By HILDA L. SOLIS
PUBLISHED: August 30, 2017 at 11:49 am
UPDATED: August 30, 2017 at 5:32 pm
Equal pay for equal work remains elusive, even here in progressive California.
A recent study by Smart Cities Prevail showed that Latinos make up two thirds of the construction workforce, yet only make about 70 cents on the dollar of white workers with the same skills. The study noted that Latino construction workers also are significantly more likely to be uninsured and to struggle with housing affordability.
Low minimum wage standards are one factor that contributes to these types of disparities.
California legislators are soon expected to consider streamlining development of more housing across our state. At its core, the proposal involves removing certain regulatory hurdles in exchange for guarantees that a small percentage of new developments will include “affordable” units.
A similar effort failed last year when no agreement was reached on wage standards for workers on streamlined projects.
According to industry research, workers’ wages and benefits are just 15 percent of the total cost of constructing housing. By comparison, profits for developers and contractors are 18 percent of costs and growing faster than the cost of labor.
And with labor standards being eroded, other problems have become more pervasive.
For example, wage theft occurs when employees are paid for fewer hours than they worked, less than legally required, or when their employer is paying in cash and cheating on payroll taxes. California’s construction industry has seen a 400 percent increase in wage theft since the 1970s-a period that has also seen a dramatic increase in the share of immigrants in our construction workforce.