City Council approves prevailing wage proposal

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A proposal to require contractors on many city of San Diego public works and maintenance projects to pay prevailing wages to employees received final approval from the City Council Tuesday.

The ordinance passed on a party-line 5-4 vote, with Democrats David Alvarez, Myrtle Cole, Marti Emerald, Todd Gloria and Sherri Lightner in favor.

The new law will take effect Jan. 1 to give the city time to hire new staff to monitor the contractors.

Currently, the city sets pay for contractors working on water and sewer projects valued at more than $10 million or large city projects that are partially funded with state or federal dollars.

The ordinance would govern public works and maintenance projects valued at over $25,000 in conformance with state labor law.

Supporters of the proposal say the pay boost will help workers economically in a city with a high cost of living while ensuring construction quality, without dramatic increases in overall project costs.

Opponents believe costs on major city projects will rise. Also, the cost of administering the program could cost the city $700,000 to $1.5 million annually, according to the city's Independent Budget Analyst's office.

The council members who cast the dissenting votes did not comment.

Prevailing wages are determined by collective bargaining between unions and employers, he said, adding that the state Department of Industrial Relations does an annual survey of pay rates.

The city's IBA estimated in a report that total project costs would rise 5-10 percent.

“We will implement this in the most fiscally responsible way that we can,” Interim Mayor Todd Gloria said. “It's critical in my estimation (to make) sure we grow the middle class in the eighth largest city in the country.”

As a charter city, San Diego is not required to specify prevailing wages on municipal construction contracts. A bill being considered in the Legislature, however, would end the exemption for charter cities.

Lawyers for the city have expressed the opinion that the state bill, if passed, would ultimately be found unconstitutional.

Categories: KUSI