Posted by: Greg Huff | July 19, 2013

Rebuttal to SBCTC President Robbie Hunter’s SBE article.

I ran across this article in the “Small Business Exchange” newspaper, a small publication for California small businesses.   The President of  the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California wrote the article touting the great things that were being done in California.  How laws were going to ensure the prosperity and security of the California worker.  I rebutted point by point.  His article is in blue.  My rebuttal is in red.

In the 2013 legislative session, the State Building Trades is moving forward with a wide-ranging package of legislation, much of which expands and protects construction workers’ rights to earn the prevailing wage on public works projects.

California’s working people have fought together with a tenacious resolve and unity in recent election cycles to elect forward-looking individuals to our Legislature and statewide offices, and we are now working hard as ever to enact good new laws that will secure them a better standard of living. It is gratifying to know that the future is looking brighter for hard-working Californians.

Platitudes.  California has the highest income and sales taxes of practically any state.  Businesses are moving out of California at an alarming rate.  An all Democrat legislature is now unfettered in limiting legislation that interferes with business and makes California one of the most business UN-friendly states in the union.  The prevailing wage laws protect union workers from competition and costs the California tax payer in the form of public works that could have been done for much less.  This does not bode well for the future looking brighter for hard-working Californians.

But when I read news from elsewhere, I am saddened to see that in many other states, the ultra-rich big business interests are pushing workers backwards, removing hard-won worker protections and slashing their wages, lowering their quality of life and prospects for the future.

Lowering the quality of life for whom?  Certainly not for the people that can be employed at a lower wage and not for the hard working tax payers who have the state digging deeper into their pockets to pay for artificially inflated wages.  What people like you, who have a vested interest in the state, fail to realize is that you cannot repeal or legislate around the law of supply and demand.  Soon, other people’s money runs out. At some point the tax payer will fail to be intimidated into tax increases. Propaganda will only go so far when painting a rosy picture on the rotting corpse of a city or state.

Politicians appease the union workers with these sorts of laws to secure their support for reelection campaigns. It is incest and is now rampant since the rise of government unions.  See my essay “Statist Theory: Vice is nice but (Political) Incest is Best.

Consider the latest stinging defeat for working people in Tennessee, where the state has not only banned prevailing wage on state projects, but has now enacted a law that prohibits any local government from requiring prevailing wages on projects or requiring private employers to provide more generous health benefits, leave policies, or wages that exceed state standards. Any existing local ordinances that allow for better wages are now unenforceable.

I am trying to understand how this is a bad thing…the companies that get the projects now are able to pay employees what they are worth not the inflated wages of union workers who are often working at wages that would not be supported by a free market.

Not content with ending prevailing wage on state projects, they have now banned cities, counties, or local districts from even considering choosing to pay workers decently!

This is just a libelous statement.  Define decently. By who’s standard?

A similar law was signed recently by the Governor of Kansas. The state had already repealed its longstanding state prevailing wage law, but its newest law now “prohibits cities, counties, and local government units from using ordinances, resolutions, or law to require private employers to provide leave, benefits and higher compensation.”

Interesting that Kansas’ economy is now on the rise with businesses coming into a now more business friendly state.

Across America, even minimum wage is under threat. Eighteen states do not currently have prevailing wage laws, most repealed in the past few decades by Republican legislators and governors. In other states, including Michigan and Pennsylvania, more anti-prevailing wage measures are progressing.

Again, a GOOD thing.  After years of Detroit being under the yoke of not just automobile unions (that bankrupted GM) but also government unions, it has gone bankrupt.  Now, perhaps, Detroit has a chance to get back on an even keel.  Years and years of Democrat administrations and favorable union laws have driven states into the ground by more and more anti-business legislation such as prevailing wage AND minimum wage laws. 

Fortunately, the brighter people are waking up to the fraud that is minimum wage, which only harms the entry level worker because businesses will not pay a worker more than that work is worth to the business.  This is one of the reasons (along with prevailing wage laws) why unemployment is so much higher in the black communities.  The only reason they are not rioting and coming for politicians with pitchforks is because  these facts are being hidden from them by the liberal ideology that is force fed to them by a simpatico and compliant press.

These attacks on working people around the country illustrate the importance of our work here in California, where we want to protect and expand prevailing wages for workers. Here is some of what the Building Trades are doing. The hallmark bill for 2013 is Senate Bill 7, to make charter cities eligible for state funding for public works projects only if they pay prevailing wage. Charter cities may choose to exempt themselves from prevailing wage, and some do. This measure would provide a strong financial incentive for those cities to stop shortchanging working men and women with substandard wages.

 In other words the cities must tax their base for the extra wages that must be paid, not to mention the increased bureaucracy that must be maintained to enforce these laws.  Any way you look at it, it is not good for workers or tax payers.  It is only good for politicians, bureaucrats and unions.

 Speaking of charter cities, Senate Bill 311 requires that charter city conversion elections be held in a statewide general election, where voter participation is highest, in order to protect workers from the tactic of passing conversion measures in lower turnout municipal elections. For example, in the City of Bell’s charter election, fewer than 400 people voted out of a population of 40,000 and corrupt politicians padded their paychecks to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, while driving construction workers’ wages into the ground by removing prevailing wage.

This may or may not be good.  Certainly Bell’s politicians enriched themselves at the expense of the tax payers.  I would also say that this is peanuts compared to the enrichment of politicians and union officials statewide that continually have to raise taxes in order to pay for prevailing wages and the huge salaries of the union officials.  One also has to wonder what the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California is costing taxpayers to promote these anti-business measures. I suspect that Mr. Hunter’s salary is not under six figures for a job I consider is supernumerary.

We are also protecting prevailing wage with Senate Bill 776, to prevent anti-union contractors from defining sham labor compliance committees as a fringe benefit, which can then be deducted from workers’ wages as a portion

of the prevailing wage. The Associated Builders and Contractors, the anti-union group, have been using these deductions to fund themselves for their relentless drive to destroy construction unions.

The only reason these so called “anti-union” groups are there is to counter the relentless drive of politicians who are in the pocket of private and public unions, who extort or bribe politicians into giving wages and benefits by legislation and when the bill comes due threatening taxpayers with cuts in police or schools in order to exact another tax increase.

We are also seeking to ramp up prevailing wage enforcement with Assembly Bill 1336, to extend the statute of limitations for recovering lost wages due to prevailing wage violations from six months to 18 months. These companies cheat workers on prevailing wage in order to provide the lowest bid, undermining honest contractors who pay workers fairly and base their bids on efficiency.

Assembly Bill 1140 would ensure that construction workers earn the prevailing wage in effect at the time they perform their work, rather than when a contract went to bid, which may be many years earlier, when the prevailing wage was significantly lower.

We have found on projects that workers have gone years without a pay raise because of a loophole in state law that will be rectified by AB 1140. Senate Bill 615 ensures prevailing wage on the construction of health care facilities financed by certain types of public bond mechanisms, while Assembly Bill 26 requires that contractors that do work in refineries carry a workforce that has been trained and graduated in state-approved construction apprenticeship programs, and requires those workers be paid the prevailing wage for construction workers in the area.

Thus ensuring quality of work and the safety of the surrounding communities adjacent to these industrial facilities. With this broad, determined package of legislation, we hope to make a real and positive difference for California construction workers. We, all of the Building Trades, and each individual local union, fought hard to defeat

Proposition 32, which tried to silence our voice. We worked tirelessly to elect public officials that would listen to the concerns of everyday blue collar workers. When we compare these worthy actions with the sad developments in many other states, we see the clear benefits of our unity and activism, and the price Californians could pay if we ever fail to be vigilant, vigorous and united in our fight for a decent quality of  life.

See what I mean about an unfettered Democrat legislature?  California taxes will be going up substantially and businesses who can no longer stand the intrusion will find other states that are more business friendly (such as Kansas and Texas). 

Do you think these laws will ensure job security and make a positive difference for union workers and Californians in general?   Better take a look at the trajectory of California.  California is practically bankrupt now due to these sorts of practices.  It is a dwindling spiral where the tax payers are going to be squeezed more and more and where businesses will find more friendly places to move to.  The only ones who will not have to worry are the welfare recipients, politicians, and union workers with seniority, that is … until the California collapse.

For other reading on this subject see The Left Running Scared? and Statist Theory “Vice is Nice but (Political) Incest is Best”
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  1. Greg, your comments are right on target. Beth and I were just talking about how California was once truly the Golden State and it now is on a downward spiral that will leave it in the same state of wellness as Detroit. Detroit is on the leading edge of what America’s once great places will look like because of union attitudes such as these. Continue to fight the good fight, if nothing else we want to go down fighting for the future of our children and grandchildren.

  2. Thanks Ted. I always appreciate your comments!

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