City officials in Newport Beach, California are proposing prevailing wage exemptions for construction companies bidding on city projects. Newport Beach’s move to become a charter city frees it from certain state requirements if voted upon by its governing body.
A July California Supreme Court ruling found that “the wage levels of contract workers constructing locally funded public works are a ‘municipal affair.”
In that case, State Building and Construction Trades Council vs. City of Vista, the court ruled in favor of the city. The State Building Trades argued that by depressing wages, prevailing wage ordinances are a state matter. Despite the city’s victory, language in the ruling will make the ordinance hard to implement as it only pertains to “locally funded” projects. State or Federally funded projects will still have to adhere to prevailing wage requirements. City Manager Dave Kiff told the Orange County Register,
“Any project that is funded with state or federal dollars, as I understand it, has to be bid and paid at prevailing wage,” Kiff said.
“If we continue to bid projects as we do now, I do not see how the resolution will change the way we interact with businesses bidding on city projects now,” he said.
The project to dredge Newport Bay will not be exempt from prevailing wages, a silver lining for area workers. The growing aversion to prevailing wages in Southern California — with several cities in San Diego county having already traveled the path Newport Beach is headed down — is alarming.