comprehensive report ever published on California prevailing wage and charter city policies and an inspiration for advocates of fiscal responsibility and local control. (A 4th edition is in the works.)

Senate Bill 922 (2011) and Senate Bill 829 (2012) – punishing charter cities with prohibitions on city contracts that mandate Project Labor Agreements.

State-mandated prevailing wages for construction trades in all geographic regions of California

State Building & Construction Trades Council of California

News and Opinion Leading Up to and Following Gov. Brown Signing Senate Bill 7

SB 7: Cities Stand to Lose Home Rule over Municipal Affairs – www.PublicCEO.com – September 9, 2013

Three Bad Bills that Gov. Jerry Brown Should Veto – editorial – Sacramento Bee – September 9, 2013

Legislative Sampler: 2 to Sign, 2 to Veto – editorial – Riverside Press-Enterprise – September 18, 2013

Has Labor Leader Overreached? – columnist Dan Morain – Sacramento Bee – October 9, 2013 (The answer is “no.”)

Prevailing Wage Bill Deserves a Veto – editorial – UT San Diego – October 4, 2013

Governor Should Veto Wage Bill – editorial – Modesto Bee – October 11, 2013

If Gov. Brown Doesn’t Like Intrusion, He Should Veto SB 7 – editorial – Sacramento Bee – October 12, 2013

Jerry Brown Signs Prevailing Wage Bill for Charter Cities – Sacramento Bee – October 13, 2013

Governor Brown Signs Union-Backed Senate Bill 7 and Continues Erosion of Constitutional Checks and Balances – www.FlashReport.org – October 13, 2013

Brown Signs Prevailing Wage Bill – Capitol Weekly – October 14, 2013

Brown Signs Prevailing Wage Bill for Cities – Central Valley Business Journal – October 14, 2013

Governor Signs Prevailing wage Bill for Charter Cities – Sacramento Business Journal – October 14, 2013

Gov. Brown Signs SB 7 to Neuter Charter Cities – www.CalWatchdog.com – October 14, 2013

Prevailing Wage Law Could Raise Costs – UT San Diego – October 14, 2013

Unions Smile, Cities Frown at Prevailing Wage Law – Bakersfield Californian – October 14, 2013

Modesto Fears Harm from New Prevailing Wage Law – Modesto Bee – October 14, 2013

California Construction Unions Get Two Big Wins – columnist Dan Walters – Sacramento Bee – October 15, 2013

Charter Could Cost City Funding – Newport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot – October 16, 2013

Wage Law Costs Cities More Than Money – op-ed by El Cajon Acting Mayor Bill Wells – UT San Diego – October 25, 2013


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 www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

 

Union Influence in the California Democratic Party’s 2013 Convention Resolutions

Can you guess which special interest group influenced many of the resolutions approved at the California Democratic Party convention on April 14, 2013?

That’s right, unions.

Here’s my annotated collection of the 2013 resolutions and the clean version of the resolutions on the California Democratic Party web site. (As the party web site says, “Click here to view the full repot.”)

Avid readers of www.UnionWatch.org articles will recognize the union objectives behind many of these resolutions, even though the resolutions often don’t explicitly state the ultimate legislative, executive, or judicial goal.

California Democratic Party Resolutions for 2013 with Obvious Union Influence

1. Resolution 13-04.3C opposes proposals to restrict “public participation” in environmental review for projects and activities under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). A co-sponsor of this resolution is the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, an organization active in identifying environmental problems with potential construction projects until the owner agrees to sign a Project Labor Agreement.

Mailers Expose Union CEQA “Greenmail” Against Solar Developers – September 26, 2012

Unions Defy CEQA Reformers with Taunting Resolution – February 12, 2013

The resolution refers to a “quantative analysis” of CEQA that allegedly shows how this law encourages economic prosperity in California. Readers of www.UnionWatch.org will recognize this study because of its connections to the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust. See this article:

Opponents of CEQA Reform Cite New Study with Union Connections – March 12, 2013

2. Resolution 13-04.11 complains about the capitalists (“Captains of Industry” and others) who allegedly control the University of California and California State University systems. It calls for “representation of the public” on the boards of regents. Public means officials of unions representing faculty and staff.

3. Resolution 13-04.16 demands “all actions” to ensure that California’s 121 charter cities lose state funding if they exercise their right under the state constitution to establish their own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates on purely municipal government projects or private projects that only receive government assistance from that municipality. Several articles in www.UnionWatch.org have reported on charter cities freeing themselves from costly so-called “prevailing wage” mandates, as well as the union effort in 2013 through Senate Bill 7 to suppress local government authority through financial disincentives.

California Supreme Court Supports Rights of Charter Cities Over State Legislature – July 3, 2012

With Senate Bill 7, California Unions Advance Plot to Neuter City Charters – February 28, 2013

4. Resolution 13-04.35 calls for Congress to help unions that represent U.S. Postal Service workers.

5. Resolution 13-04.37 complains about a U.S. Supreme Court decision that fouls up some plans for class action lawsuits against employers for labor law violations. It decries how corporations are “increasing forcing their employees to unwittingly sign mandatory arbitration agreements.” (How can force be involved if the employee is unwitting?) Nothing is mentioned about union organizers “increasing forcing employees to unwittingly sign union representation cards” for card check purposes.

California Democratic Party Resolution Against StudentsFirst and Democrats for Education Reform

California Democratic Party Resolution against StudentsFirst and Democrats for Education Reform.

6. Resolution 13-04.47 attacks education reform organizations such as StudentsFirst (a group led by Michelle Rhee) and Democrats for Education Reform (a group led by Gloria Romero). Ironically, the resolution is poorly written and includes several grammatical errors and even a spelling error. It tries to encompass too many ideas and overreaches in its bombast. A grade of “D” for writing (but an “A” for promoting social justice) goes to the sponsors: the California Teachers Association (CTA), the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), and the California Faculty Association (CFA).

California Democrats Blast Efforts to Overhaul SchoolsLos Angeles Times – April 14, 2013

State Democrats Decide Who’s a REAL DemocratLos Angeles Times (op-ed by Karin Klein) – April 16, 2013

Breaking News! California Democratic Party Blasts Corporate Education Reform: UPDATE – Diane Ravitch’s Blog – April 15, 2013

LA Times Defends Wall Street Hedge Fund Reformers – Diane Ravitch’s Blog – April 16, 2013

7. Resolution 13-04.77 rejects the Keystone XL pipeline. It cites two unions opposed to the project and a study critical of the project prepared by the union-oriented Global Labor Institute at the Institute for Labor Relations at Cornell University. This issue divides unions: many construction unions support the Keystone XL pipeline because all contractors will be required to sign a Project Labor Agreement to work on it.

If you are a “Captain of Industry,” one of those dastardly “Republican operatives,” a citizen of “the old Confederacy,” or tend to “blame educators and their unions for the ills of society,” these hostile resolutions are directed at you. But everyone will find them entertaining, and avid readers of www.UnionWatch.org might even agree with a few of them.

In the meantime, to avoid being the target of future resolutions, pay your “fair share,” avoid “the race to the bottom,” “stabilize the planet’s climate,” protect the “culturally binding fabric,” and – of course – be a socially responsible, Democrat-supporting billionaire.

More News Coverage of California Democratic Party Resolutions for 2013

CA Democrats Take Aim at Efforts to Overhaul Education, CEQA – Sacramento Bee – April 14, 2013

Calif. Dems Back Gun Control, Prop 13 Reforms – San Francisco Chronicle (Associated Press) – April 14, 2013

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 www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

Unions Will Control Mid-Sized Cities with California Voting Rights Act

Unions firmly control the political agenda in California’s largest cities, but civic leaders and citizens in some of the state’s smaller cities are still resisting the union political machine.

Some of these cities, with populations from 100,000 to 250,000, include Escondido, Oceanside, Murrieta, Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Anaheim, Santa Clarita, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Clovis, Elk Grove, and Roseville. These are cities where a dominant faction of elected and appointed officials generally puts a priority on efficiently providing basic services at a reasonable cost to their citizens.

Not surprisingly, city councils in some of these cities have attempted to enact home-rule charters or have exercised rights under their home-rule charters to free themselves from costly state mandates. This greatly agitates unions, which have long worked to attain their unchecked control of the agenda at the capitol.

Union officials want California’s cities to submit fully to state laws regarding collective bargaining for public employees and government-mandated wage rates (“prevailing wages”) for construction contractors. As reported in www.UnionWatch.org throughout 2012, public employee unions and construction trade unions spent huge amounts of money to convince voters in some of these cities to reject proposed charters.

Obviously unions don’t want to spend $1 million in dozens of cities every two years to defeat proposed charters, as they did in Costa Mesa before the November 2012 election. And soon they won’t have to spend any more money.

Unions are now implementing a tactic to alter political control of these smaller cities. It is likely to succeed in turning almost every California city with a population of 100,000 or more from fiscal responsibility to “progressive” governance based on theories of social justice.

Unions and their attorneys are masters at exploiting the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to attain unrelated economic objectives that benefit unions. And now unions are using the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 (Election Code Section 14025 et seq.) as a tool to ensure the adoption of union-backed public policies at local governments.

Governor Davis signed Senate Bill 976 into law in 2001 as a way to address what the bill’s author called “racial block voting.” The law tries to end situations in which a class of relatively prosperous white community leaders has complete or nearly complete political control of a local government, even though the local government also represents a substantial number of relatively poor residents who are historically victims of racial discrimination in education, employment, and health.

According to this law, such a circumstance results from “the dilutive effects of at-large elections” in which candidates run together in a pool and the candidates who get the most votes take office. To give “protected classes” a better chance to have their own community representatives on an elected board, the Voting Rights Act of 2001 allows the implementation of “appropriate remedies, including the imposition of district-based elections” that end democratic practices that “hinder their ability to participate effectively in the political process.”

Californians have passionate views about the rationale for this law, the implications of enforcing this law, and the assumption that citizens vote and will vote based on appeals to class consciousness and race consciousness. But the completely party-line vote on Senate Bill 976 (all Democrats in support, all Republicans in opposition) showed that every state legislator recognized how political power at local governments would change.

What district-based elections mean in actual political practice is that union-backed candidates get a better chance of winning a majority or a substantial majority of a local government’s elected board. The elected board shifts politically to the Left.

Escondido City Hall

Escondido City Hall

The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California (a Sacramento-based umbrella group for construction unions) saw an opportunity to use this law to derail a plan that it opposed in the City of Escondido. It was among the plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit against the City of Escondido in December 2011 alleging that the city violated the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 by not having city council districts designed to elect more Latinos to the city council. (Demetrio Gomez v. City of Escondido, Case #37-2011-00060480-CU-CR-NC).

An article published by www.CaliforniaWatch.org on March 9, 2012 (White-Dominated Boards Face Legal Threats Over Racial Makeup) was surprisingly blunt about the true motivation for the union involvement in the lawsuit:

But labor unions and other groups also could use the law as a weapon in disputes with cities and school boards.

The first such case came in December, when the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California sued the city of Escondido, in San Diego County, alleging that at-large elections leave Latinos without fair representation. The union targeted Escondido because officials there have been trying to lower wages on public construction projects.

At that time, the Escondido City Council was developing a proposed charter for its citizens to consider enacting in 2012. That charter would have allowed the city to establish its own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates on municipal projects and on private projects receiving municipal financial assistance. It also would have prevented the city from entering into contracts that required construction companies to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions as a condition of work.

The brief submitted by the State Building Trades can be found here. Of course, it says nothing about the underlying objective of the lawsuit: dissuading Escondido and other cities from adopting home-rule charters that could erode the union political agenda.

A more honest union perspective about the lawsuit is revealed in excerpts below from the State Building Trades web site:

Members of SBCTC Affiliates Demand Fair Elections by Bob Balgenorth, head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council – January 2012

It’s not surprising that a city council that treats its Latino citizens disdainfully also has plans to worsen the quality of life for all construction workers. As the San Diego Union-Tribune reported in its coverage of the lawsuit, the current council will try to convince voters to make Escondido a charter city, in hopes of lowering construction wages on public works projects – for all workers, Latino and non-Latino alike.

“They want to take away the prevailing wage,” Demetrio Gomez, the lead plaintiff, told the paper. “They want to take away the things that make the average worker’s life worthwhile. We believe that’s wrong. And we believe if we had the ability to elect Latinos we would have better representation.”

(Also, see Members of SBCTC Affiliates Demand Escondido Change to District-Based Elections on the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California web site.)

In response, the City of Escondido asked a San Diego County Superior Court judge to dismiss the State Building Trades as a plaintiff because it lacked standing to sue: see here. The judge ruled on March 16, 2012 (Superior Court Decision – Gomez v. City of Escondido) that the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California did NOT have standing to be a plaintiff in this lawsuit:

In addition, Plaintiff Council does not satisfy the requirements for associational standing because voting rights are not germane to its purpose. The purpose of the Council is to protect the members’ rights with relation to their work and trade in construction. Voting rights are separate and distinct. Registering members to vote and providing voter education does not make members’ voting rights germane to the Council’s purpose.

Nevertheless, the lawsuit continued with the remaining plaintiffs. On March 22, 2013, after spending about $200,000 in legal fees, the City of Escondido submitted a settlement agreement to San Diego County Superior Court.

As explained by the city, “Escondido will be divided into four districts with each district to be represented by a Council member living within that district. The Mayor will continue to represent the entire City.” District boundaries “will respect the geographic neighborhoods and communities of interest, including any racial, ethnic, or language minorities.”

Retired judges will select a seven-member commission to draw the district boundaries. Union officials and their allies in local groups such as the Escondido Democratic Club will surely apply for appointments.

As a topping, the city will reimburse the plaintiff for attorneys’ fees of $385,000. It would be reasonable to assume that construction unions paid some of those legal costs.

But this is not the only union victory. After all of this union-backed litigation provoked by the proposed charter, Escondido voters ended up rejecting it in the November 2012 election. They chose to let the state legislature supersede local control over municipal affairs.

The City’s explanation of the settlement agreement concludes with this sentence: “Getting this litigation out of the way will enable the City to continue focusing on economic development and job creation – the issues that matter to all Escondido residents.”

It’s more likely that the City of Escondido will soon be focusing on social justice programs, generous concessions in contract negotiations with public employees, and requirements for construction contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions.

In the meantime, surely California unions will again manipulate the California Voting Rights Act of 2001. At the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) in California “Day at the Capitol” program on April 18, 2012, I asked a bipartisan panel of three California elections experts if they thought unions and other special interest groups would routinely use the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 as a weapon to achieve their political objectives at local governments. The unequivocal answer was YES.

“Absolutely,” said Paul Mitchell, a political consultant with Redistricting Partners, a firm based in Sacramento. He agreed with me that “that’s exactly what happened” at the City of Escondido and noted that the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 is “a card able to be played.” He expressed surprise that police, firefighters, and other public employee unions in cities such as Stockton had not already used this powerful weapon to win concessions from governments during negotiations for collective bargaining agreements.

Can Escondido avoid the fate of Stockton and San Bernardino? Only if Republicans can convince Latino voters in Escondido that limited government and fiscal responsibility are better for their communities than higher taxes, bigger government, and more regulatory restrictions on commerce. These are two conflicting philosophical views about the role of government and the relationship between government and commerce. Right now the latter is ascendant in California.

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 www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

With Senate Bill 7, California Unions Advance Plot to Neuter City Charters

More than 30 California cities are likely to defy top union officials by asking their citizens in 2014 to vote on enacting a “home rule” charter for local control.

Cities want to free their purely municipal affairs from costly union-backed state mandates, for reasons revealed in these recent articles:

Unions Rise to Defense of “Prevailing Wage” Rates Jeopardizing Hotel Project in Redding – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – February 15, 2013 and Redding Needs a Charter to End Nonsense Definition of Private Hotel as a “Public Works” Project – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – January 31, 2013.

Stanford Professor Warns Costa Mesa about Pension DebtOrange County Register – February 27, 2013 and City’s Pension Outlook Called ‘Stark’ – Newport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot – February 27, 2013. (With the failure of the Measure V charter in November 2012, Costa Mesa is now in the union paradigm with a proposed solution to raise taxes.)

A Former Mayor of a Southern California City Provides an Intellectual Argument for City Charters and Local Government Authority – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – February 19, 2013 (a commentary on Reasons to Consider Becoming a Charter City – San Diego Union-Tribune – February 19, 2013).

For a powerful example of how charter cities are saving money and being more cost-effective in their city operations and services, see Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions? Cities recognize that exercising the power of a charter can free their municipal affairs from the grip of the state legislature and the special interest groups entrenched at the capitol. A staff report about city charters to the Murrieta City Council for its October 2, 2012 meeting was blunt about the need for cities to enact charters:

…a knowledgeable, involved electorate should both propel and constrain the direction of its own city. Local control has always been a paramount matter of residents, businesses and the Murrieta City Council. Yet state legislators and previous gubernatorial administrations continue to impose far greater mandates, while at the same time hindering the ability of local governments to operate successfully. With little ability to protest, local governments have watched as the state government continues to balance its budget deficits on the backs of fiscally responsible local jurisdictions…The voice of cities in Sacramento has become mute due to a combination of special interest groups, influential political campaign contributions and tone-deaf lawmakers passing unfunded mandates. This process has left cities with little ability to petition the state government…

A city charter is a unique document that acts like a constitution for a city adopting it. Overall, this puts more control into the hands of the residents instead of state legislators and gives a community greater independence to determine its own destiny. Cities typically enter the process to become a charter city to become more autonomous. A charter city has more flexibility and has ultimate authority over municipal affairs. The charter city provision of the state Constitution, commonly referred to as the “home-rule” provision, is based on the principle that a city, rather than the state, is in the best position to know what it needs and how to satisfy those needs. The home-rule provision allows charter cities to conduct their own business and control their own affairs. Therefore, a charter maximizes local control. Such benefits of a charter city are greater flexibility on public works contracts and other changes in the procurement process, more control over economic development practices, and less reliance on the state.

Right now there are 121 charter cities in California, up from 107 in 2007. But there are aggressive opponents who regard cities’ exercise of their charter authority (as cited above from the Murrieta staff report) to be an attack on their hegemony. In 2011 and 2012, unions spent jaw-dropping amounts per voter on campaigns to convince voters to reject reasonable proposed charters.

Charters were defeated in Rancho Palos Verdes, Auburn, Costa Mesa, Escondido, and Grover Beach, to the dismay of civic leaders whose local grassroots efforts were rolled over by well-funded union-backed professional campaign operations. Unions are now ready to crush California’s federalist rebellion once and for all in 2013 and 2014.

As one strategy, they are infiltrating and trying to neutralize the League of California Cities as an organization that provides information to cities looking at charters. A union-affiliated group called www.SmartCitiesPrevail.org is trying to influence the League of California Cities through sponsorship, partnership, and participation in the League’s Transportation, Communication & Public Works Committee.

Unions are aggressively opposing charters when proposed on the local level and are trying to derail proposals through charter review commissions (a strategy that worked for unions in Elk Grove, Redding, and other cities). See the newspaper articles listed below for evidence.

Union lobbyists also have a bill now in the California State Legislature (Senate Bill 7) introduced by Senate leader Darrell Steinberg and a Republican State Senator, Anthony Cannella. It will cut off state funding for cities that use their constitutional charter authority to establish their own policies concerning state-mandated construction wage rates. (See Bill Introduced in State Senate to Suppress Authority of California’s Charter Cities to Establish Their Own Policies on Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rates – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – February 20, 2013.)

This bill adopts the same concept of crushing charter city authority as did the union-backed Senate Bill 922 in 2011 and Senate Bill 829 in 2012 (two bills pushed by Senator Michael Rubio, who just resigned to take a lobbying position with Chevron). These two laws cut off state money to charter cities that adopt policies prohibiting those cities from requiring construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions as a condition of work.

Threatening to withhold money as a tactic to force a government to submit to centralized authority may remind you of warnings in the dissent in the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June 2012 concerning the constitutionality of Obamacare:

Structural protections – notably, the restraints imposed by federalism and separation of powers – are less romantic and have less obvious a connection to personal freedom…The fragmentation of power produced by the structure of our Government is central to liberty, and when we destroy it, we place liberty at peril…[The] practice of attaching conditions to federal funds greatly increases federal power…This formidable power, if not checked in any way, would present a grave threat to the system of federalism created by our Constitution…Coercing States to accept conditions risks the destruction of the “unique role of the States in our system.”

While the same principles would seemingly apply to the relationship of state and local governments, forces at the state capitol seem to prefer an overbearing centralized government that can solve problems with broad strokes of alleged social justice.

With bills such as SB 922, SB 829, and SB 7 deemed as acceptable modes of governance by the legislative supermajority and the governor, I anticipate a union-backed effort in the future to repeal outright the section of the California Constitution (Article XI, Section 3) that allows cities to govern their own municipal affairs under a charter. It would be an effective way to eliminate another one of the diminishing number of checks and balances that interfere with utopian schemes planned under the benevolent and enlightened one-party state.

Then there is the strange case of Republican Senator Anthony Cannella, who is so proud of undermining local control and raising costs for taxpayers that he used the Senate Republican Caucus communications operation to proclaim his legislative achievement to a gullible press. Here’s a Tweet:

It didn’t go unanswered. I responded with this Tweet:

Senator Cannella may not realize (or may not care) that he represents two cities – Modesto and Merced – that use their charter authority to set their own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”). Here is the Modesto policy, set by a 1995 resolution: Modesto Prevailing Wage Policy and Staff Report. Here is the Merced practice: Merced Exempts Rental Housing Preparation from State-Mandated Government Wage Rates (Prevailing Wage). Oh well, sometimes the union lobbyists in Sacramento are a more important constituency than the people back home in the Central Valley.

With the help of Senators Steinberg and Cannella, union lobbyists intend to direct their legislative puppets from Los Angeles and San Francisco to suppress the small and medium-sized cities trying to determine their own financial destinies. To protect union power, these cities must submit to centralized power exercised by the state legislature and Governor Jerry Brown.

In the meantime, the local federalist rebellion continues. In addition to the cities of Temecula and Murrieta, the following California cities are now publicly moving forward on asking their citizens to approve a charter in 2014 (with several more soon to begin public discussion):

Costa Mesa

Outsourcing Back in for Costa MesaOrange County Register (editorial) – February 6, 2013

…passage of Measure V would have made the privatization task easier. But the union outspent Measure V proponents by more than seven-to-one. However, Mr. [Councilman Jim] Righeimer said he hopes a new charter measure will be put on the June 2014 ballot…Within 60 days the council will hold a study session on how to set up the independent committee for the new charter measure.

Escondido

Escondido Mayor Touts Urban Renewal, Embracing DiversitySan Diego Union-Tribune – February 20, 2013

Delivering his annual State of the City address to nearly 300 residents and business leaders gathered at the city’s arts center… [Mayor Sam] Abed said he also wants the city to take another shot at becoming a charter city, which would increase Escondido’s independence from Sacramento and reduce the cost of some city construction projects.

Moreno Valley

Moreno Valley: City to Explore Becoming Charter City – Riverside Press-Enterprise – February 26, 2013

The Moreno Valley City Council on Tuesday, Feb. 26, unanimously approved establishing a subcommittee that would explore becoming a charter city and appointing two council members to it.

Moreno Valley: Charter City Committee Could Be Created  – Riverside Press-Enterprise – February 25, 2013

The Moreno Valley City Council on Tuesday, Feb. 26, is to follow through on plans to determine whether to become a charter city. The council is set to vote on whether to establish a charter exploratory subcommittee and appoint two council members to it.

Buellton

Buellton Continues “Home Rule’ Talk – Santa Ynez Valley News – February 7, 2013

The idea of changing Buellton to a “home-rule” city is on hold again after City Council members decided to set up a workshop for more discussion about a draft plan…City Manager John Kunkel said the committee wants voters to be comfortable with the measure and, if the council wants to have a dialogue with unions, there is no rush.

Charting Best Path to Buellton’s Future – Santa Ynez Valley News (editorial) – February 7, 2013

…being a charter city does mean that local elected officials and voters can make more of their own decisions, and are therefore better able to tailor policy to fit specific local needs…Being a charter city also lets local government off the hook for paying a prevailing wage. Labor unions don’t like that possibility…

Arroyo Grande
Arroyo Grande Considering City Charter – www.CalCoastNews.com – January 28, 2013

The Arroyo Grande City Council has created a committee to explore the idea of becoming a charter city in order to cut costs…Many union members oppose city charters because they allow exemptions from state-mandated prevailing wage agreements. City staff says adopting a charter could save Arroyo Grande $50,000 to $300,000 annually.

Study Under Way to Find Out if Arroyo Grande Should Try to Become a Charter CitySan Luis Obispo Tribune – January 27, 2013

A committee has been convened to study whether Arroyo Grande should try to become a charter city, a move that officials say could save money and give it more local control. The idea, however, faces stiff opposition from local union members…

California cities have two choices about their financial futures: enact a charter as an way to become more cost-efficient, or raise taxes. Guess which choice the unions want?

Kevin Dayton is the President and CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com.

Charter Proposals for California Cities Continue Provoking Union Opposition

California Governor Jerry Brown claimed in his State of the State address that California now has “a solid and enduring budget.” His Finance Department even predicts state budget surpluses.

Despite the jubilation at the state capitol inspired by tax increases and one-party rule, California cities seem skeptical, as shown by their continued efforts to exercise their state constitutional rights to govern their own municipal affairs, free of costly and burdensome state mandates. And unions remain determined to undermine them.

The elected council of the Central Coast city of Arroyo Grande has appointed a committee to determine if it should ask voters to approve a home-rule charter, and union officials are interfering through “stiff opposition.” The elected council of the Central Coast city of Buellton is going to hold a workshop on a proposed charter, as union officials fight the proposal there too.

Meanwhile, on January 22, 2013, the Newport Beach City Council voted 7-0 to exercise its home-rule power as a charter city to establish its own policy concerning government-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”). See the text of the resolution below.

RESOLUTION NO. 2013-6

A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF NEWPORT BEACH EXEMPTING LOCALLY FUNDED PUBLIC WORKS PROJECTS FROM PREVAILING WAGE

WHEREAS, the California prevailing wage law requires contractors on public works projects to be paid the general prevailing rate of per diem wages for work of a similar character in the locality in which the work is performed;

WHEREAS, under the California Constitution, Article XI, Section 5, the laws of charter cities supersede state law with respect to municipal affairs of the city;

WHEREAS, the California Supreme Court has held that the wage levels of workers constructing locally funded public works are a municipal affair, and therefore a charter city’s prohibition on the payment of prevailing wage supersede state law; and

WHEREAS, the City of Newport Beach (“City”) is incorporated as a charter city, and thus the City may exempt locally funded public works projects from prevailing wage to conserve the City’s limited resources.

NOW, THEREFORE, the City Council of the City of Newport Beach resolves as follows:

SECTION 1: The City of Newport Beach exempts locally funded public works projects from prevailing wage, unless: (1) prevailing wage is compelled by the terms of a federal or state grant or is otherwise funded from a source that requires prevailing wage; (2) the public work is a matter of statewide concern; or (3) the payment of prevailing wage is separately authorized by the City Council, because the project is of a complexity and nature that the public interest would be served by requiring prevailing wage.

SECTION 2: This resolution shall take effect immediately upon its adoption by the City Council, and the City Clerk shall certify the vote adopting this resolution.

ADOPTED this 22nd day of January, 2013.

The January 22, 2013 staff report to the Newport Beach City Council recommended that it establish its own government-mandated construction wage rate policy:

…the City of Newport Beach, as a charter city, is not required to pay prevailing wage for locally funded public works projects. The City may adopt either an ordinance or a resolution to affirm its municipal autonomy and conserve valuable financial resources by exempting itself from the prevailing wage requirement for locally funded public works contracts. In the absence of an ordinance or resolution, the City may exempt itself from the payment of prevailing wage through the insertion of language into individual contracts (i.e., creation of an “actual conflict” through explicit contract terms). However, to ensure consistency staff recommends the adoption of the attached resolution. The attached resolution provides an exemption for public works projects, unless: (a) prevailing wage is compelled by the terms of a federal or state grant, or other funding source; (b) the public work is a matter of state-wide concern; or (c) the payment of prevailing wage is separately authorized by the City Council due to a project’s complexity or nature that the public interest would be served by requiring prevailing wage” to the third type of project for which the City might wish to pay prevailing wage.

Before the vote, the city attorney pointed out that the state’s definition of “public works” is ridiculously broad and recommended that the city council ensure flexibility and adopt a policy to “opt-in” to state-mandated construction wage rates. Councilman Michael Henn had the courage to state publicly that “prevailing wage” is a unique “anachronism of the construction industry” and noted that most business in America is done without government-mandated prevailing wage rates.

Study Session: Applicability of Prevailing Wage to City Projects

As a prelude to the agenda item, the Newport Beach City Council convened earlier in the day for what the city attorney described as a “fairly long study session” (Discussion Regarding the Applicability of Prevailing Wage to City Projects) to discuss exercising its right as a charter city to establish its own policy concerning government-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”) on purely municipal construction projects.

A leader of the Los Angeles/Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council [no web site] led off the public comment by showing a professionally-produced video called “Right the First Time” that promotes state prevailing wage laws through anecdotes and interviews with union-backed politicians. It neglects to mention the state’s absurd methods of calculating prevailing wage and defining public works. In addition, the video claims that prevailing wages are set by the free market, even though California Labor Code Section 1773 directs the state to set prevailing wage rates based on the applicable union collective bargaining agreements.

Other speakers represented union-affiliated groups such as Smart Cities Prevail and unionized construction trade organizations such as the Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board of Southern California, the Western Wall & Ceiling Contractors Association, the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) – Orange County Chapter, and the Western Steel Council. A few unionized contractors (locked into multi-year collective bargaining agreements) also spoke in defense of state-mandated construction wage rates.

Evening Meeting: Unanimous Approval of the Resolution

At the evening meeting, a collection of union representatives, unionized construction trade associations, and unionized contractors once again asked the city council to keep state-mandated construction wage rates. They again cited the usual union arguments about cheap, unskilled, out-of-town labor by uninsured and unlicensed contractors.

Notice how this letter from the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) says that quality construction requires “living wages and benefits,” as if the alternative to state-mandated construction wage rates is the California minimum wage of $8.00 per hour. Actually, state-mandated prevailing wages are typically four to six times higher than “living wage” rates set by local governments. For example, the “living wage” for the City of Irvine (in Orange County, near Newport Beach) is currently $13.13 per hour including benefits. The median wage (not including benefits) for an electrician in Orange County is $27.15, according to the California Economic Development Department. But the state-mandated total straight time “prevailing wage” for an inside wireman electrician in Newport Beach is $54.83 per hour, including fringe benefit payments and payments to “other” trust funds that do not directly benefit the employee.

A staff representative of Smart Cities Prevail (a union-affiliated labor-management cooperation committee) argued against the resolution, claiming the policy could result in economic “uncertainty and insecurity.” A representative of the unionized Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board of Southern California noted that prevailing wage contractors offer quality. A leader of the Los Angeles/Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council encouraged the city council to continue requiring its contractors to abide by the state-mandated wage rates and warned of cheap labor from out of the area. A representative of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) claimed that construction workers are “part-time workers” that work eight months a year and don’t get vacations or sick days. A union contractor said “we can afford it in Newport Beach” and noted many sections of the California Labor Code would be nullified. Also speaking against the policy was a union-oriented consultant formerly involved with labor relations for the Bay Area Chapter of the Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors National Association (SMACNA).

All that needs to be said in response: In 2012, the City of Newport Beach entered into a $5,880.00 maintenance contract for “abatement of algae around the Grand Canal beaches of Balboa Island” that included the requirement for the contractor to pay state-mandated construction wage rates (prevailing wage). Is it really the business of the state legislature to impose such a requirement on the City of Newport Beach for $6000 in algae clean-up?

News Coverage of Newport Beach City Council Vote:

Newport Triggers Dock-Fee Increases, Cost-Saving Labor Contracts – Orange County Register – January 23, 2013

City Eschews Prevailing Wages: The City Council voted to exempt Newport Beach from a state requirement that compels cities to pay workers prevailing wages – Newport Beach/Corona Del Mar Patch – January 24, 2013.)

Council Closes Book on Dock Fee Increases (In other business…) – Newport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot – January 23, 2013

For More Information:

Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions? – 3rd Edition

List of California’s 121 Charter Cities

California Supreme Court Affirms State Prevailing Wage Requirements Do Not Apply to Charter Cities – League of California Cities – July 2, 2012

Kevin Dayton is the President and CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com.

California’s “Prevailing Wage” – Floor Vacuuming at $45.93/Hour

California State Assemblyman Curt Hagman (R-Chino Hills) is introducing a bill to address one of the numerous absurdities in California’s prevailing wage law: the $38-46 per hour wage paid to laborers who clean up construction sites after taxpayer-funded construction is finished.

As revealed in a 2009 state wage enforcement action against a construction company working under a contract in the Antelope Valley Union High School District in Los Angeles County, such work entails “vacuuming, dusting, cleaning and polishing windows, walls and floors.”

Some Californians might consider $12 per hour to be a reasonable wage for this low-skill work, especially when so many school districts are funding massive building programs with borrowed money, thus taking on a staggering amount of debt for future taxpayers. Is it wise fiscal management for school districts to sell Capital Appreciation Bonds with outlandish compound interest payments in order to pay $45 per hour for someone to push a vacuum?

And in fact, the state does recognize a wage rate at about $12 per hour for janitorial work. California Public Utilities Code Sections 465-467 require public utilities to pay prevailing wage rates for labor of a custodial or janitorial nature, and therefore the California Department of Industrial Relations determines wage rates for this kind of work.

How Does California Now Determine Mandated Wage Rates for Construction Cleanup?

But vacuuming up the lingering sawdust at a construction site is considered a construction trade, because such work is classified within the work assignments listed in the applicable collective bargaining agreements of the Laborers Union.

Under Section 1773 of the California Labor Code and Title 8, Subchapter 3 of the California Code of Regulations, the State of California determines “prevailing wage” rates in most cases by obtaining the union collective bargaining agreements for each trade in each geographical region of the state, adding up all of the payments indicated in these agreements, and declaring the total to be the “prevailing wage.”

Wage rates include fringe benefits and employer payments to “other” funds that do not directly benefit the employee. And the same wage for the same work applies to non-union workers.

For Southern California, the Department of Industrial Relations sets the total straight time hourly “prevailing wage” for a journeyman in the Group 1 classification of “Laborer, General Cleanup” at $45.93.

This amount is based on the following payments in the collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the Southern California District Council of Laborers and three contractor associations – Associated General Contractors (AGC) of California, Building Industry Association (BIA) of Southern California, and the Southern California Construction Association:

  • $28.09 in basic wages
  • $6.81 to the union health and welfare program
  • $6.00 to the union pension program
  • $3.90 to the union vacation and holiday program
  • 64 cents to the union apprenticeship program
  • 49 cents for “other” payments that go to a variety of union-managed funds not for the direct benefit of the employee.

For Northern California, the state-mandated total straight time hourly “prevailing wage” rate for a journeyman in the Laborers Group 4 trade classification applies to the following:

Final cleanup on building construction projects prior to occupancy only. Cleaning and washing windows (new construction only), service landscape laborers (such as gardener, horticulture, mowing, trimming, replanting, watering during plant establishment period) on new construction.

The total straight time hourly wage for that classification is $39.02 in the San Francisco Bay Area and $38.02 in other counties of Northern California. These amounts are based on the collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the Northern California District Council of Laborers and Associated General Contractors (AGC) of California.

In San Diego County, the state-mandated total straight time hourly “prevailing wage rate for a journeyman in the Group 1 classification of “Laborer, General Cleanup” for commercial building is $43.27. This amount is based on the collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the Southern California District Council of Laborers for San Diego County and Associated General Contractors – San Diego Chapter.

What Are the Chances of Establishing a Reasonable State-Mandated Wage Rate for Construction Cleanup?

If you were an official or lobbyist for the Laborers Union in California or for the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, would you give permission to Governor Jerry Brown and the Democrats in the legislature to undercut the high wage rates that your union negotiated with union contractors for “vacuuming, dusting, cleaning and polishing windows, walls and floors?” Of course not!

In negotiating their collective bargaining agreements, construction trade unions actually enjoy a kind of quasi-regulatory authority, because their final agreements are the basis for the state-mandated construction wage rates. They are loath to compromise this power.

In the 2011-12 state legislative session, Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) introduced Assembly Bill 987, a comprehensive and technically-precise bill that would have reformed the state’s calculation of prevailing wages so that state-mandated construction wage rates are reasonably accurate and based on actual local market conditions. The Assembly Labor and Employment Committee rejected the bill on a party-line vote: Republicans in support, Democrats opposed.

Regarding the specific wage rate for construction cleanup, taxpayers could adopt several strategies in addition to Assemblyman Hagman’s legislation in order to prod the California Department of Industrial Relations to determine a reasonably-accurate state-mandated wage rate for “vacuuming, dusting, cleaning and polishing windows, walls and floors.” But unions will resist any challenge to the status quo, unless they exercise their own power to negotiate and accept a special construction cleanup classification – with more common sense wage rates – in their own collective bargaining agreements.

Kevin Dayton is the President and CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com.

Mysterious Union Slush Fund Spends $100,000 Against Costa Mesa Charter

As explained by the League of California Cities, the California Constitution gives cities the authority to enact “charters” and thereby manage their purely municipal affairs without interference from the state. Cities have been increasingly eager to seek charters in recent years in order to free themselves from costly state mandates. Since 2007, voters have increased the number of charter cities from 107 to 121, and voters in three more cities will have the opportunity to consider approving charters on November 6, 2012.

Here are web links to the three proposed charters and the support and opposition web sites for the three proposed charters:

1. City of Escondido (San Diego County) – population 146,032

2. City of Costa Mesa (Orange County) – population 111,600

3. City of Grover Beach (San Luis Obispo County) – population 13,275

  • Charter Proposal as Presented on City Web Site: Measure I-12
  • Yes on I-12 Web Site: Vote Yes on Measure I-12
  • No on I-12 Web Site: http://www.protectgroverbeach.com

The most aggressive opponents of proposed charters are unions, particularly construction trade unions. (See Who Defeated the City of Auburn’s Proposed Charter, and How Was It Done? Answer: Three Union Entities, by Spending $56.40 Per NO Vote.) As confirmed by a California Supreme Court decision in July 2012 (State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, AFL-CIO v. City of Vista), charter cities have the right to establish their own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”).

In almost all cases, the state determines the wage rate by adding up all of the employer payments (including payments that are not employee compensation) indicated within the union collective bargaining agreement that applies to a specific trade within the specific geographical region that falls within the jurisdiction of the union agreement. The state does not survey contractors or workers to determine an average or median wage, nor does it consider regional wage statistics calculated by the California Economic Development Department. As a result, state-mandated construction wage rates in California are often much higher than the actual wage rates in a locality. But with a charter, a city can set its own rates for its own projects.

For a comprehensive 92-page guide about government-mandated construction wage rates in California and the status of prevailing wage policies in California’s 121 charter cities, see the recently-published 3rd edition of Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?

As listed above, voters in the City of Costa Mesa have the opportunity on November 6, 2012 to consider Measure V, which would enact a charter. Mailboxes are stuffed daily with slick full-color productions telling the citizens of Costa Mesa how awful life will be if the city frees itself from the benevolent California State Legislature and adopts its own mini-constitution.  (See some of these mailers below.)

ONE entity has spent $100,000 against Measure V as of September 30. (At the rate those mailers are pouring in, it’s likely much more has been spent in October.)

The donor is the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust. Have you ever heard of it?

The secretive California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust is the sole direct contributor (of at least $100,000) to the No on V campaign in Costa Mesa.

What is the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust? Where does it spend its money? How does it get its money?

If you want a more detailed but still shadowy idea of how this group spends its ill-gotten money, you can read my May 31, 2012 article Where the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust Spends Its Money: Now We See How Unions Spread It. But here is a list of the top recipients:

  1. $1,095,000 – Taxpayers to Preserve Community Jobs, No on Measure A, sponsored by labor and management organizations (June 5, 2012 election in City of San Diego)
  2. $770,000 – UCLA Labor Center (aka UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education), part of the University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program
  3. $250,000 – No 98/Yes 99 – A Committee of City and County Associations, Taxpayers and Environmental Groups, League of California Cities, Californians for Neighborhood Protection, Coalition of Conservationists
  4. $164,550 – “Other” (?)
  5. $100,000 – Apollo Alliance
  6. $100,000 – Paxton-Patterson Construction Lab/Shop in San Joaquin County
  7. $50,000 – Taxpayers to Preserve Community Jobs, No On Measure G, sponsored by labor and management organizations (June 8, 2010 election in City of Chula Vista)

But what’s more interesting is the source of at least some of this money, if not all of it.

A Mysterious Union Slush Fund, Authorized by an Obscure 1978 Federal Law to Encourage Better Relationships Between Unions and Manufacturers, Gave $100,000 to No on Measure V

The California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust contributed a total of $100,000 to the No on Measure V campaign. This is an extraordinarily high amount for a political contribution from one entity, especially concerning a local ballot measure! The head of the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust is Bob Balgenorth, who is also head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, based in Sacramento.

This is NOT a traditional Political Action Committee. It is an arcane type of union trust authorized by the obscure Labor-Management Cooperation Act of 1978, a law signed by President Jimmy Carter and implemented by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. Inspired by the decline of unionized manufacturing in the Northeast, this federal law was meant to help industrial management and union officials build better personal relationships and cooperate against the threat of outside competition. There are no federal or state regulations specifically addressed toward these trusts, and these trusts do not have any reporting requirements to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards. This is an ambiguous and forgotten law that’s ripe for abuse.

It’s Not Union Members that Give the Money to the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust: It’s Utility Ratepayers and Contractors Working for Extorted Power Plant Owners

Since the 1990s, whenever an energy company or public utility submits an application to the California Energy Commission seeking approval of a new power plant, an organization called California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) often “intervenes” in the licensing process. Represented by the South San Francisco law firm Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo, CURE submits massive data requests and environmental objections to the California Energy Commission. The applicant by law is required to answer CURE’s submissions, at significant cost and delay. The chairman of California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) is Bob Balgenorth (see above).

If the power plant owner agrees to require its construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California or its regional affiliates, CURE’s objections fade away and the power plant proceeds unhindered through the licensing process. If the company or utility does not surrender to CURE’s demand, then CURE’s interference and lawsuits continue.

This racket – sometimes called “greenmail” because it’s the use of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and federal environmental laws to pressure developers to sign Project Labor Agreements – is well-known to the energy industry in California and has been extensively reported in the news media over the past dozen years. (For example, see Labor Coalition’s Tactics on Renewable Energy Projects Are Criticized – Los Angeles Times – February 5, 2011.)

For cases in which the power plant applicant succumbs to CURE’s harassment, the Project Labor Agreement that the power plant owner signs usually contains a provision requiring the owner or its contractors to make a lump-sum payment or series of payments to the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust.

For example, the Project Labor Agreement signed by the Northern California Power Agency (a conglomerate of publicly-owned utilities) for the construction of the Lodi Energy Center required the agency to shell out $90,000 to the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust. That amount was dutifully mailed to Bob Balgenorth on August 17, 2010. (For more on this payment, see High Energy: Lodi Center Designed to be a Powerhouse for Chunk of State – Stockton Record – October 4, 2011; also, the union rebuttal on the California Building Trades Council web site – ABC Falsehoods Refuted in Letter to Stockton Record – a denial that the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust is used for political contributions.)

And Section 13.1 of the Project Labor Agreement signed by the Southern California Public Power Authority (another conglomerate of publicly-owned utilities) for the construction of the City of Anaheim’s Canyon Power Plant required the agency to shell out $65,000 to the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust.

The California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust reports these payments as “membership dues” to the Internal Revenue Service. Which brings up a question: are the local elected officials who serve as commissioners for the Northern California Power Agency and the Southern California Public Power Authority exercising their responsibilities as “members” to approve $100,000 in political contributions to the No on Measure V campaign in Costa Mesa?

But Wait a Minute…Is It Legal to Have Utility Ratepayers Fund a Mysterious Union Trust Fund that Contributes to Political Campaigns, Such as No on Measure V in Costa Mesa?

In 2009, an internal committee of the Northern California Power Agency discussed whether or not a payment to the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust was an illegal gift of public funds. (Note the original amount to the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust was supposed to be $150,000, but aggressive opposition to the Project Labor Agreement forced the unions to cut it down to $90,000 in order to win approval from the board of commissioners.)

To solve this uncertainty, in May 2011 State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) added a cryptic amendment at the request of union lobbyists and lawyers to the end of a large unrelated public utilities bill (Senate Bill 790) regarding “community choice aggregation.” It added Section 3260 to the Public Utilities Code: “Nothing in this division prohibits payments pursuant to an agreement authorized by the National Labor Relations Act (29 U.S.C. Sec. 151 et seq.), or payments permitted by the federal Labor Management Cooperation Act of 1978 (29 U.S.C. Secs. 173, 175a, and 186). Nothing in this division restricts any use permitted by federal law of money paid pursuant to these acts.”

No one in the California State Legislature – apparently not even Senator Leno – initially knew what this strange new provision meant. In the end, a few legislators such as Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) came to understand and reveal in floor debate that it authorized public utilities to pass on the costs of payments to labor-management cooperation committees to ratepayers. Governor Brown signed the bill into law with the language tacked on the end.

It’s a tangled conspiracy. Especially intriguing is that one union official is the head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust, and California Unions for Reliable Energy. For more information, see the investigative report of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction at this September 23, 2011 post at www.TheTruthaboutPLAs.comA Genuine California Union Conspiracy: Senate Bill 790 and the California Building Trades Council’s Ratepayer Funded Political Slush Fund

Confused about the Conspiracy? Here’s a Chart.

A public utility or private energy company applies to the California Energy Commission for approval to build a power plant.

California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) uses its “intervenor” status at the California Energy Commission to submit massive data requests and environmental complaints about the proposed power plant, as a result gumming up the licensing process and causing costly and lengthy delays for the applicant.

 ↓

Applicant for prospective power plant surrenders and agrees to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California or its regional affiliates. California Unions for Reliable Energy releases its grip of legal paperwork and the project moves forward unimpeded and acclaimed as environmentally sound.

 ↓

The Project Labor Agreement contains a required payment or payments to the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative TrustCalifornia Public Utilities Code Section 3260 – enacted by Senate Bill 790 in 2011 – allows public utilities to pass costs through to ratepayers.

 ↓

The California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust reports those payments to the IRS as “Membership Dues,” creating questions about the rights inherent for dues-paying members.

 ↓

The California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust makes contributions to political campaigns, such as $100,000 to fund 100% of the No on Measure V anti-charter campaign (Committee for Costa Mesa’s Future, No on V, sponsored by labor and management organizations) in the City of Costa Mesa in 2012.

Solutions

Is there any way this racket can be stopped? Yes. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor Management Standards could promulgate regulations that establish restrictions and reporting guidelines for committees authorized by the Labor-Management Cooperation Act of 1978. Even better, Congress could pass legislation amending or repealing the law, and the President could sign it.

In the meantime, enjoy some of the No on V mailers below, brought to you by the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust!

Is this a photo of a typical meeting of the board of directors of the California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperative Trust?

If the union officials running the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust had read Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?, they would have known that Mammoth Lakes is NOT a charter city.

They should have used a photo of Los Angeles and a photo of the state capitol to show who calls the shots when a California city doesn’t operate under a charter.

Is this the joint in Sacramento where the board of directors of the California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperative Trust goes for drinks after deciding to spend more money against the proposed Costa Mesa charter?

OK, I get it. If you’re concerned about crushing debt, government mismanagement, and lack of public accountability, vote against the charter and leave your municipal affairs to the prudent and responsible leaders of the California State Legislature.

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 www.laborissuessolutions.com.

California Supreme Court Supports Rights of Charter Cities Over State Legislature

California Supreme Court Declares that the State’s 121 Charter Cities Have a Constitutional Right to Circumvent the Union-Controlled State Legislature and Establish Their Own Policies Concerning Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rates for Taxpayer-Funded Construction

Yesterday morning (July 2, 2012), the California Supreme Court ruled 5-2 in State Building and Construction Trades Council v. City of Vista that the state’s charter cities have the constitutional right to establish their own policies concerning what their contractors are required to pay their trade employees working on construction projects paid for in whole or in part by the charter city. See the decision here.

There has been a recent flurry of cities trying to enact charters to gain some freedom from costly state mandates, especially freedom from the state’s inaccurate and inflated prevailing wage rates that apply to construction contracts of $1000 or more. In the City of El Cajon (in San Diego County), 58% of voters approved that city’s proposed charter on June 5, 2012. That charter includes an exemption from state prevailing wage.

Meanwhile, voters in the City of Auburn defeated a proposed charter with a similar prevailing wage exemption on June 5, 2012 after three union entities spent almost $80,000 to defeat a small local grassroots movement for a charter. Unions spent $56.40 per vote against the proposed charter to keep state control over the city’s contracting rules.

Article XI, Section 3 of the California Constitution describes how a general law city can organize under a charter. The California Supreme Court ruled on July 2, 2012 that the constitutional rights for a charter city extend to governing authority over contracting rules for purely municipal construction projects. In the case of the City of Vista, it established its own policy on prevailing wage in 2007 with the intention of saving millions of dollars on the seismic retrofit of an existing fire station and the construction of two new fire stations, a new civic center, a new sports park, and a new stagehouse for the city’s Moonlight Amphitheatre.

Charter cities are trying to circumvent the state’s prevailing wage laws because pay rates determined under these laws are often obviously much higher than actual regional market rates. In addition, the definitions of public works under these laws apply to projects that no reasonable Californian would consider to be government work.

Instead of surveying contractors or workers or looking at statistics from the California Economic Development Department, the California Department of Industrial Relations uses a system of calculating rates in which all of the employer payments indicated in the applicable union collective bargaining agreement for a construction trade in the union’s geographic region are added up to produce the wage rate for that region.

The state rates even incorporate employer payments to union-affiliated trusts that are not related to employee compensation; in fact, these trusts are sometimes used for union political purposes. Classified by the California Department of Industrial Relations in the mysterious “Other” column of prevailing wage determinations, this component was added to law through a bill signed by Governor Gray Davis just before he was recalled in 2003.

See the state-mandated construction wage rates for taxpayer-funded projects here.

In addition, the state defines a public works project to mean a construction project that gets any sort of public financial benefit. That means the state identifies many privately-owned and privately-built projects as public works projects. Hotels and retail developments become public works projects equivalent to courthouses and city halls.

Few Californians understand the complicated, convoluted, and often ambiguous structure of the state’s laws and regulations concerning government-mandated construction wage rates. For a simple explanation of the state’s prevailing wage laws and the prevailing wage laws of the state’s charter cities, see this guidebook: Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of Prevailing Wage Exemptions?

To see how state prevailing wage laws could be reformed to produce more accurate rates and more reasonable definitions of public works, see these two comprehensive reform bills introduced by Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) but defeated in January 2012 on party-line votes in the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee: Assembly Bill 987 (reform definition of public works) and Assembly Bill 988 (reform calculation of prevailing wages).

OUTLOOK: In the November 2012 election, voters in the cities of Costa Mesa, Escondido, and Grover Beach will consider enacting charters that allow these cities to establish their own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates for purely municipal construction. I predict that dozens of cities will seek this authority from their citizens in 2014.

Here is a compilation of the substantial press coverage about this important court decision:

News Coverage So Far: City of Vista Wins California Supreme Court Ruling – Charter Cities Can Set Their Own Policies Concerning Prevailing Wage


APPENDIX: Union Perspectives on Charter Cities Establishing Their Own Policies Concerning Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rates

1.      Official Statement After Unions Lose in California Supreme Court

“The fight against prevailing wage is part of a larger effort by the super-rich ruling class to fatten their own wallets by forcing everyone else to sacrifice…We will continue to fight at every turn.” – July 2, 2012 statement of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California in response to the California Supreme Court decision

Source: an article in the Newport Beach /Costa Mesa Daily Pilot, an article in the North County Times, and in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle.

2.      Dialogue at the California Appeals Court oral arguments on November 14, 2008 (one year after devastating fires in San Diego County):

Judge (to the Union Lawyer): “How do you balance (your) argument against a municipality that might say ‘prevailing wages, that concept is going to, in effect, prevent us from building the fire station that we need?’”

Union Lawyer: “The same argument could be made about a lot of laws that cost money.  The way I balance it is to say that when the people as a whole deal through the legislature with a problem that does have real extra-municipal dimension, the interests of an individual locality have to yield.”

Another Judge (to the Union Lawyer): “The response that troubles me a little bit: ‘Well, if they can’t afford to build the fire station, and they have fire problems, that’s their tough luck,’ even though they’re using municipal funds. They’re not using state funds; the state isn’t granting its largess to solve the problem. So the charter makes no difference; the city simply is stuck.”

Union Lawyer: “When you say stuck, they have to follow the exact same rules that every other government entity follows in California to construct things…It’s true the city could say ‘we might be able to get lower bids on our project if we don’t include prevailing wage specifications, and we’d like to do that,’ but where the legislature has dealt with an issue that has extra-municipal concerns, the judgment of the entire legislature has to trump, because there are substantial externalities involved.”

Source: Wildfires: Construction Unions Put Self-Interest above Public Interest in Court Case Against City of Vista’s Right as a Charter City to Set Its Own Prevailing Wage Policies

3.      From a Commentary by Bob Balgenorth (President of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California) published on July 26, 2007:

The State Building Trades intends to establish with its lawsuit that ignoring the State’s prevailing wage law is not just bad policy – it is also illegal.

Source: “Charter Cities Must Comply with Prevailing-Wage Law,” Capitol Weekly, July 26, 2007. (It took five years for this lawsuit to reach the final and decisive outcome of failure.)

Kevin Dayton is the President and CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com.