One of the most important priorities for California employers is to have qualified, experienced and well-prepared employees doing the best job they can. This is especially significant in the building of major projects in our communities – hospitals, highways, schools, senior housing and more.
As Californians witness an era of rapid community development and the need to repair our aging infrastructure, our legislature should be promoting policies that ensures we have the best equipped workforce to get the job done.
Sadly, Assembly Bill 3018 will ostensibly turn off the spigot of projects and job opportunities for thousands of hard-working family firms and the men and women employed by them.
Written by Assemblyman Evan Low of Campbell, AB 3018 would allow government to play politics with community construction projects.
Three years ago, the Legislature passed AB 566 requiring contractors on some projects to use a “skilled and trained workforce.” This policy decision was rightly justified at the time as “significantly raising the standards for contractors, increasing the quality of construction and protecting taxpayers and workers on construction projects.” The law was created to insure safe projects, safe workers and safe communities.
AB 3018, on the other hand, creates a political double standard. Many contractors and construction firms will still be required to adhere to the “skilled and trained” workforce requirement or face harsh penalties of from $5,000 to $10,000, but a number of projects will let some contractors off the hook. Entities entering into “Project Labor Agreements” – i.e., union contracts – are exempt from having to conduct regular compliance reporting, something that should concern every community.
Under this rule, key projects affecting our communities – such as schools, local agencies and even some housing – will not be held to a “skilled and trained workforce” standard.
“Allowing any contractor, whether union or non-union, to not follow required laws creates a skewed playing field and gives some contractors a potentially unfair advantage,” said Tori Stall, president of Modesto Executive Electric, which has 13 employees. “AB 3018 allows contractors the opportunity to use personnel that do not meet the ‘skilled and trained workforce’ requirements, which will certainly lower construction standards on public projects.”
It can be debated whether or not the “skilled and trained workforce” mandate was ever needed in the first place, but one thing that should be beyond debate is that all contractors, union and nonunion, should be treated the same when it comes to abiding by it. AB 3018 removes that requirement and lets some look the other way – and that is wrong.
If the state of California genuinely cares about raising standards for contractors, increasing the quality of construction and protecting taxpayers and workers, then a skilled workforce mandate should be a uniform standard for all projects.
Entering into Project Labor Agreements is a sly way to avoid maintaining the highest safety standards for those putting hammer to nail. Tragically, that is what will happen if AB 3018 passes.
Michele Daugherty is the president and CEO of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Northern California.