California Bill Would Create a New Construction Trade Classification for Final Cleanup and Janitorial Work

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UPDATE: An article posted on January 11, 2013 in www.CalWatchdog.com reveals how some company officials in the California construction industry illegally handle the $45 per hour state-mandated wage rate for construction cleanup laborers. I’m quoted in the article. See Prevailing Wage Scams Steal from Taxpayers.

My article California’s “Prevailing Wage” – Floor Vacuuming at $45.93/Hour was posted on January 8, 2012 in www.UnionWatch.org.


An article in the January 2, 2013 San Bernardino Sun (Assemblyman Curt Hagman to Introduce Bill on Prevailing Wages for Final Cleanup Workers) reports that Assemblyman Curt Hagman (R-Chino Hills) will be introducing a bill to establish a new trade classification for the purposes of setting state-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”) for low-skilled cleanup work on taxpayer-funded construction in Southern California.

Here is the draft summary of the bill to establish a construction cleanup prevailing wage rate in California.

Here is the draft text of the bill to establish a construction cleanup prevailing wage rate in California.

The article reports that the state requires contractors working on public works projects in Northern California to pay at least $12 per hour to laborers engaged in janitorial or final clean-up work for construction. Meanwhile, the state requires contractors working on public works projects in Southern California to pay at least $45 per hour to laborers engaged in janitorial or final clean-up work for construction, because Southern California lacks a janitorial work or final cleanup trade classification.

A decision in 2009 (Harbor Construction Co., Inc.) from John Duncan, Director of the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) during the Schwarzenegger Administration, stated that “final cleanup” work was subject to state-mandated construction wage rates when such work was included in a contract between a construction company and a public agency. That “final cleanup” included “vacuuming, dusting, cleaning and polishing windows, walls and floors” for a project of the Antelope Valley Union High School District in Los Angeles County. Harbor Construction hired Baron Cleaning Services for a cost of $8,721.00 to perform clean-up work, and Baron Cleaning Services paid the workers for a total of 619 hours as if they were doing private janitorial work. The labor compliance program at Antelope Valley Union High School District concluded that this was construction work to be paid at the applicable state prevailing wage rate, and the DIR agreed.

So how are contractors able to pay $12 to janitors who perform final cleanup work on public works projects in Northern California?  I’m not sure.

In California, “prevailing wages” for construction trades are almost always based on the employer payments in the applicable collective bargaining agreement for a geographical region: see Section 1773 of the California Labor Code and Title 8, Subchapter 3 of the California Code of Regulations.

In Northern California, the state-mandated wage rate for Laborers Group 4 trade classification applies to “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.” But the straight time hourly wage for that classification is $39.02 ($20.58 basic wage + fringe benefits and “other”) in the San Francisco Bay Area and $38.02 ($19.58 + fringe benefits and “other”) in other counties of Northern California. These wages are based on the collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the Northern California District Council of Laborers and Associated General Contractors (AGC) of California.

For Southern California, the Department of Industrial Relations sets the “prevailing wage” for the Group 1 classification of “Laborer, General Cleanup” at $45.93 ($28.09 + fringe benefits and “other”) This matches the claim made in the San Bernardino Sun article. This amount is based on 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:

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.

I can’t imagine that the Laborers Union would permit employers to pay $12 per hour when its collective bargaining agreements includes the same work at far higher wages. I wasn’t able to find an exception to this rule in the collective bargaining agreements.

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 state-mandated wage rates for this kind of work. These wages are about $12 per hour, but this is not construction work.

Alternative Strategies for Accurate Prevailing Wages on Construction Cleanup

Assemblyman Hagman is bringing public attention to the need for reform of California’s prevailing wage laws, as Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) did in 2012 with her bills to reform the definition of public works (Assembly Bill 987) and the method of calculating state-mandated construction wage rates (Assembly Bill 988). Based on the comments posted under the San Bernardino Sun article, some readers were disgusted about how they pay taxes so people can vacuum floors at $45 per hour (including fringe benefits and “other”).

But there’s no way lobbyists for the Laborers Union and the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California are going to let this bill pass out of committee. (They wouldn’t even pass Assemblywoman Shannon Grove’s Assembly Bill 1958, which increased the project cost threshold from $1000 to $2000 to match the federal Davis-Bacon threshold.) It will be defeated in the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee on a party-line vote: Democrats opposed, Republicans in support.

Interested parties that want to establish a reasonable wage rate for “vacuuming, dusting, cleaning and polishing windows, walls and floors” may want to use the authority of California Labor Code Section 1773.4 (see California Code of Regulations Title 8, Section 16302) and petition the Department of Industrial Relations for a prevailing wage determination on such work. The DIR could conduct a survey and/or refer to the wage rates set for janitors working for public utilities.

Another idea is for public agencies to narrowly define construction cleanup in their contracts with construction companies, so that the absurd $45 per hour straight time hourly wage applies to legitimate construction cleanup and not to vacuuming up dirt tracked in weeks later.

For more information on California’s state-mandated construction wage rate (“prevailing wage”) law, see Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions? Also, see Assembly Bill 987 and Assembly Bill 988 – two comprehensive prevailing wage reform bills for California from 2012.

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