Prevailing wage called “imperative” to housing bills

Oct. 10, 2017

State Building and Construction Trades Council President Robbie Hunter established a context in support of the prevailing wage in a Sacramento Bee story this week when he discussed how decent pay buys a highly skilled and trained work force that in the end cuts down on construction costs.

“Build it once, build it right,” the newspaper quoted Hunter as saying.

The Bee’s Oct. 8 story focused on the prevailing wage component included in five of the bills that were part of a housing package that was signed into law on Sept. 29 by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Three of the bills included an expedited approval process for contractors to get their projects built, including one piece of legislation, Senate Bill 35, which bypasses delays imposed by city councils and by a redundant environmental review process.

“Therefore,” Hunter said in a later statement, “it was imperative to have prevailing wage rates and a skilled workforce to assure that workers are paid a fair wage.”

As Hunter said in the video that accompanies the story, “If there is not a fair wage paid to the workers who are building a project, the very workers will be the ones who need the affordable housing.”

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What good is affordable housing if the people who build aren’t paid decently?

July 27, 2016
Kevin Duncan, Pueblo, Colo.
The writer is a professor of economics at Colorado State University-Pueblo.

To the editor: Like climate change, construction prevailing wage standards have been studied and an academic consensus exists, but myths persist. (“Affordable housing at an impasse,” editorial, July 22)

Peer-reviewed economists have found that prevailing wages produce more local, middle-class job opportunities and less spending on fuels, materials and public assistance for blue-collar construction workers. They do not significantly raise total development budgets.

In California, labor makes up just 20% of total construction project costs. Any savings from exploitative working conditions are offset by lower productivity on the job site.

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