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San Diego Takes Next Step Toward Lowering the Threshold for Prevailing Wages to $25,000

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In San Diego, the City Council’s Rules and Economic Development Committee has passed a measure that would require workers on most city maintenance and public works projects to be paid the prevailing wage.  The issue will be taken up July 30th.  

Currently, prevailing wages kick in on projects paid for with state or federal funds or water and sewer projects valued at over $10 million.  New requirements would lower the threshold to $25,000.  The new requirement would help local workers earn better wages on the upcoming bevy of infrastructure projects planned for the region. Richard Barerra of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council told ABC 10 that, “The city is going to ideally, hopefully, do great things over the next several years building the infrastructure.  The question is, are we going to build our middle class while we build our infrastructure?”

Detractors of the proposed legislation argue that it will boost cost and allow for fewer projects to be completed. Tom Lemmon of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council argues, however, that prices will be held down because the pool of bidders will increase. The city’s assistant chief operating officer, Nelson Hernandez, said that, “Of 113 contracts for capital projects to be awarded the current fiscal year, prevailing wage laws are expected to be applied to 20 of them.”

The prevailing wage issue is gaining momentum across the state of California. A newly elected super-majority of Democrats is trying to limit the wage end-arounds provided for by charter cities who do not have to follow prevailing wage requirements due to their private status.  A new bill being pushed through the assembly would deny charter cities construction funds if they do not mandate prevailing wages.  San Diego is among the largest of the state’s “charter cities.”

On Wednesday, the bill passed the state Senate by a 28-10 vote.

Among the most prominent supporters of the bill is Republican Sen. Anthony Cannella.  The civil engineer is the founder and vice president of the unionized Northstar Engineering in Modesto.  He told the San Diego Union-Tribune that, “Prevailing wage attracts the most efficient, highly-skilled, best-trained streamlined workforce that provides the best value on construction projects.”


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