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San Jose Building Trades, Citing Successful L.A. Ballot Measure, Pressure City on Developer Tax Breaks


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San Jose wants to give more tax breaks to developers, but trade unions aren’t having it – not without a little something in return, at least.

The city is offering half-off discounts on park fees and construction taxes to companies that build residential high-rises before 2020. The city council must decide whether it wants to renew those incentives for an additional 1,500 units beyond the allotted timeframe. Unions want to see local workers reap some of those rewards:

The Santa Clara and San Benito Building and Construction Trades Council said the benefits should extend to local workers, too. Together with the South Bay Labor Union, the trade council is asking the city to require developers to hire locally and pay prevailing wages as a condition of qualifying for the incentives. If the city eschews those demands, the unions vowed to take the matter directly to voters.

That means a ballot measure, which couldn’t happen any sooner than 2018. There is, however, precedent in California for such a measure, according to San Jose Inside:

The labor groups cite Measure JJJ in Los Angeles as a template for a ballot initiative in San Jose. Like the SoCal measure, which passed with 64 percent of the vote this past fall, the local version would require companies to pay contractors the region’s prevailing wage and benefit rate.

The measure would mandate that at least 35 percent of a project’s construction hours are performed by local residents and at least 10 percent by groups that struggle with chronic under-employment, such as veterans and single parents. Companies would have to guarantee that 60 percent of the workforce includes graduates of local apprenticeships.

Union leaders have already gone on the offensive, calling the city out for its failure to put the interests of middle-class workers before those of big-money developers:

South Bay labor leaders are blasting the city for not requiring a “local hire policy” in exchange for the incentive, which ensures their union workers are offered the construction jobs first and benefit from the new development.

“The proposal to extend the high-rise subsidy gives developers a huge incentive to hire out-of-state workers who are getting paid poorly,” said Ben Field, executive officer of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council. “Instead the city should look for every opportunity to create middle-class jobs instead of poverty-wage jobs.”

The city claims it has already been considering local hiring proposals. They are expected to make a determination this month.


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