A bill that would extend higher wages for construction workers on more public works projects passed its first hurdle, but to the objection of the building industry. AB 199 met with stiff resistance from dozens who packed the Assembly Labor and Employment committee.
One of those testifying in opposition was John Gamboa, president of California Community Builders. That group helps house low-income residents. After, he told GV Wire he felt union influenced bill will hurt those it tries to help.
“We are all for raising the wages for workers. But it will have a terrible impact on other union workers: nurses, teachers, firemen,” Gamboa said. “It’s going to raise the cost of housing out of reach for the few who can afford it today.”
“It will continue the exodus of people out of California, especially the people we need,” Gamboa added.
The final committee vote was 5-1 with one “no vote.” All five Democrats on the committee voted yes (Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond), Eloise Gomez Reyes (D-San Bernardino), Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) and Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles). Matthew Harper (R-Huntington Beach) voted no. And, the other Republican, Heath Flora (R-Ripon) recorded a no vote.
GV Wire asked Flora about his vote after session. “Because there are a lot of issues with the bill as it is written. But both sides, time and time again throughout this process, have said they want to work together to find a solution. That is what we want them to do,” Flora said. “When they present something together, then we will have an opportunity to vote on it.”
At issue is how broadly public works projects on which workers earn the higher prevailing wage rate (compared to market rate) will be defined. The homebuilding industry is worried that it would apply to privately built projects, even without direct public money. They argue that any public assistance, whether it is a rebate from an escrow account to a fee credit for installing a public park, counts.
The building trade union which sponsored the bill, is fighting for higher wages for its union members. The author, Assemblyman Kansen Chu (D-San Jose), testified that the bill’s intent was to add publicly funded projects at the local level into projects that would use the prevailing wage rate.
Contact David Taub
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This story was not subject to the approval of Granville Homes.