SACRAMENTO—The California Building Trades forged a successful year in the state capital, highlighted by the approval of bills that will produce thousands of new construction jobs in renewable power and expand the prevailing wage standard to more areas of the concrete industry and hospital and school contracting.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed every Building Trades bill passed by the legislature, with one exception.
“This has been another great year for the Building Trades,” said State Building and Construction Trades Council President Robbie Hunter. “Our package of bills serves to provide decent wages and conditions for workers, a fair competitive level playing field for our contractors, supports and strengthens our apprenticeships, and ensures that California’s public works projects are built with a streamlined, skilled and trained workforce, providing the best possible quality and value for the public’s tax dollars.”
Energy Bill Will Create Building Trades Jobs
In the closing moments of the 2015 legislative session, the passage of Senate Bill 350, which expands renewable energy generation and requires investment in energy efficiency retrofits to existing buildings, was greeted as a major victory by Building Trades leaders.
Brown signed SB 350 into law Oct. 7 in Los Angeles, surrounded by elected officials and Building Trades union leaders.
“SB 350 is one of the largest job-creating bills in many years,” Hunter said.
The legislation was co-authored by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) and Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco).
Renewable energy is “probably the best Trades market-share job generator we have ever had,” said Cesar Diaz, the State Building Trades’ legislative director, noting that the combined efforts of the Building Trades mean that California renewable energy projects are routinely built under PLAs with 100 percent union labor.
The State Building Trades, Teamsters and California Labor Federation also won passage of their jointly sponsored legislation, AB 219 by Assembly Member Tom Daly (D-Anaheim), to close a loophole that had denied some drivers of ready-mix concrete on public works projects the right to earn the prevailing wage.
The prevailing wage requirement, which previously applied only to drivers employed by public works contractors, was extended to drivers employed directly by concrete manufacturers.
“California recognizes that these drivers are an important, skilled part of the construction industry,” Hunter said. “All of them deserve to earn the wage that prevails in the industry. It is simply a question of fundamental fairness to working people.”
Extending Prevailing Wage
Another Building Trades-sponsored bill, AB 852, carried by Assemblywoman Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood), extends the prevailing wage to those who work on private hospital construction projects that are financed with tax-exempt bonds issued by public entities.
Another bill spearheaded by the Building Trades, AB 566 by Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach), will require builders of facilities designed for lease to public schools to hire a skilled workforce and file regular compliance reports. Such requirements also could be satisfied by a PLA.
The Trades also successfully fought for AB 1358 by Matt Dababneh (D-Encino) that extends until 2025 the authority of school districts to hire one contractor to design and build a project.
Building Trades-sponsored bill, AB 1431 by Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles), gives school districts statewide the option to choose a contractor through competitive bidding to perform specific ongoing services—such as installing water fountains—thus dispensing with the requirement to continually solicit bids on small jobs. For the convenience of using these “job order contracts” school districts must adhere to PLA standards and a process for assuring compliance that was developed in a pilot program with the Los Angeles Unified School District.
In the summer Gov. Brown signed Building Trades bill, AB 1308 by Henry T. Perea (D-Fresno), which prevents contractors from establishing low-quality trade schools that underpay students and fail to produce graduates. By passing the bill, legislators recognized the high quality of joint labor-management apprenticeship programs and refused to accept below-standard substitutes.
“Our apprenticeship programs are the lifeblood of all trades, and we must protect them against all threats,” Hunter said.
Transit Measure Is OK for 2016 Ballot
SB 767 by de Leon enables the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority to put a transportation sales tax measure on the ballot in LA County in 2016.
Supporting the bill, Ron Miller, Executive Secretary of the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, said, “Enabling mass transit with this sales tax measure will have the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ease traffic congestion throughout Southern California.”
The Building Trades also achieved an amendment to a bill authored by Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park) that otherwise would have extended indefinitely a prevailing wage exemption for the Conservation Corps and volunteers on public works projects like river and beach cleanups. As a result of union leader objections, the legislation (AB 327) that Gov. Brown signed in July now calls for the exemption to sunset Jan. 1, 2024.
Besides achieving most of their legislative agenda, Diaz said, the Building Trades defeated Republican bills seeking to undermine the prevailing wage and bills from Republicans and Democrats aimed at undermining the California Environmental Quality Act.
But the Building Trades also sustained setbacks. Gov. Brown vetoed AB 251, a bill carried by Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) that the Building Trades sponsored to establish an exact level of public subsidy that would trigger prevailing wage requirements on an otherwise private project.