A small victory against 'prevailing wage' laws

Thomas Lifson
Big labor loves so-called "prevailing wage" laws, which force contractors to pay union wages on jobs performed on government contracts. In many cases, absent those laws, construction projects could be completed far more cheaply, so taxpayers end up paying far more than necessary for roads, buildings, parks, schools, and other facilities.

In California, a small, but perhaps significant, victory against waste of taxpayer money has received little national attention. Rick Rogers of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports:

In a win that could save millions of dollars for Vista and scores of cities across the state, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled Tuesday that charter cities can pay less than the prevailing wage - typically union wage - in contracts for municipal projects. The ruling was 2-1.

A statewide labor organization, the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, AFL-CIO, sued Vista shortly after it became a charter city in 2007.

If the union organization had prevailed, it could have caused changes in the contracting practices of 114 charter cities in the state. ...

In the majority court opinion issued Tuesday, justices Richard Huffman and Patricia Benke wrote: "We conclude the PWL (prevailing wage law) does not address matters of statewide concern and therefore Vista, as a charter city, is not required to comply with the PWL (prevailing wage law) with respect to public works contracts which are financed solely from city revenues. Rather, such contracts are municipal affairs over which Vista has paramount power... We affirm the trial court's judgment denying SBCTC's petition." A union spokesman said the construction trades council would appeal the case to the state supreme court.

The ruling only affects the 83 cities in California (out of a total of 468 municipalities in the state) that established a city charter or basic law. The state constitution gives these cities a high degree of autonomy from the legislature managing their affairs.

It will be interesting to watch the California supreme court on this issue.

Hat tip: JBW
Big labor loves so-called "prevailing wage" laws, which force contractors to pay union wages on jobs performed on government contracts. In many cases, absent those laws, construction projects could be completed far more cheaply, so taxpayers end up paying far more than necessary for roads, buildings, parks, schools, and other facilities.

In California, a small, but perhaps significant, victory against waste of taxpayer money has received little national attention. Rick Rogers of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports:

In a win that could save millions of dollars for Vista and scores of cities across the state, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled Tuesday that charter cities can pay less than the prevailing wage - typically union wage - in contracts for municipal projects. The ruling was 2-1.

A statewide labor organization, the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, AFL-CIO, sued Vista shortly after it became a charter city in 2007.

If the union organization had prevailed, it could have caused changes in the contracting practices of 114 charter cities in the state. ...

In the majority court opinion issued Tuesday, justices Richard Huffman and Patricia Benke wrote: "We conclude the PWL (prevailing wage law) does not address matters of statewide concern and therefore Vista, as a charter city, is not required to comply with the PWL (prevailing wage law) with respect to public works contracts which are financed solely from city revenues. Rather, such contracts are municipal affairs over which Vista has paramount power... We affirm the trial court's judgment denying SBCTC's petition." A union spokesman said the construction trades council would appeal the case to the state supreme court.

The ruling only affects the 83 cities in California (out of a total of 468 municipalities in the state) that established a city charter or basic law. The state constitution gives these cities a high degree of autonomy from the legislature managing their affairs.

It will be interesting to watch the California supreme court on this issue.

Hat tip: JBW