Tag Archive for Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?

4th Edition Published: Guide to Prevailing Wage Policies in California’s 121 Charter Cities

The fourth edition of Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions? has been released by the California Construction Compliance Group. If you want to free your city from costly state mandates imposed by special interests at the state capitol, you need to consider asking your fellow citizens to enact a charter or asking your city council to exercise its local authority under a charter.

The 121 California cities that operate under a charter (a local constitution granting “home rule” authorized by the California constitution) have the right to establish their own policies concerning government-mandated wage rates (“prevailing wages”). Cities can apply these policies to public construction contracts receiving funding solely from the city or private construction contracts receiving funding solely from the city.

The new edition is 115 pages. Here’s the Table of Contents:

  • Background on Charter Cities, Public Works Construction, and California’s State-Mandated Construction Wage Rates
  • Examining the Right of Charter Cities to Establish Their Own Policies Concerning Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rates
  • Under What Authority Does a Charter City Exempt Its Local Construction from State-Mandated Construction Wage Rates?
  • The Prevailing Wage Exemption Is Legal: the California Supreme Court Ended Five Years of Legal Uncertainty and Upheld the Constitutional Right of Charter Cities to Establish Their Own Prevailing Wage Policies
  • There Are Many Good Reasons for a Charter City to Avoid State Laws Concerning Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rates
  • The Term “Prevailing Wage” Is a Misnomer That Deceives California Citizens
  • State-Mandated Construction Wage Rates Now Include Fees for Union Programs
  • “Public Works” Now Encompasses Much More than Government Projects
  • Laws Imposing Costly State-Mandated Construction Wage Rates Also Impose Duties on Local Governments Such as Notifications, Monitoring, Recordkeeping, Legal Interpretation, Compliance, and Enforcement
  • The State Maintains a Sunset Provision That May Require Volunteers to be Paid State-Mandated Construction Wage Rates in the Future
  • Charter Cities Can and Do Adopt Many Kinds of Policies for Government-Mandated Wage Rates on Purely Municipal Construction
  • Studies and Anecdotes Show High Costs of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rates
  • How Is the State Retaliating Against Charter Cities That Set Their Own Policies Concerning Prevailing Wage Mandates? Senate Bill 7
  • The Specific Status Of Policies Concerning Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rates In California’s 121 Charter Cities
  • Summary of Findings
  • City-Specific Data (for the 121 charter cities)
  • Political Analysis And Considerations 76 Ten Categories of Cities Recently Involved with Decisions Involving Charters and Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rates
  • Recent Political Dynamics of Charter Consideration at the City Level
  • Who Opposes Charters, and What Are Their Messages and Tactics?
  • Strategies for Exempting Your Charter City from State-Mandated Construction Wage Rates
  • Waiting for the California State Legislature to Reform State-Mandated Construction Wage Laws Is a Futile Exercise – It Is Not Going to Happen
  • Understanding the Debate Over State-Mandated Construction Wage Rates: Governor Pete Wilson’s Mid-1990s Reform Proposals
  • Understanding the Debate Over State Prevailing Wage Rates: A Legislative Analysis of Senate Bill 7 (2013)
  • California Charter Cities and State Prevailing Wage Mandates in 2013 – A Compilation of More than 150 News and Opinion Articles
  • For More Information

Read the fourth edition of Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?

California Charter Cities and State Prevailing Wage Mandates in 2013 – A Compilation of More than 150 News Articles

Attorneys for charter cities and California citizens: you are welcome and encouraged to use this compilation as a resource and exhibit when you sue the State of California to overturn Senate Bill 7.


Capitol Weekly described Senate Bill 7, signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on October 13, 2013, as “arguably the most important bill to emerge this year from the Legislature.” The new law prohibits the State of California from disbursing funds for construction to any of the 121 cities with charters that exercise their “home-rule” right under Article XI of the California Constitution to establish their own government-mandated wage policies for purely municipal construction contracts and for private projects receiving government financial assistance only from the city.

To preserve their ability to get state funding, cities with charters must stop deviating in their construction contracts from state prevailing wage laws defined in the California Labor Code. Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters described SB 7 as “a significant departure from Brown’s oft-voiced support of ‘subsidiarity,‘ the principle that locally elected officials should have maximum discretion to make decisions for their constituents.” The League of California Cities had asked Governor Brown to veto the bill, noting that “using political leverage to punish those exercising rights provided by the Constitution is unjust.”

SB 7 was a significant attack on constitutional rights, local control, and fiscal responsibility. The new acting mayor of the City of El Cajon, whose citizens approved a charter in June 2012, called the bill “a classic overreach of the state government, to the cost of the rights of sovereign cities.”

Surely SB 7 confirmed the assertion of former Murrieta City Councilmember Doug McAllister, in his February 2013 argument for city charters as the best way to improve the lives of citizens, that “the Left believes the power to reach that goal radiates from top to bottom, while the Right reverses that flow.” Construction union leaders and lobbyists at the state and local levels of California government have been intent on derailing the movement for cities to use charters in order to free themselves from the costly mandates imposed by the state legislature and the governor.

The charter city movement is based on the eroding constitutional principle of federalism – a check and balance against the excesses of centralized government. In October 2012, a professor of public administration at Chapman University (in Orange County) described the City of Costa Mesa as the ideological “ground zero for virtually everything taking place in the country” and its proposed (and ultimately defeated) charter as “a political manifesto of how government should be organized in the 21st century.” Some of the recent intellectual backing for California’s charter city movement has come from the limited-government perspective of www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com and the report (soon to be published in its 4th edition) entitled Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?

Below are more than 150 news articles and opinion pieces from 2013 revealing the nature of the battle over local control and state-mandated prevailing wage. The year starts with a city adopting its own prevailing wage policy, city councils in several general law cities deliberating over charter language to propose to voters in 2014, and three powerful anecdotes showing the practical implications of state prevailing wage mandates: a planned private hotel stopped after the state determined it was a “public work” subject to prevailing wage, a bill introduced to end outrageously high state-mandated wage rates for janitorial work, and a state enforcement action revealing that prevailing wage increased the cost of a private hotel by more than $8 million.

Then the unions strike back, with the 5-4 votes of the San Diego City Council during the summer to enact a high-profile ordinance backed by disgraced Mayor Bob Filner to impose costly state-mandated prevailing wage on city projects. The ordinance ended 25 years of city control over its prevailing wage policies for city contracts. At the same time, union-backed Senate Bill 7 advanced through the California State Legislature despite significant opposition. Governor Brown signed SB 7 on October 13, even as the charter commission for the City of Costa Mesa was developing another charter and the Mountain View City Council imposed state prevailing wage mandates on private affordable housing developments receiving city financial assistance. Union lobbyists are now moving aggressively to suppress the uprising.

News and Opinion Articles on California Charter Cities, State-Mandated Prevailing Wage, and Senate Bill 7 in 2013

1

Assemblyman Curt Hagman to Introduce Bill on Prevailing Wages for Final Cleanup WorkersSan Bernardino Sun – January 2, 2013

2

California Bill Would Create a New Construction Trade Classification for Final Cleanup and Janitorial Work – by Kevin Dayton – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – January 5, 2013

3

Prevailing Wage Scams Steal from Taxpayers – www.CalWatchdog.com – January 11, 2013

4

Newport Beach to Discuss Dock Fees (and exemption of city contracts from prevailing wage requirements) – Newport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot – January 19, 2013

5

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

6

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

7

City Eschews Prevailing Wages – Newport Beach/Corona Del Mar Patch – January 24, 2013.

8

Newport Beach Is Latest California Charter City to Establish Its Own Prevailing Wage Policy: 7-0 Unanimous Vote for Fiscal Responsibility and Common Sense – by Kevin Dayton – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – January 24, 2013

9

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

10

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

11

Unions Win Prevailing-Wage Case vs. Turtle BayRedding Record-Searchlight – January 29, 2013

12

Fate of Hotel at Turtle Bay in Limbo – Ruling: Park Must Pay Workers Prevailing Wage to build Sheraton HotelRedding Record-Searchlight – January 30, 2013

13

One More Costly Delay on Road to Turtle Bay Hotel – editorial – Redding Record-Searchlight – January 30, 2013

14

Redding Needs a Charter to End Nonsense Definition of Private Hotel as a “Public Works” Project – by Kevin Dayton – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – January 31, 2013

15

Got It Backward – letter to the editor by Michael Stanton – San Luis Obispo Tribune – January 31, 2013

16

Redding Needs a City Charter – letter to the editor by Kevin Dayton – Redding Record-Searchlight – February 4, 2013

17

Turtle Bay Nearing Compromise with Unions Over Hotel ConstructionRedding Record-Searchlight – February 7, 2013

18

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

19

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

20

Prevailing Wage Supports Skilled Workers and Their Families – op-ed by Tom Curato – Redding Record-Searchlight – February 10, 2013

21

UA Local 228 Rep. Defends the Prevailing Wage for Redding, Californiawww.WePartyPatriots.com – February 13, 2013

22

Unions Rise to Defense of “Prevailing Wage” Rates Jeopardizing Hotel Project in Redding – by Kevin Dayton – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – February 15, 2013

23

Reasons to Consider Becoming a Charter City – op-ed by former Murrieta City Council member Doug McAllister – UT San Diego – February 19, 2013

24

State May Close Prevailing Wage Gap for Charter CitiesCentral Valley Business Journal – February 19, 2013

25

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

26

Bill Introduced in State Senate to Suppress Authority of California’s Charter Cities to Establish Their Own Policies on Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rates – by Kevin Dayton – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – February 20, 2013

27

Republican Lawmaker Touts Bill Pushed by Labor Bullieswww.CalWatchdog.com – February 21, 2013

28

County Offers $200,000 Tax Rebate to Attract $12 Million Business ExpansionBakersfield Californian – February 24, 2013 (States that “Kern County has not extended an economic incentive package to a prospective employer in about 10 years. Sometimes what stands in the way of making such offers, she said, is California’s requirement that building projects supported by public money pay construction workers prevailing wages.”)

29

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

30

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

31

Turtle Bay Says It Can’t Afford Prevailing Wage Rate to Build HotelRedding Record-Searchlight – February 27, 2013

32

California’s Pro-Prevailing Wage Bill, SB7, Enjoying Broad Supportwww.WePartyPatriots.com – February 28, 2013

33

With Senate Bill 7, California Unions Advance Plot to Neuter City Charters – by Kevin Dayton – www.UnionWatch.org – February 28, 2013

34

Explain Why Moreno Valley Needs a Charter – editorial – Riverside Press-Enterprise – March 2, 2013

35

Turtle Bay Will Ask Judge for Relief on Hotel Prevailing-Wage RulingRedding Record-Searchlight – March 5, 2013

36

Turtle Bay to Challenge Prevailing Wage Findings – KNVN-24/KHSL-12 News – March 5, 2013

37

Unions Determined to Battle Turtle Bay’s Prevailing-Wage Court ChallengeRedding Record-Searchlight – March 6, 2013

38

Unions Fight Against Slave Labor – op-ed by Greg Beale – Redding Record-Searchlight – March 9, 2013

39

Buellton at ‘Crossroads’ for Decisions, Mayor SaysSanta Ynez Valley News – March 12, 2013

40

Senate Industrial Relations Committee Passes Controversial SB 7 – League of California Cities bulletin – March 13, 2013

41

Prevailing Wage’ Battle Shaping UpStockton Record – March 18, 2013

42

State Seeks to Hamper City Wage Policies – op-ed by Oceanside City Councilman Jerry Kern – UT San Diego – March 21, 2013

43

Oceanside Pol to Steinberg: Fix Your Own Mess and Leave Us Alonewww.CalWatchdog.com – March 22, 2013

44

Modesto Opposes Bill to Require ‘Prevailing Wage’ on ProjectsModesto Bee – March 24, 2013

45

City of Stockton should listen to their Development Oversight Committee’s Recommendation – ABC NorCal Blog (Northern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors) – March 28, 2013 (Recommendation was that “the City Council give direction to City staff and the Commission, as to whether or not they should continue working on the Prevailing Wage Exemption, so that the City Can Declare Itself Exempt from Prevailing Wage Laws on Local Projects.”)

46

Grover Beach to Again Look at Becoming a Charter CitySan Luis Obispo Tribune – March 29, 2013

47

Tulare County Board of Supervisors Opposes Wage BillVisalia Times-Delta – April 3, 2013

48

Senate Bill is Nothing More than a Power Grab – editorial – Porterville Recorder – April 5, 2013

49

Grass Valley: Prevailing Wage Bill is State ‘Overreach’The Union (Grass Valley) – April 16, 2013

50

Officials: Prevailing Wage Bill is an Overreach by CaliforniaTahoe Daily Tribune – April 23, 2013

51

Pair of Assembly Bills to Protect the Prevailing Wage Move Through California Committeewww.WePartyPatriots.com – April 26, 2013

52

SB 7 Will End Loophole to Avoid Paying Prevailing Wage – From the President, State Building and Construction Trades Council of California – May 2013

53

Labor, Charter Cities Clash Over Prevailing WageCapitol Weekly via www.CaliforniaCityNews.org – May 7, 2013

54

Mountain View Council Shifting Stance on Prevailing WageSan Jose Mercury-News – May 8, 2013

55

City to Review Mayor’s Proposal to Expand Prevailing Wage Requirements on Public Works Projects – KGTV-10 – May 15, 2013

56

Council Moves to Require Prevailing Wage on ContractsSan Diego Daily Transcript – May 16, 2013

57

City Council Should Reject ‘Prevailing’ Wage Proposal – op-ed by George Hawkins – San Diego Daily Transcript – May 28, 2013

58

Truckee, Grass Valley Watching California Prevailing Wage BillTahoe Daily Tribune – June 4, 2013

59

Prevailing Wages Will Lift San Diego Economy – op-ed by Tom Lemmon – San Diego Daily Transcript – June 5, 2013

60

Don’t Impose ‘Prevailing” Wage on More Cities – editorial – Riverside Press-Enterprise – June 13, 2013

61

Labor Commissioner Collects Over $8 Million in Wages for Public Works Job at Hilton Hotel in San Diego – California Department of Industrial Relations press release – June 17, 2013

62

SB 7 Represents Arrogance of Sacramento’s Local Policy Breakerswww.PublicCEO.com – June 18, 2013

63

SB 7 Subverts Charter Cities’ Autonomywww.CalWatchdog.com – June 19, 2013

64

Committee OKs Prevailing Wage Ordinance – KGTV-10 News – June 19, 2013

65

Hilton Bayfront Construction Workers Collect $8M in Wages – San Diego Daily Transcript – June 20, 2013

66

California Cities Ramp Up Fight Against Union Wage Bill – Sacramento Bee – June 21, 2013

67

Bill Would Push Prevailing WagesUT San Diego – June 21, 2013

68

Mayor Says SB 7 Could Strip Public Works Funding for GilroyGilroy Dispatch – June 25, 2013

69

Senate Bill 7 Limits Charter Cities’ Control – editorial – Modesto Bee – June 24, 2013

70

Charter Panel Digs into Public-Works ContractingNewport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot – June 24, 2013

71

Steinberg’s Bill Would Infringe on Local Control – editorial – Sacramento Bee – June 25, 2013

72

The Assault on Charter Cities and Taxpayers – editorial – UT San Diego – June 25, 2013

73

San Diego Takes Next Step Toward Lowering the Threshold for Prevailing Wages to $25,000www.WePartyPatriots.com – June 25, 2013 (includes claim that “The prevailing wage issue is gaining momentum across the state of California.”)

74

Charter Cities: Senate Bill 7 Threatens Voting Rights – op-ed by Chris McKenzie, executive director of the League of California Cities – San Jose Mercury-News – June 26, 2013

75

Steinberg’s SB 7 Would Tie Charter Cities’ Hands – editorial – Fresno Bee – June 26, 2013

76

Prevailing Wage Bill for Public Works AdvancesUT San Diego – June 27, 2013

77

Union Wages Shouldn’t Be Forced on Cities – editorial – Orange County Register – June 27, 2013

78

Dems Push for Prevailing Wages – KMJ 580 AM News (Fresno) – June 27, 2013

79

SB 7 Limits Charter City Wage Control – editorial – Merced Sun-Star – June 30, 2013

80

Prevailing Wage: Moving Forward in California, Backward in Other States – From the President, State Building and Construction Trades Council of California – July 2013

81

Prevailing Wages Hurt City – column by Joseph Perkins – UT San Diego – July 6, 2013

82

Prevailing Wage Bill for Charter Cities Inches Closer to GovernorThe Union (Grass Valley) – July 18, 2013

83

City Officials Say Prevailing Wage Bill Threatens ProjectsBakersfield Californian – July 18, 2013

84

Union Operatives Infiltrate Office of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner to Push Costly and Burdensome Prevailing Wage Mandate for City Contracts – by Kevin Dayton – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – July 25, 2013

85

Prevailing Wage: Good for Local Economy, Local Workers – op-ed by Nathan Fletcher – San Diego Daily Transcript – July 26, 2013

86

Did Nathan Fletcher Lose His Mind on Prevailing Wage? – op-ed by Kevin Dayton – San Diego Daily Transcript – July 29, 2013

87

City Faces Higher Costs Under Wage PlanUT San Diego – July 29, 2013

88

Vote ‘No’ on Expanding ‘Prevailing Wage’ in San Diego – editorial – UT San Diego – July 29, 2013

89

Simple List of Official Documents Relevant to July 30 San Diego City Council Vote to Require State Prevailing Wage on City Contracts – by Kevin Dayton – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – July 29, 2013

90

After 33 Years, San Diego Submits to State Prevailing Wage Law – by Kevin Dayton in www.UnionWatch.org – July 30, 2013

91

City Council Approves Prevailing Wage Proposal – City News Service, posted on several news web sites, such as KPBS – July 30, 2013

92

U-T San Diego Ignores Growing Evidence Of Prevailing Wage Benefits – Media Matters for America – July 30, 2013

93

City Council Passes Prevailing-Wage OrdinanceSan Diego Daily Transcript – July 30, 2013

94

Council Approves Higher Wages for Projects: City already pays prevailing wages on big developmentUT San Diego – July 30, 2013

95

San Diego Passes Prevailing Wage Bill: Council votes 5-4 to expand policy to work contracts, following Filner’s leadUT San Diego – July 31, 2013

96

Smart Cities Prevail Applauds San Diego Decisionwww.SmartCitiesPrevail.org – July 31, 2013

97

Prevailing Wage Will Force Out Small Guy; Prevailing Wage is All About Payback to Unions; Big Labor Dominates City Hall – letters to the editor – UT San Diego – July 31, 2013

98

A Day to Remember, Not Fondly, at San Diego City Hall – editorial – UT San Diego – August 1, 2013

99

San Diego Political Celebrity Nathan Fletcher Now Supports Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rates – by Kevin Dayton – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – August 1, 2013

100

Statewide Poll Shows Broad Support for Prevailing Wage – Substantial Opposition to Going Charterwww.SmartCitiesPrevail.org – August 1, 2013

101

The Stories the Scandal Swallowed – Voice of San Diego – August 2, 2013 (San Diego City Council 5-4 vote to submit to state prevailing wage law for city construction contracts.)

102

Three Recent Polls Show Strong Support for Prevailing Wage Policieswww.SmartCitiesPrevail.org – August 8, 2013

103

Modesto Claims Prevailing Wage Bill Would Punish the CityModesto Bee – August 12, 2013

104

Central Valley City Officials Publicly Voice Opposition to SB 7 in Stockton – League of California Cities bulletin – August 13, 2013

105

Charter Panel Tackles Public WorksNewport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot – August 15, 2013

106

Merced Mayor, Other Officials Gather in Modesto to Protest Prevailing Wage BillMerced Sun-Star – August 16, 2013

107

Unions Tempt Republicans with “Bipartisanship” Lure: Five Tips for Resistance – by Kevin Dayton – www.FlashReport.org – August 17, 2013

108

CEOs and Business Leaders for Prevailing Wage – op-ed by Mark Breslin, executive for a unionized construction company association – Modesto Bee – August 19, 2013

109

La Mirada Eyes to Become a Charter CityWhittier Daily News – August 19, 2013

110

Prevailing Wage: Consider Variables – letter to the editor – Modesto Bee – August 21, 2013

111

CEO Comes Out Swinging in Favor of SB7, Prevailing Wages, and the Race to the Topwww.WePartyPatriots.com – August 22, 2013

112

Senators Try To Compel Charter Cities to Pay Prevailing Wages – Capitol Public Radio – August 23, 2013

113

Just What is a ‘Prevailing Wage?’ – op-ed – Pomerado News – August 24, 2013

114

This Week in the War on Workers: Fending Off the ALEC of the Construction Industry in California – Daily Kos – August 24, 2013

115

Reject Push to Blackmail Cities on Wage RulesRiverside Press Enterprise – August 25, 2013

116

Why the Prevailing-Wage Ordinance is a Bad Idea – op-ed by Fred Schnaubelt – San Diego Daily Transcript – August 26, 2013

117

Something is Bothering California Union Leaders and Lobbyists – by Kevin Dayton in www.UnionWatch.org – August 27, 2013

118

Prevailing Wage Panders to Unions, Costs Taxpayers – op-ed by Michael Saltsman of Employment Policies Institute – Orange County Register – August 30, 2013

119

Prevailing Wage Standard Empowers Middle Class – op-ed by Dale Howard of www.SmartCitiesPrevail.orgOrange County Register – August 30, 2013

120

Cities Shouldn’t Ignore Prevailing Wage Economics – op-ed by Tracy Emblem, Democratic candidate for Congress – UT San Diego – August 30, 2013

121

Costa Mesa Mayor: Charter is Sure to PassOrange County Register – September 5, 2013

122

Charter Cities Challenge: State Dollars or Prevailing Wage?UT San Diego – September 7, 2013

123

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

124

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

125

City Council Reaffirms Prevailing WageSan Diego Daily Transcript – September 10, 2013

126

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

127

‘Prevailing Wage’ Fact and Fiction – op-ed by George Hawkins – San Diego Daily Transcript – September 24, 2013

128

Costa Mesa Charter Committee Takes Up Prevailing WageOrange County Register – September 26, 2013

129

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

130

Has Labor Leader Overreached? – columnist Dan Morain – Sacramento Bee – October 9, 2013

131

Stifling Unions – editorial – Victorville Daily Press – October 9, 2013

132

Costa Mesa Charter to Remove ‘Prevailing Wage’Orange County Register – October 10, 2013

133

Mountain View: City-Funded Affordable Housing Projects to Pay Prevailing WageSan Jose Mercury-News – October 10, 2013

134

Council OKs Union Wages for Affordable Housing: Policy Will Add about 10 Percent to Cost of New ProjectsMountain View Voice – October 10, 2013

135

City of Mountain View Expands Prevailing Wage Mandate to Private Affordable Housing Developments Getting City Funds – by Kevin Dayton – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – October 10, 2013

136

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

137

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

138

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

139

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

140

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

141

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

142

Governor Brown Signs Prevailing Wage Bill – A Bubbling Cauldron (blog in Costa Mesa) – October 14, 2013

143

Governor Signs Prevailing Wage Bill for Charter CitiesSacramento Business Journal – October 14, 2013

144

Charter Cities to Lose Authority Over Public Works Projectswww.PublicCEO.com – October 14, 2013

145

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

146

New Law Requires Charter Cities to Pay Prevailing Wages – East County Magazine – October 14, 2013

147

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

148

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

149

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

150

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

151

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down: Autonomy is good – but only for state? – editorial – Santa Rosa Press-Democrat – October 15, 2013

152

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

153

Governor Signs SB 7: Charter Cities Required to Pay Prevailing Wage – Porterville Recorder – October 16, 2013

154

Governor Does Disservice to All Charter Cities – editorial – Porterville Recorder – October 20, 2013

155

Prevailing Wage Now Irrelevant – A Bubbling Cauldron (blog in Costa Mesa) – October 22, 2013

156

Oppose a Charter with ‘Prevailing Wage’ Exemption – letters to the editor – Newport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot – October 22, 2013

157

Groups Accuse Grover Beach of Violating State Open Meeting LawSan Luis Obispo Tribune – October 22, 2013 (One group is www.SmartCitiesPrevail.org)

158

Facts Wrong – letter to the editor by Robbie Hunter, president of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California – Porterville Recorder – October 24, 2013

159

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

160

Unions “Using Political Leverage to Punish Those Exercising Rights” in California Constitution – by Kevin Dayton in www.UnionWatch.org – October 29, 2013

161

Brown Inconsistent on Local-Control Issues: Is ‘subsidiarity’ little more than a platitude?UT San Diego – October 30, 2013

 

Simple List of Official Documents Relevant to July 30 San Diego City Council Vote to Require State Prevailing Wage on City Contracts

Tomorrow afternoon (July 30, 2013), the San Diego City Council is scheduled to vote on a proposal from Mayor Bob Filner to abandon its own policy concerning government-mandated wage rates on city construction contracts and adopt union-backed state laws.

Here’s a collection of relevant documents.

Provided to the San Diego City Council from the Office of Mayor Bob Filner

May 8, 2013 memo from San Diego Mayor Bob Filner calling on the city council to impose state prevailing wage on city contracts

July 16, 2013 Report to the City Council from the Office of Mayor Bob Filner, coauthored by Jennifer Badgley, Office of the Mayor, Director of Special Projects and Labor Affairs, formerly Organizer/Political Director for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union No. 569 in San Diego

July 22, 2013 request from San Diego Mayor Bob Filner to put the proposed prevailing wage ordinance on the city council meeting agenda for final approval

The ordinance proposed by Mayor Bob Filner imposing on the City of San Diego a requirement for contractors to pay state prevailing wage rates on city construction contracts

Provided by the City of San Diego Office of the Independent Budget Analyst

June 18, 2013 report from the Office of the City of San Diego Independent Budget Analyst “Review of Proposal to Require Compliance with the State’s Prevailing Wage Laws on all City Public Works Projects”

…the CIP Budget includes 190 construction contracts totaling $331 million anticipated to be awarded in FY 2014. About 21% or 16 of these contracts, totaling about $70 million, require payment of prevailing wages since they are funded with State or federal monies. If prevailing wages are required to be paid on the remaining $261 million construction contracts, a 5% or 10% increase would increase total costs by $13 million or $26 million respectively. Given tight financial constraints and competing budget priorities, this would likely reduce the number of capital projects that the city can implement.

July 26, 2013 report from the Office of the City of San Diego Independent Budget Analyst: “Key Issues Related to Requiring Payment of Prevailing Wages on all City Public Works Projects”

…our best judgment is that prevailing wages will increase total project costs for the City. The potential for increased total project costs is particularly important in light of the high priority the Council has assigned to addressing the City’s infrastructure challenges, including a backlog in deferred capital for buildings/facilities, streets, and storm drains currently estimated at $898 million.

Provided by the City Attorney for the City of San Diego

June 17, 2013 memo from City Attorney of San Diego noting that “The California Supreme Court also recently reaffirmed that charter cities like San Diego do not have to pay prevailing wages” and explaining various legal questions about Mayor Bob Filner’s proposed ordinance

Provided by Other Agencies of the City of San Diego

Chart #1 FY 2013 City of San Diego construction projects with and without state prevailing wage mandate

Chart #2 of recent City of San Diego construction projects with and without state prevailing wage mandate

June 20, 2013 Construction Industry Quarterly Meeting of City of San Diego Public Works Department where prevailing wage proposal was reportedly discussed. It included a presentation by Murtaza Baxamusa, City of San Diego, Office of the Mayor, Special Advisor for Public Policy, formerly with the San Diego County Building Trades Family Housing Corporation and the union-oriented Center on Policy Initiatives

Documents That Should Have Been Officially Provided to the San Diego City Council

Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions? – 92-page guidebook to status of prevailing wage policies in California’s 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

Bill Introduced in State Senate to Suppress Authority of California’s Charter Cities to Establish Their Own Policies on Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rates

California State Senate Majority Leader Darrell Steinberg issued a press release on February 19, 2013 announcing the introduction of Senate Bill 7, which would impose a financial disincentive on any of California’s 121 charter cities that establish their own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”). See Bi-Partisan Bill by State Senators to Require Prevailing Wage Jobs in California Charter Cities.

At least 53 of the 121 charter cities in California establish their own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates, with 43 of them providing for a complete exemption. (See page 18 of this guidebook and add two for Newport Beach and Bakersfield.)

Most recently, the charter city of Newport Beach established its own policy concerning government-mandated construction wage rates in January 2013, and the charter city of Bakersfield established its own policy concerning government-mandated construction wage rates in October 2012.

(For more details, see Newport Beach Is Latest California Charter City to Establish Its Own Prevailing Wage Policy: 7-0 Unanimous Vote for Fiscal Responsibility and Common Sense and Bakersfield Becomes Latest of California’s 121 Charter Cities to Free Itself from Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rates – So-Called “Prevailing Wage”)

In July 2012, the California Supreme Court (in State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, AFL-CIO v. City of Vista) upheld a longstanding practice among charter cities to use their local authority to implement their own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”). These policies can apply to public works projects receiving public funding only from the city or private projects receiving public assistance with monetary value that only comes from the city.

State-mandated construction wage rates can be 5%-30% higher than actual market wages in a locality, depending on the geographic region and the trade. Under current state law, the state does not conduct surveys of contractors or workers to determine “prevailing wages.” Instead, the California Division of Labor Statistics and Research collects union collective bargaining agreements, adds up all of the employer payments in the agreements (including payments to trust funds that are not employee wages or fringe benefits), and declares the total to be the prevailing wage.

The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California (an umbrella lobbying group for construction unions) detests charter cities that establish their own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates. Unions want all local governments to submit to state law, which imposes these political demands of unions (1) broadly define public works to encompass many private projects; and (2) calculate so-called prevailing wage rates using union collective bargaining agreements.

Construction unions have also aggressively opposed proposed charters and have recently stopped movements for charters in Elk Grove, Redding, Rancho Palos Verdes, Auburn, Costa Mesa, Escondido, and Grover Beach.

For a comprehensive, authoritative guide to the status of policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates in California’s 121 charter cities, see Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?

Also, see general information about Charter Cities from the League of California Cities.

A Former Mayor of a Southern California City Provides an Intellectual Argument for City Charters and Local Government Authority

In today’s San Diego Union-Tribune (February 19, 2013), former Murrieta Mayor Doug McAllister calls for California cities to enact charters for local home rule and protection from intrusive centralized state government. See Reasons to Consider Becoming a Charter City.

I like McAllister’s philosophical approach based on federalism. He writes the following:

One of the main debates defining the distinction between the ideological left and right is the positioning of power in governing…the left believes the power to reach that goal radiates from top to bottom, while the right reverses that flow.

Then he explains the practical policy consequences of centralized, top-down governance:

…the ability of local government to protect the best interests of its residents has been consistently undermined…Today, the ability of local cities to enhance their quality of life is at significant risk.

McAllister reports correctly that numerous general law cities in California are planning to ask their citizens to enact a charter in the 2014 elections:

Many cities in our region are serious about finding ways to protect us all from a centralized government gone wild. One avenue their leaders are seriously pondering is the possibility of becoming a charter city. Most municipalities are born as general law cities. It appears that by reorganizing as a charter city, a practice not uncommon as cities mature, not only could there be certain protections against Sacramento’s agenda, but city leaders will perhaps have significantly more tools in their economic development tool belt with which to enhance our quality of life.

McAllister also warns against a defensive, campaign-oriented strategy of trying to include too many provisions in a proposed charter to try to neutralize specific attacks (from the Left, of course) against the concept:

It is said that a camel is a horse put together by a committee. If any city wants to become a charter city, they need to avoid the temptation to build a committee-created camel, cramming protections against every contingency, real or perceived, into the charter, inviting the crisis of unintended consequences. Less (camel) is more (horse). The focus of this effort should be to see how short they can make the document, not how long.

I agree with this approach. The Left (that is, unions and every other organization that wants to centralize and concentrate political power at the state capitol) will attack a charter proposal no matter what it contains. For example, they will always cite a mismanaged charter city (such as Bell) as an example of home rule failure while ignoring solid, responsible local governance in most of California’s other 121 charter cities. (They want all cities to submit to the governance of the mismanaged state government, which they control!)

For example, see how a Twitter account portraying itself as “MOTR Politics” (Middle of the Road Politics) suggests that the bankrupt City of San Bernardino needs to repeal its charter and operate instead under the wise, steady hand of the California State Legislature:

The only way to remove personalities & politics is for SB City to follow the same laws as most other cities. http://www.sbsun.com/opinions/ci_22605107/city-charter-is-ripe-reform …

It’s possible the City of San Bernardino could actually use its charter authority to help extract itself from its financial difficulties, if its elected city council had the political will and skill to challenge public employee unions. The Manhattan Institute’s City Journal reported in an August 17, 2012 article The Problem and Promise of Charter Cities that charter authority for cities such as San Bernardino can be beneficial or harmful, depending on who is in control:

Just as charters can make cities worse, they may be able to make them better—it all depends on who’s in charge. [Mayor Patrick] Morris and some other city leaders have tried to put charter reform on the local ballot, hoping to abolish the sections that inflate city workers’ pay and empower the city attorney to battle the mayor.

Such change apparently does not appeal to MOTR Politics, which seems to favor the public employee unions that apparently absorb more than 75% of the city’s general fund, as shown by these Tweets:

SB City Police & Fire unions claim SB City has abused bankruptcy & will ask bankruptcy court for permission to sue. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/13/usa-sanbernardino-unions-hearing-idUSL1N0BCIMR20130213 …

Another group – it’s police officers – will oppose SB City’s eligibility for bankruptcy protections. http://www.sbsun.com/news/ci_22576996/police-seeking-lawsuit-against-san-bernardino …

SB City returns to U.S. Bankruptcy Court today at 1:30 PM where it will battle CalPERS. Is the city serious? http://www.sbsun.com/news/ci_22569576/san-bernardino-filing-defends-its-level-finance-department …

Instead of responding to the arguments from advocates of oppressive and intrusive government, charter supporters need to base their arguments on the benefits of local control and the need for appropriate checks and balances against a state legislature under one-party supermajority control.

For more information on why your city should enact a charter and free itself from the grip of the state legislature and the special interest groups entrenched at the capitol, see these resources:

Charter Cities – League of California Cities

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

Redding Needs a Charter to End Nonsense Definition of Private Hotel as a “Public Works” Project

UPDATE: My letter to the editor Kevin Dayton: Redding Needs a City Charter is in the February 4, 2013 Redding Record-Searchlight. Comments in response misrepresent “prevailing wage” as “living wage” just like at the Newport Beach City Council meeting on January 22, 2013. It’s possible that a political consultant has suggested using this strategy to take advantage of public ignorance about the calculation of “prevailing wages” and the resulting rates.


The City of Redding has been hit with a union-instigated obstacle to economic growth and job creation imposed by Senate Bill 975, enacted into law in 2001. This law (described below in greater detail) expanded the state’s definition of “public works” to include many private construction projects, thereby requiring companies working on these projects to pay state-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”) instead of wages that reflect local market conditions.

On January 27, 2013, the California Department of Industrial Relations reversed an earlier decision from December 27, 2011 and determined that a proposed Sheraton hotel to be built in Redding by the Turtle Bay Exploration Park is a “public works” project after all.

Turtle Bay Exploration Center in Redding Loses to Unions

Turtle Bay Exploration Center in Redding Loses to Unions

This new decision was sought by three unions: the Plumbers & Pipefitters Union Local No. 228, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local No. 340, and the Sheet Metal Workers Union Local No. 162 (now absorbed into Sheet Metal Workers Union Local No. 104). As a result of a 22-page appeal of the original decision by the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo, the state has now decided that the privately-owned hotel would a public works project, equivalent to a courthouse, because the City of Redding waived rental payments on the land where the hotel will be built.

Now the proposed hotel project may be in jeopardy because the anticipated increased cost of construction may compromise the financial success of the hotel. A January 30, 2013 article in the Redding Record-Searchlight newspaper (Fate of Hotel at Turtle Bay in Limbo – Ruling: Park Must Pay Workers Prevailing Wage to build Sheraton Hotel) outlined the current status of the planned 130-room hotel:

…a park spokesman said he could not say when construction will start or whether the project is in jeopardy. Groundbreaking for the hotel had been scheduled this month.

“At this point we still hope to build the hotel, and operate a hotel there,” Turtle Bay’s Toby Osborn said Wednesday. “There is just a lot of uncertainty due to the ruling.”

…“Everybody woke up this morning and it was a different ballgame,” Osborn said. “Now we need to sit down and identify all the knowns and try to identify all the unknowns.”

But don’t worry, magnanimous union officials say they will help:

Andrew Meredith of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local 340 – one of the unions that appealed the ruling – said they were always confident the state would overturn its prevailing wage decision.

“That said, we are still committed to working with Turtle Bay to find a way to get this project off the ground,” Meredith said. “We know this is something that is important to the community.”

Turtle Bay met with the unions Wednesday to discuss how to move forward, including how the ruling will affect costs of building the hotel and restaurant.

What Is Senate Bill 975 and Why Is It an Obstacle to Private Construction Projects?

In 2001, Governor Gray Davis signed into law Senate Bill 975, a bill sponsored by the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California that expanded the definition of “public works” under California Labor Code Section 1720 to include many private projects. Existing law had defined “public works” as various types of construction “done under contract and paid for in whole or in part out of public funds.” Senate Bill 975 added a list of various kinds of non-monetary government assistance that qualified as public funds:

“paid for in whole or in part out of public funds” means the payment of money or the equivalent of money by a state or political subdivision directly to or on behalf of the public works contractor, subcontractor, or developer, performance of construction work by the state or political subdivision in execution of the project, transfer of an asset of value for less than fair market price; fees, costs, rents, insurance or bond premiums, loans, interest rates, or other obligations that would normally be required in the execution of the contract, which are paid, reduced, charged at less than fair market value, waived or forgiven; money to be repaid on a contingent basis; or credits applied against repayment obligations.

As business groups and Republican legislators predicted, the increased costs of construction labor resulting from prevailing wage requirements triggered by Senate Bill 975 scuttled numerous private commercial projects and private affordable housing projects, especially in the Central Valley, North State region (Redding and Chico), and other rural areas.

In these parts of the state, away from the coastal metropolitan cities, the disparity between state-mandated construction wage rates (so-called prevailing wages but actually based on union collective bargaining agreements) and actual median wages in the local market region is quite significant – as much as 30% or more, depending on the trade. See An Analysis of Market and Prevailing Wage Rates for the Construction Trades in California (2004) and The Effects of Prevailing Wage Requirements on the Cost of Low-Income Housing (2005).

Unions Derailed an Easy Local Solution to This Problem in 2011

Sundial Bridge in Redding, California

Sundial Bridge in Redding, California

There has been an ongoing grassroots effort in Redding to ask voters to enact a charter in order to circumvent costly and intrusive state meddling in local affairs. A charter would free the City of Redding from the mandates of the union-controlled California State Legislature, including state-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”). See Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?

In 2011, various local groups and individuals wanted voters to consider approving a robust charter, but union officials ultimately derailed the movement through a Charter City Exploratory Committee appointed by the city council.

The citizens of Redding need to enact a charter so their city has the same authority as the 121 California charter cities to establish its own prevailing wage policies. Why are the people of Redding acquiescing to the demands of unions and allowing the state legislature and a state agency to determine the fate of this hotel?

News Coverage of the Turtle Bay Hotel Prevailing Wage Saga:

Redding City Council Abandons Charter, Saves Prevailing Wage – State Building and Construction Trades Council web site – June 8, 2011

Cost of Turtle Bay Hotel Rests with Department of Industrial Relations; Prevailing Wage in Dispute – Redding Record-Searchlight – August 18, 2011

Turtle Bay Wins Ruling on Wages; Hotel Plan Not Subject to Prevailing Pay – Redding Record-Searchlight – December 28, 2011

Hotel construction cost estimates range from $13 million to $14.8 million. Total project costs are pegged at $21.2 million. Prevailing wage would have added roughly $1.25 million to that price tag, Osborn has said.

Hotel at Turtle Bay May Break Ground in JanuaryRedding Record-Searchlight – December 12, 2012

Unions Win Prevailing-Wage Case vs. Turtle BayRedding Record-Searchlight – January 29, 2013

Fate of Hotel at Turtle Bay in Limbo – Ruling: Park Must Pay Workers Prevailing Wage to build Sheraton Hotel – Redding Record-Searchlight – January 30, 2013

One More Costly Delay on Road to Turtle Bay Hotel – Redding Record-Searchlight (editorial) – January 30, 2013

Turtle Bay Nearing Compromise with Unions Over Hotel Construction – Redding Record-Searchlight – February 7, 2013

Finally, the Redding Employees Association of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is now suing the City of Redding for approving a contract with Vertex Business Solutions (Orcom Solutions), a provider of outsourced billing and customer care services to utilities, to take over billing and a call center from the city-owned Redding Electric Utility. It appears this contract would have been umambiguously legal if Redding operated as a charter city. See Union Sues Redding Over Outsourcing REU Call CenterRedding Record-Searchlight – January 18, 2013.

Newport Beach Is Latest California Charter City to Establish Its Own Prevailing Wage Policy: 7-0 Unanimous Vote for Fiscal Responsibility and Common Sense

On January 22, 2013, as shown in this meeting video, 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 the establishment of 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.

Jim Adams 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 authorizes 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.

Samantha Draper 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. Jim Adams 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 Jim Conway, a union-oriented consultant formerly involved with labor relations for the Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors National Association (SMACNA) in the San Francisco Bay Area.

News Coverage:

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

Construction Unions Demand Recount to Prevent Charter Supporter from Serving on Redding City Council

UPDATE: The recount determined that Gary Cadd won the Redding City Council seat by nine votes. Cadd’s original eleven-vote margin of victory (15,382-15,371) stands as the official record. The “Full Count for Redding 2012” organization spent $7,750 on the recount.


Construction trade unions of the Northeastern California Building and Construction Trades Council have filed paperwork with the Shasta County Clerk/Registrar of Voters office and established a Political Action Committee to prevent candidate Gary Cadd from being seated on the Redding City Council on December 4, 2012. Cadd defeated union-backed incumbent Dick Dickerson in the November 6, 2012 election by eleven votes: 15,382 to 15,371.

Although Redding voters would not know from local news media coverage why construction trade unions are spending $10,000 or more for a recount to try to overturn a city council election, this union challenge is related in part to an ongoing grassroots effort in Redding to ask voters to enact a charter. A charter would free the city from the costly mandates of the union-controlled California State Legislature, including state-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”). See Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?

In 2011, Cadd was part of a local group involved in promoting a charter, which union officials ultimately derailed through a Charter City Exploratory Committee appointed by the city council. Councilmember Dickerson had appointed a Carpenters Union representative to the committee. If Cadd is seated in place of Dickerson, there will be a 3-2 council majority in support of a meaningful charter to propose to city voters.

Union officials know they can’t allow this to happen. Considering that Democrats now have a veto-proof, unchecked two-thirds control of both houses of the legislature, the relatively conservative voters of Redding (a inland city of 90,000 near the Oregon border) will surely be eager to shake off the yoke of the Los Angeles union machine running the state capitol by the time they get the opportunity in the June 2014 election.

The union Political Action Committee funding the recount is called “Full Count for Redding 2012.” The chairman is Andrew Meredith with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union No. 340, and the treasurer is Bob Vanderpol with Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3, District 70. Meredith used to be a city council member in Galt and tried unsuccessfully in 2009 to pass a “local hire” ordinance there giving a competitive advantage to unionized construction companies. He resigned his office in 2010.

The recount will begin on Tuesday, November 27. The Cadd campaign is seeking contributions to pay the expenses of people overseeing the recount so that union lawyers are unable to manipulate it. If you’re interested in helping the Cadd campaign to ensure the recount is free of union mischief, please see the campaign web site: www.garycadd.com.

News Media Coverage

Redding Council Race Headed for a RecountRedding Record-Searchlight – November 21, 2012

Redding Trade Council Demands City Council Race Recount – KHTL – November 21, 2012

Group Files for Re-Count of Redding City Council Votes – KRCR – November 21, 2012

Bakersfield Becomes Latest of California’s 121 Charter Cities to Free Itself from Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rates (So-Called “Prevailing Wage”)

As I anticipated in my July 2, 2012 article Prediction: An Explosion of California Cities Freeing Themselves from Costly State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate Laws, the past three months have seen a flood of California cities seeking voter approval for charters, as well as existing charter cities establishing their own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”) for purely municipal construction (or private projects that receive government assistance only from the city).

These recent www.CalWatchdogs.com articles summarize what’s happening in California: Push for Charter Cities Enrages Unions and Cities Vying for Local Control on November Ballot.

Through its July 2012 decision in State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, ALF-CIO v. City of Vista, the California Supreme Court affirmed the right of California’s 121 charter cities to set their own prevailing wage policies for municipal construction and thereby free themselves from the costly, complicated, and nonsensical way that the State of California calculates state-mandated construction wage rates and defines public works.

For comprehensive information, see the 92-page guidebook Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?

Bakersfield is the latest charter city to establish its own policy concerning government-mandated construction wage rates. Hoping to sustain its economic boom and resist union-backed public policies dragging down economic growth and job creation in the state and other cities, the Bakersfield City Council voted 4-2 (with one city council member recusing himself) on October 17, 2012 to set its own policy. Here is the city’s agenda item description: Resolution exempting the City from prevailing wage requirements for locally funded public works contracts except where required by law.

Here’s a July 17, 2009 video report on KBAK Channel 29 (CBS) news featuring a comment from me about the need for the City of Bakersfield to free itself from state-mandated construction wage rates set based on collective bargaining agreements for urban areas: Prevailing Wage Wastes Tax Dollars in Bakersfield.

It was reported to me that unions brought busloads of people from Los Angeles to pack the council chamber, but the city council majority was not fooled and not intimidated. Here’s news coverage, with excerpts (bold highlights are mine):

Council Shakes Off Prevailing Wage Requirement – Bakersfield Californian – October 17, 2012

City staff also informally surveyed local contractors and were told that without the prevailing wage requirement, project costs could be cut by 3.5 percent to 30 percent

But just as many people spoke in favor of the resolution as against it, saying it would result in more efficient use of taxpayer money and wouldn’t lead to unfair construction wages or lower quality in projects.

“As a city council member, I have a fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers and the community to utilize funds with care and strive to provide the best value possible,” Weir said in an email earlier Wednesday. “With the approval of tonight’s resolution, we will be able to build better parks with more amenities, increase the amount of street repaving, and provide other benefits without additional cost to the taxpayers. To not pursue this opportunity would be a breach of my responsibility.”

Councilmembers added a late amendment to the resolution as a step to better protect against unqualified contractors bidding for city work. Before the resolution passed, projects valued at $1 million or more required that contractors be “pre-qualified” for their suitability to do the type of project at hand before being allowed to submit a bid. With the resolution, that threshold was lowered to $250,000.

Contractors, Unions Object to City Prevailing Wage Proposal – Bakersfield Californian –  October 16, 2012

City Manager Alan Tandy said savings for the city means more work can be done. Taking an example of 20 percent savings, he said, “If we save 20 percent on resurfacing a street, we can resurface 20 percent more streets. We have more that need resurfacing than we have money to resurface.”

Council Members Tackle High Speed Rail, Prevailing Wages in Heated Debate – KGET Channel 17 (NBC) news – October 18, 2012

Congratulations to the Bakersfield City Council. Under pressure and threats, they refused to payoff the unionsCalifornia Political News and Views – October 19, 2012

Will This Charter City Movement Lead to Genuine (or Any?) Prevailing Wage Reform?

Perhaps union officials in Bakersfield are realizing that “prevailing wage” as calculated under state law and “public works” as defined under state law are so outrageous that cities are intent on escaping them. Bakersfield’s own Assemblywoman Shannon Grove introduced two thoughtful and reasonable prevailing wage reform bills (Assembly Bill 987 and Assembly Bill 988) to make state-mandated government wage rates only apply to legitimate government projects and be more reflective of actual local market rates, but union lobbyists opposed these bills and Democrats defeated them in committee in January 2012.

In fact, as I reported in my April 20, 2012 article State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate Requirements Remain on California Projects Worth $1001 to $2000, union lobbyists and Legislative Democrats wouldn’t even support Assemblywoman Grove’s Assembly Bill 1958, which made two very modest changes to the state’s prevailing wage laws. That bill increased the project cost threshold for coverage from $1000 to $2000 to match the $2000 threshold set by the federal prevailing wage law called the Davis-Bacon Act. It also indexed the threshold to the same measure of inflation that the Democrats want to use for indexing the state minimum wage.

There WILL be a day when unions no longer control the California State Legislature and the Governor’s office. In the meantime, charter cities are exercising their own right to determine their economic destiny, and many of them don’t want to follow the direction of the State of California to inevitable bankruptcy.

California Local Election Report: Three Cities Seek Voter Approval for Home-Rule Charters

Today’s www.CalWatchdog.com (October 16, 2012) has a second article in a series about the 121 charter cities in California and the attempts of additional cities to enact charters and free their municipal affairs from the costly mandates of the California State Legislature. (See Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?) I am quoted in this article as well as in the first article.

Cities Vying for Local Control on November Ballotwww.CalWatchdog.com – October 16, 2012

But the biggest benefit, according to Kevin Dayton, CEO of Dayton Public Policy Institute, an employment and labor specialist and charter city expert, would be not having to pay prevailing wages on local public works projects. In a recent interview, Dayton said that labor union prevailing wage rates do not accurately reflect the actual industry rates, nor do they accurately reflect the construction industry in all areas within the state…

But the rational discussion about cost effectiveness has turned into an all-out assault. According to Dayton, unions have steamrolled right over smaller cities’ efforts to adopt charters. “Union leaders get very testy when someone points out that a charter city can establish its own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates,” Dayton said…

Also, see the first article in the series: Push for Charter Cities Enrages Unionswww.CalWatchdog.com – September 30, 2012

Three cities in California have proposed charters on the November 6, 2012 ballot for voters to approve. Two are medium-sized suburban cities and one is a small beach community. All three charters would give these cities the freedom to establish their own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates on purely municipal construction or private construction that gets any form of financial assistance from the city. Here’s the current status of each effort:

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

In November 2010, Costa Mesa voters elected a 4-1 majority on its city council that wanted to reduce the city’s budget deficit by cutting back on its workforce and contracting out services. Obviously this became a microcosm of the cataclysmic battle over the future of America: smaller government and lower taxes versus bigger government and higher taxes, or, to put it bluntly, free markets and minimalist government versus socialism. As the city council majority found its authority to manage municipal affairs continually suppressed by laws passed by the union-controlled California State Legislature, it decided to present a charter for voters to consider.

The city quickly earned national news media attention for taking on the public employee unions, which aggressively fought outsourcing. Its public meetings attracted every element of the Left intent on preserving and expanding the power and size of government. I have written about the Costa Mesa situation extensively; for more details, see Costa Mesa’s Bold and Meaningful Government Cost-Efficiency Plan on Hold Until November 6, When Citizens Vote on a Proposed Charter (Measure V) and for Three City Council Members.

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

Like in Costa Mesa, a 4-1 majority of the Escondido City Council wants to wrest the city from the costly mandates of the union-controlled California State Legislature and get more local control over the city’s budget issues. Opposing this move are unions and other leftist activists (see the Prop V section of the Escondido Democratic Club web site).

Unions tried a clever tactic to derail the charter proposal. As I wrote earlier, the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California engineered a lawsuit against the city based on the California Voting Rights Act of 2001; for more details, see Escondido City Council Votes 4-1 to Approve Proposed Charter for Voters to Consider on November Ballot and California’s Voting Rights Act of 2001: A Weapon for Unions.

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

City councils for a cluster of beach towns on the Central Coast (Pismo Beach, Arroyo Grande, and Grover Beach) have toyed with the idea of passing charters, but Grover Beach was the first to jump. As seen in Costa Mesa and Escondido, unions and certain factions of the Democrat Party are opposing Measure I-12.