Labor tensions rising ahead of November election

San Diego Daily Transcript, 6/10/10 | Read the original article |

Councilmember Carl DeMaio’s Fairness and Transparency in City Contracting Charter Amendment is heating up labor tensions ahead of the November election.

DeMaio’s ballot initiative would require the city to initiate competitive bidding for projects valued at more than $250,000, and outsource those in which a private company can provide the service for less. The city manager could also outsource projects worth less than $250,000.

The initiative also prohibits the city from entering into Project Labor Agreements, except where required by state or federal law.
Opponents began campaigning against the ballot measure Thursday, calling the initiative a misleading attempt to repeal the city’s Living Wage Ordinance.

The text of the measure does not mention the city’s Living Wage Ordinance, but would effectively reverse the requirement that city contractors pay workers more than minimum wage, said City Councilmember Donna Frye.
“This is about as transparent as a brick wall,” Frye said.

San Diego City Council approved the city’s Living Wage Ordinance in 2005, requiring city contractors pay employees at least $12 per hour, and provide $1.25 per hour in benefits, a total of $13.25 per hour. Workers at that rate have an annual income of $27,456.

“They want to make a dollar off the backs of the poorest workers in this city and that is just plain wrong,” said Councilmember Marti Emerald.

If passed, the initiative would also jeopardize federal and state funds for local construction projects, because such funds are subject to Prevailing Wage requirements, Emerald said.

A provision in the initiative prevents the city from entering into an agreement that requires employees receive more compensation or benefits than required under state and federal law, Emerald said.

The conflicting regulations would cause state and federal agencies to send funding elsewhere, further damaging the local economy, Emerald said.

Such claims are untrue, DeMaio said. The text of the initiative clearly states that the city may impose contracts requirements “expressly required of the contracting party as an employer under state and federal laws and regulations.”

The initiative comes on the heels of Tuesday’s passage of Proposition G in Chula Vista, which banned union-only labor agreements.

Pro-union City Councilmembers are making the same false claims about the Competition and Transparency in City Contracting ballot measure that opponents of Prop. G made in Chula Vista, DeMaio said.

Thus far, the campaign has been largely funded by the local construction industry. The Associated General Contractors contributed $63,000; the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction donated more than $45,000 and the Western Electrical Contractors Association gave $20,000. Small construction firms, electrical contractors and political action groups have also contributed to the campaign.

During the past three months, the campaign paid more than $160,000 to The La Jolla Group, to collect the 90,000 signatures needed to put the ballot on the November election.

The company misled people into signing the the petition and profited off each signature collected, Emerald said. She encouraged people who have signed the petition to place the initiative on the November ballot, to remove their names. Voters may remove their names from the petition before it is filed with the City Clerk’s office.