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Construction workers erecting the steel frame of a new building.
California law requires that locally funded construction projects over $1,000 pay the prevailing wage. That is, public money doesn't go to drive down wages for construction workers throughout the region. The Associated Builders and Contractors, AKA the ALEC of the construction industry, doesn't like this so much. So it's been turning its attention to charter cities, which can make their own laws, trying to get cities to adopt charters and to eliminate the prevailing wage. This push employs some ridiculous myths, like the claim that cities can save 20 percent on their construction costs by eliminating the prevailing wage—the teeny tiny problem with that claim being that labor costs make up only 22 percent of construction costs in California.

As with most of the ABC's efforts, it's important to understand that these are low-road contractors. Many contractors, not just unions, value the prevailing wage and other ways of setting high standards in the construction industry. For instance, Mark Breslin, CEO of United Contractors, wrote an op-ed in the Modesto Bee this week supporting SB 7, a bill that would give charter cities the choice of paying prevailing wage and getting state funds or not paying prevailing wage and losing state funds for construction projects:

Prevailing wage laws were first passed in California decades ago in order to ensure a fair platform for compensation, competition, quality, and development of skilled workforces. Though most Charter Cities and all General Law Cities in California pay prevailing wages on local construction projects, some Charter Cities have exempted prevailing wages in a shortsighted effort to save money, but the true costs outweigh any perceived benefit.

Further, out-of-state lobby groups have recently mounted an effort—city by city—to encourage local leaders and politicians to place charters on the ballot in order to eliminate prevailing wage. They promise savings of as much as 30 percent on projects. The lobbyists making these arguments either don't know what they are talking about, or they are being deliberately misleading. [...]

Cities that eliminate these good jobs and replace them with low paying jobs with no benefits may incur other costs that might not be obvious at first. Research shows that lower wage standards on local projects are likely to shift costs to the public by shifting the burden of healthcare from the employer to the taxpayer.

Defenders of the prevailing wage have been doing a good job fighting off city by city attacks, but ABC is relentless, bringing up and helping to fund the same charters in city after city. That's why it's so important for the state of California to say no, state money will not be used in the race to the bottom.

Continue reading for more of the week's labor and education news.

A fair day's wage

  • Sounds about right:
    In the wake of a report that ESPN bowed out of a joint investigative project with PBS on NFL player concussions, the union representing players said it was a "disappointing day for journalism" if the sports network caved on the series out of business concerns.
  • This is so exciting:
    SUNY Downstate, the operator of Long Island College Hospital (LICH), has been trying to close the hospital since February, even though the local community relies upon it for emergency care. But now, less than a week after Judge Johnny Lee Baynes of the New York Supreme Court ruled that must restore services to their July 19 level, Judge Carolyn Demarest has vacated her May 2011 order that approved the transfer of LICH's assets to SUNY in the first place. SUNY, according to Demarest, was not truly committed to operating the hospital and did not hold up its end of the bargain.
    The fight to save LICH is definitely not over, and it's not the only endangered hospital in New York City, as Sarah Jaffe reminds us in the same piece. But this is a big win.
  • People are really awful to waiters. Seriously, in what world could you possibly think any of these things are okay? (In the absence, of, say, the waiter saying racist things to you, or you catching the waiter spitting in your food before you made your non-tipping policies clear.)
  • Annals of wage theft:
    Emeritus Senior Living, the country’s largest assisted living company, has agreed to pay up to $2.2 million to settle claims that it routinely underpaid workers at dozens of its California facilities.

    Hands-on workers at Emeritus facilities – the non-salaried aides and support staff who statewide help care for hundreds of often frail seniors – alleged in a lawsuit that the company had not only shortchanged them in their pay, but also violated state laws concerning mandated meal times and rest periods. Workers were denied overtime and not properly compensated for days during which they underwent training sessions, according to the lawsuit.

  • Gee, thanks, Rahm:
    Image showing various things Chicago is privatizing: schools, red light cameras, etc.
  • Perez backs unions in California pension fight:
    Perez sent a letter that did not come to light until last week, when the Sacramento Bee newspaper obtained a copy of it. In it, he gave the state until this past Friday to exempt the workers from a September 2012 law or risk losing billions in federal transportation funds, including $1.5 billion this year. The unions and the state were holding negotiations Monday.

    In his letter, Perez said the reform “diminishes both the substantive rights of transit employees under current collective bargaining agreements and narrows the future scope of collective bargaining over pensions.”

  • Hospitals are trying to squeeze more and more out of their workers, but here's why nurse staffing levels are so important for patients as well as nurses:
    Pioneering work done by Linda H. Aiken at the University of Pennsylvania in 2002 showed that each extra patient a nurse had above an established nurse-patient ratio made it 7 percent more likely that one of the patients would die. She found that 20,000 people died a year because they were in hospitals with overworked nurses.

    Research also shows that when floors are adequately staffed with bedside nurses, the number of patients injured by falls declines. Staff increases lead to decreases in hospital-acquired infections, which kill 100,000 patients every year.

    It's like class size or any number of other things: The limits that make it possible for a nurse or teacher or other worker to do her job also benefit the patients or students or other people helped by the work.
  • Scapegoating BART workers is ridiculous and obnoxious and offensive and totally predictable.
  • T-Mobile workers speak out.


Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sat Aug 24, 2013 at 10:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  If people don't know (5+ / 0-)

    who Associated Builders and Contractors are (looooong preexisting ALEC) it strongly suggests they haven't been involved in very much.  You can't touch a domestic labor, jobs, income issue without finding it slimy from ABC's hands.

    Clap On, Clap Off, The Clapper!

    by ActivistGuy on Sat Aug 24, 2013 at 11:06:53 AM PDT

  •  Where are the anti-fall safety harnesses (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and restraint ropes for these guys in the photo?  That photo documents an  OSHA violation.

    Insurance for that kind of work is expensive, with good reason,  and conscientious WorkComp insurance providers are very big on educating workers on safety procedure.

    don't always believe what you think

    by claude on Sat Aug 24, 2013 at 11:18:17 AM PDT

  •  On top of this (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Simplify, Eric Nelson, Dirtandiron

    California is in an all out war against public employees.  Gov. Brown is thinking about privatizing prisons, which would be a disaster!
    I have made a petition urging Governor Brown not to privatize the prison system in CA.
    Please sign!

    •  How is that going to work? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      California has a Democratic supermajority in the legislature and a Democratic governor.

      Even here in Utah, we know that privatized prisons are a ripoff.

      "states like VT and ID are not 'real america'" -icemilkcoffee

      by Utahrd on Sat Aug 24, 2013 at 03:12:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  What I am reading is that CA would lease the (0+ / 0-)

      facility and staff it with public workers.

      Per HuffPo:

      Under the plan, one of several the governor has proposed in conversations with legislative leaders in recent weeks, the for-profit prison giant Corrections Corporation of America would lease one or more of its prisons to the state, which would in turn use California prison guards and other public employees to staff the company’s facilities.
      Like you, I would not favor privatizing prisons.
      Welcome from the DK Partners & Mentors Team. If you have any questions about how to participate here, you can learn more at the Knowledge Base or from the New Diarists Resources Diaries. Diaries labeled "Open Thread" are also great places to ask. We look forward to your contributions.

      "The opposite of war isn't peace, it's CREATION." _ Jonathan Larson, RENT -9.62, -9.13

      by BeninSC on Sat Aug 24, 2013 at 06:06:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Good deal SB7 - except get rid of the limit (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dirtandiron, 6412093
    California law requires that locally funded construction projects over $1,000 pay the prevailing wage.
    A day's labor is worth as much as a weeks or a months work imo.

    For contractors protection on small jobs make every hour of work included in the Bill.

    Being a licensed contractor put meon a call list fto bid on local jobs (mostly national park service contracts at the time as I lived adjacent to) I've gotten calls to make bids on small jobs that were below the $1000 dollar amount.

    A prevailing wage for all jobs no matter what size imo

  •  Prevailing wage screws the taxpayer (0+ / 0-)

    Here are some examples for my rural county in Washington State...
    ...carpenter $49.57/hr
    ...brick mason $49.07
    ...drywall (Sheetrock) applicator $49.74
    ...inside electrician $41.78
    ...clean up laborer $40.83
    ...plumber $71.69

    NOBODY else in the county makes wages anything like this for this work.  The ordinary working taxpayer is screwed for any job with public money--roads, schools, libraries, etc.

  •  Three words. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson, Dirtandiron

    Davis-Bacon Act.

    You can't keep a mighty tree alive (much less expect it to thrive) by only spritzing the fine leaves at its tippy-top. The fate of the whole tree depends on nurturing the grassroots. - Jim Hightower

    by PSzymeczek on Sat Aug 24, 2013 at 03:13:04 PM PDT

  •  Supply and demand (0+ / 0-)

    Several million experienced, talented and hard-working skilled construction workers are about to gain the legal right to work.  And the right to sponsor their relatives to come here.

    We aren't allowed to talk about what happens to the price of something when the supply goes up.

    "states like VT and ID are not 'real america'" -icemilkcoffee

    by Utahrd on Sat Aug 24, 2013 at 03:16:12 PM PDT

    •  Supply is already normalized as is demand, it's.. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dirtandiron, 6412093

      ..the price that has been fraudulently lowered via republican "conservative" agenda.

      These  undocumented workers are already laboring just not "legally". Without OSHA protection. Without representation (voting rights) Without legal recourse. And without union representation to protect all of these concerns..

      ..Just the way republicans corporate shills would have it remain.

      The pseudo conservative market based supply and demand argument/spin leaves out the fact that these workers are already working.

      Just not at a wage that documented workers should earn. Fake conservative "market forces" are actually laws made to deny and suppress real wages; not real market forces at all.

      If the "conservatives" let true market forces work: Iow's workers uniting and collectively bargaining, workers have the power to demand their labors' value, Not the ownership/leisure capitalists.

      Let's talk when workers unite and have a voice. LIBOR for instance is a perfect example of capitalists "deciding" what money is worth.

      Labor should decide what labor is worth

  •  I've never understood (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dirtandiron, Eric Nelson, 6412093

    why road builders would want to drive wages down since most of their work is government bid in the first place.  If all companies simply raised wages they would not be affected, the estimates would. But instead, heavy construction chooses to find margin in cheap labor instead of honoring the desire for fair wages.

    I had lunch with a mid level manager recently who was complaining about his schedule. He has to be on the projects when his laborers are, which is sun up to sun down and Saturdays. And I finally said what deserved to be said for a long time. I said "you know you republicans have been crying for right to work all your lives and then you complain that you have become a victim of your own policies". And he knew I was right.

    The republican party and ALEC are run by people who never thought minorities would ever get the right to vote and they are perpetually victims of their own screwy ideas.

    I support the two-state solution: for the USA.

    by plok on Sat Aug 24, 2013 at 03:45:04 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for this diary, Laura. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson, 6412093

    I work in construction, so I really appreciate these diaries.

    Where are all the jobs, Boehner?

    by Dirtandiron on Sat Aug 24, 2013 at 03:56:25 PM PDT

  •  public money doesn't go to drive down (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    That's one way of describing what prevailing wage laws do.

    •  Yes, the massive purchasing power of the (0+ / 0-)

      government should never be used to drive down wages. I think that's what the real reason for opposition to prevailing wages is. It's to drive down wages so private companies get their facilities built cheaper.

      Where are all the jobs, Boehner?

      by Dirtandiron on Sat Aug 24, 2013 at 07:56:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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