07/05/2012 Opinions: Richard Markuson: While Vista May be a Win for Cities, Is it a Win for Contractors?
There has been a lot written since Monday's State Supreme Court decision in the Vista case. And while it was an important-- and justified-- decision, based upon early law, I worry that it will be a short-lived benefit for Cities and could eventually result in worse Legislative efforts.
Witness what happened in 1999. In 1998, under Governor Pete Wilson's direction, the Industrial Welfare Commission ("IWC") issued amendments to five wage orders affecting approximately eight million workers that eliminated the daily overtime requirement. After this change in California's wage and hour law withstood legal challenge in the courts, the state legislature passed, and Governor Gray Davis signed, Assembly Bill No. 60 - Workplace Flexibility Act of 1999.
While an administrative act-- like that of the Wilson Administration-- is different than the Constitutional elements of the Vista case, I am certain that in the final weeks of this Legislative session, another bill will be gutted and amended to try to work around the courts decision.
Then-- what is WECA and the other contractor groups position?
Do we argue against the effort and for a City's right to pay lower worker wages? WECA recently met with some local agency representatives who have "ducked out" on the debate for expansion of prevailing wages. They and a national taxpayer group opined that this debate was hopeless and encouraged contractors to "take the lead."
In my opinion, contractors opposing prevailing wages is shooting ourselves in the foot and lends to the oft-stated position of unions that all the merit shop groups want are cheaper wages, lower benefits, and disposable workers.
California's prevailing wage law is a mess with confusing requirements, arbitrary wage determinations, conflicting provisions, and increasing liability for contractors who rely upon incorrect information from public agencies or whimsical determinations by Labor Commissioners. Unfortunately, Vista does nothing to cure those ailments.