Proposal to require contractors to pay prevailing wages to employees goes before the City Council
Ordinance initially passed by 5-4 vote
Last Updated: 90 days ago
SAN DIEGO - A proposal to require contractors on many city of San Diego public works and maintenance projects to pay prevailing wages to employees is set to go before the City Council for final approval Tuesday.
The proposed ordinance initially passed July 30 on a party-line 5-4 vote, with Democrats David Alvarez, Myrtle Cole, Marti Emerald, Todd Gloria and Sherri Lightner in favor.
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. It will take effect on Jan. 1 if it passes a second reading, according to Lightner.
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.
However, Felipe Monroig, the executive director of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, said at the July meeting that costs on major city projects will rise.
"So when you go back to your constituents and talk about streets that need repair, buildings that need to be fixed, including libraries and `rec' centers, be prepared to explain to them why you're willing to accept an additional charge and maybe reduce the number of projects that are able to be completed as a result of this ordinance," Monroid said.
Councilman David Alvarez noted competing data from the mayor's office, which brought the ordinance to the council, and the city's independent budget analyst. He said he didn't know whether higher wages would raise project costs or not.
"I think it's the right thing to do," Alvarez said. "A lot of other places have done it, and the world hasn't fallen apart. And it won't fall apart here."
Nelson Hernandez, the city's assistant chief operating officer at the time, said in a memo that the benefits of requiring prevailing wages include improving local construction careers, ensuring that contractors compete on an even playing field and building projects with a skilled labor force.
Prevailing wages are determined by collective bargaining between unions and employers, Hernandez said, adding that the state Department of Industrial Relations does an annual survey of pay rates.
The city's Independent Budget Analyst estimated in a report that total project costs would rise 5-10 percent but said the mayor's office provided little data that it could study.
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.
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