Prevailing Wage Requirement Ruled Constitutional
September 2, 2014 - Court Upholds SB 7 Conditions that Protect Workers in Charter Cities.
In a decisive victory for Building Trades workers, a San Diego Superior Court Judge has upheld State Building and Construction Trades Council (SBCTC) sponsored Senate Bill 7, to require charter cities to pay prevailing wage on municipal projects as a condition of receiving state construction funding. Prominently referencing an SBCTC-filed intervening brief, Judge Joel Wohlfeil rejected the argument by six charter cities – Carlsbad, El Cajon, El Centro, Fresno, Oceanside, and Vista – that SB 7 violated their right to home rule. Rather, he ruled, it provides a legitimate means by which the state may encourage its desired policy objective; in this case, training the next generation of workers for state and local infrastructure through apprenticeship programs, and providing decent wages for workers on local projects.
“Pursuing state policy objectives through financial incentives is generally constitutional,” Judge Wohlfeil ruled. The judge pointed to SBCTC’s argument citing other state programs – such as highway funding, peace officer training funds, and community development block grants – that require recipients to comply with specific conditions. He further cited SBCTC’s argument that likens the law to federal policies in which Congress requires states to meet certain requirements as a condition of receiving federal funds. In sum, SB 7 legitimately influences local government by attaching conditions on the receipt of discretionary state funding, and is not coercive, the Judge concluded.
SBCTC President Robbie Hunter commented: “As long as the enemies of working people can use charter cities to drive down workers’ wages and foster an underground economy, they’ll always keep trying. SB 7 closed that loophole and protects the wages of working men and women in California. We are certainly pleased that the court agrees with us that SB 7 is a valid means to achieve that important goal.”
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