In the June primary, voters approved 41 out of 46 local bond proposals, showing no sign of slowing down their willingness to invest billions to build schools, roads and other public works. These investments create jobs, but also allow labor unions to tap into a rich vein of taxpayer dollars.
Under an obscure provision in California’s prevailing-wage law, $7.47 per hour is contributed for Sacramento electrical workers to union-affiliated trust funds. That’s more than $15,000 a year of taxpayer-funded contributions for every single employee. It is a sweet deal for labor unions, who always want more.
Now, union lobbyists are pushing Senate Bill 954, which will be heard Wednesday by the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment. It would discriminate against workers by banning nonunion groups from also using this money. Why?
Prevailing-wage rates include pay plus fringe benefits including health care and retirement. Another category is called “other” and forces employer payments for “industry advancement” activities to benefit both nonunion and union workers.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s Department of Industrial Relations has authorized nonunion groups to receive this funding. Union contributions are mandatory, incorporated into collective bargaining agreements and funneled through labor-management committees. Nonunion contributions are voluntary and go toward the advancement of the construction industry.
SB 954 upends this level playing field by preventing nonunion workers, who comprise 85 percent of the construction workforce, from the benefits these funds provide. Union leaders say they are just protecting worker wages, but these payments are not wages. No union worker would ever see this money.
The real goal is to monopolize public works contracts by silencing groups such as the California Construction Advancement Group, which give a voice to nonunion workers. Our research has demonstrated how open competition, allowing both union and nonunion workers a chance to work, provides the best value to taxpayers.
If SB 954 reaches his desk, Brown will need to again be the “adult in the room” by using his veto pen to protect taxpayers and ensure billions of dollars invested in roads, water and other infrastructure projects are available to all workers.
John Loudon is executive director of the California Construction Advancement Group, which represents contractors on prevailing-wage projects. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.