On June 5, 2012, Voters in City of Auburn Will Consider Proposed Charter with Local Control Over Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rates

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Voters in the City of Auburn will decide tomorrow (June 5, 2012) if they want to enact a proposed charter giving the city authority over municipal affairs.

The central point of contention in this proposal is, as usual, related to labor unions. Section 303 of the charter states the following:

No City contract shall require payment of the prevailing wage schedule unless:

(i) the prevailing wage is legally required, and constitutionally permitted, to be imposed;

(ii) required by federal or state grants pursuant to federal or state law;

(iii) the city council does not consider the project to be a municipal affair; or

(iv) payment of the prevailing wage schedule is authorized by resolution of the City Council.

Payment of the prevailing wage schedule, if authorized hereunder, shall use the pertinent rates established by the State of California.

In other words, the City of Auburn would be able to set its own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates to be paid to workers by contractors on purely municipal projects. Unions hate this kind of local control! They want the California State Legislature to set the prevailing wage laws and the California Department of Industrial Relations in San Francisco to promulgate regulations and set the rates based on union collective bargaining agreements.

Unions have also been provoked into a tizzy by the proposed charter’s Section 305, which states that “The City seeks to support volunteers in creating a higher quality of life for Auburn citizens and as such declares itself exempt from any state laws or regulations that would make it more difficult or expensive for volunteers to participate in any community project, whether funded with City revenues or not.”

This provision, of course, is meant to protect the city from union claims that volunteer work is supposed to be done by city employees, or that the state classifies certain work done by volunteers as subject to government-mandated prevailing wage rates.

According to an article in the May 27, 2012 Auburn Journal newspaper, “Auburn Advocates for Local Control – ‘Yes’ on Measure A” collected $7,671, mainly from Auburn residents, while “Preserve Auburn – ‘No’ on Measure A” collected $79,463.83, mainly from Northern California union organizations.

The charter was placed on the ballot by a 5-0 vote of the city council.

The situation seems similar to the charter placed on the March 8, 2011 ballot by the Rancho Palos Verdes City Council. The Yes campaign was a grassroots movement, locally funded and managed, while Los Angeles construction unions overwhelmed charter supporters with large amounts spent on mailers and other political tactics.

Voters solidly rejected that charter with 69% of the vote. Will Auburn voters be swayed by the unions?

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