Workers' Pennies Drive Historic Building Trades Legislation


December 2014 - You may have seen a bulletin the State Building and Construction Trades Council recently issued describing the wave of charter cities rushing to enact prevailing wage laws in order to be eligible for state construction funds.

That bulletin also described related and fascinating developments that unfolded in the City of Arroyo Grande, where voters surprised elected officials in a number of interesting and worthy ways. Because of the importance of all these developments, this illustrates the power of the unity of the building trades workers, and emphasizes that the pennies per hour that I voluntarily contributed while working in the field as an Ironworker to my union’s political action fund has a direct effect on me as a worker and my family’s future, I will share this bulletin again here.

Wave of Cities Rushing to Enact
Prevailing Wage Laws to Comply with SB 7

Driven by the desire to continue to receive state funding for construction, charter cities across California that had previously exempted themselves from prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements are rushing this month to enact new measures that require prevailing wages and apprenticeship training on all their projects.

Senate Bill 7, sponsored by the State Building and Construction Trades Council (SBCTC) in 2013, provides a financial incentive to charter cities to adopt prevailing wage/apprenticeship requirements. We have previously reported on the cities of Newport Beach, San Mateo, Mountain View and Fresno acting in recent weeks to require prevailing wages. Additionally, the following charter cities have either recently taken action or are scheduled to do so this month:

Arcadia: Ordinance on agenda November 18
Bakersfield: Resolution on agenda November 19
Carlsbad: Ordinance on calendar November 19
El Cajon: Resolution on agenda November 18
Indian Wells: To be scheduled on November agenda
Irwindale: Ordinance approved on November 11
Modesto: First reading approved on November 4
Monterey: Second reading approved on November 4
Pacific Grove: Resolution on agenda November 19
Palm Springs: Ordinance on agenda November 19
Rancho Mirage: Initial reading on agenda November 20
Shafter: Final adoption November 18
Visalia: Final adoption November 17, 2014
Vista: Ordinance to be introduced November 18 (This is especially noteworthy because it was Vista’s refusal to set prevailing wages for construction workers that ultimately resulted in arguments before the California Supreme Court. The Supreme Court’s decision in that case led to the State Building Trades countering with the introduction of SB 7, that was adopted by the Legislature in 2013.)

There is also some landmark news for Building Trades workers coming from the City of Arroyo Grande, where voters in the November election soundly rejected a charter city conversion measure that would have allowed the city to exempt itself from prevailing wage, and where voters ousted the current mayor in favor of a write-in candidate supported by the local Building Trades. That mayor, Tony Ferrara, was backing the drive to make Arroyo Grande a charter city and cut construction workers’ pay. Returns show that Ferrara’s vote total was exceeded by the number of write-in votes, for write-in candidate Jim Hill. Ferrara’s hostility toward labor was an issue in the race.

The Tri-County Building Trades Council in conjunction with the State Building Trades helped achieve these results by sending mailers opposing the charter measure to Arroyo Grande voters, questioning the wisdom of handing more power to city officials with a history of corruption, and linking the charter measure with the Mayor.

This historic outcome is made even more noteworthy because Ferrara is the recently elected President of the League of California Cities, a position he will now have to resign. The League has been the foremost opponent of SBCTC legislation (SB 922, SB 829, SB 7) to encourage cities to consider Project Labor Agreements and to motivate charter cities to pay prevailing wages. It appears the political activism and unity of Building Trades workers and unions have brought about multiple major victories for this region’s working people.

It is important to note that Building Trades councils successfully beat back charter city proposals in the cities of Costa Mesa and Escondido. These, too, were designed to remove prevailing wage.

State Building Trades President Robbie Hunter commented: “While we have beaten challenges to SB 7 in Superior Court in San Diego, and again a few weeks ago when charter cities unsuccessfully sought an injunction to stop the implementation of SB 7, some charter cities are still pursuing an appeal to the Court of Appeal. Nonetheless, the Building Trades’ relentless unity and activism is bringing tremendous results all across California. After 85 years of war between the Building Trades and charter cities, their noncompliance with the prevailing wage law is ending in California. Through the years local unions have used valuable resources and time in what seemed like an endless battle to preserve prevailing wage in charter cities.  Now those resources can be better used to expand their local unions’ footprint and representation of their membership.”


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