Soapbox

Here’s who is not to blame for California’s housing crisis: Workers.

Builders work on an apartment complex in Sacramento.
Builders work on an apartment complex in Sacramento. AP

The Coalition for Affordable, Reliable and Equitable Housing declares: “We can’t afford to make housing even more expensive.” Who could disagree?

So this coalition has launched a lobbying campaign to stop Assembly Bill 1701, by Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, presumably to keep a lid on housing costs.

 
Opinion

But what is this Coalition for Affordable, Reliable and Equitable Housing, which says it’s so concerned about the poor, disabled, seniors, single mothers, children and low-income families?

It’s an alliance of the Chamber of Commerce, taxpayer associations, builders, apartment owners, the anti-union Associated Builders and Contractors, non-union homebuilders, business property owners and developers.

And what exactly does AB 1701 do that has incurred this massive lobbying effort by the business community, supposedly on behalf of the poor and the downtrodden?

Drumroll: AB 1701 makes the general contractor liable for worker’s wages if the worker does not get paid by a subcontractor or by the general contractor. That’s it. There are no penalties in AB 1701. It merely requires that workers get paid what they are owed.

The bill includes a 30-day “opportunity to cure” the problem before any lawyer becomes involved.

California’s housing crisis is real and staggering. But the business community is trying to persuade the public and our legislators that actually paying people for the work they perform on a construction project is the reason housing costs in California are higher than in the rest of the country.

Not their healthy profits, nor speculators buying homes lost by a million foreclosed upon California homeowners. Not skyrocketing land costs, nor local officials demanding fees on new homes to make up for the Proposition 13 property system, increased litigation or the cost of financing.

No, none of that. According to the California business community, paying workers for their services is the problem. Union carpenters are sponsoring AB 1701 with the full backing of the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California.

We will fight to get AB 1701 passed and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. The reason is simple. People should be paid for the work they do. That’s not too much to ask.

Daniel M. Curtin is director of the California Conference of Carpenters. He can be contacted at danielmcurtin@gmail.com.

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