BY ALEXEI KOSEFF
SEPTEMBER 14, 2017 9:52 AM
A contentious proposal that would put California builders on the hook for wage theft violations by their subcontractors has advanced to Gov. Jerry Brown after a last-minute agreement between the author and opponents.
The Assembly on Wednesday sent to the governor’s desk Assembly Bill 1701, which would allow construction workers who have not been paid for a job to seek their back wages and benefits, with interest, from the general contractor, even if they did not work directly for that company on the project.
Both the building industry and construction trade unions lobbied heavily on the measure, by Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, in the final weeks of session, plastering websites with digital advertisements, passing out fliers on the sidewalk outside the Capitol and setting up an electronic billboard across the street.
Unions argued that AB 1701 gives workers a legal remedy when subcontractors skip town or file for bankruptcy before paying employees, while the building industry warned that it could drive up the cost of construction and worsen California’s housing crisis by potentially forcing them to pay twice for labor.
Yet the measure received overwhelming support Wednesday when it came up for a vote in the Assembly, passing 52-13. Just before that, Thurmond said, he submitted a letter to the Legislature stating his intent to carry a follow-up bill. It will remove a section of AB 1701 that builders worried could be used to hold them liable for further monetary damages.