Public Works Post-Election Update

There is great uncertainty as to what the full impact of the November election will be on working families across the country and on core federal policies that uphold wages and benefits.  

We should expect many legal battles over federal Davis Bacon prevailing wages in the coming administration.  Battles over state prevailing wages (sometimes referred to as “little Davis-Bacon acts”) may take place in various state houses across the country.  There is also concern about whether the infrastructure plan Trump proposes to Congress might preclude or limit prevailing wages.

On the judicial front, in late October, a federal court in Texas blocked implementation of the provisions of the Obama Administration’s Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order that would have required contractors with the federal government to disclose their labor law violations.  In addition, other executive orders relating to public works may be changed or repealed through executive action once the new administration takes office.

At the same time, the last few weeks have also seen significant victories at the state and local levels in California.

In Los Angeles, voters approved the Measure JJJ ballot initiative, also known as Build Better L.A., by an overwhelming 64%.  Measure JJJ includes, among other requirements, labor and affordable housing standards on all projects (including private projects) involving ten or more residential units that require certain discretionary changes to the City’s General Plan, zoning, or height requirements.  The labor standards include: requirements that all work be performed by licensed contractors, good faith local hiring and disadvantaged worker requirements, the payment of area standard wages, and skilled workforce requirements regarding journeypersons and apprentices.  The complete text of Measure JJJ is available here.

At the state level, a California federal district court recently upheld S.B. 54 (codified as Health and Safety Code section 25536.7) against a legal challenge brought by private contractors on constitutional and preemption grounds.  S.B. 54 states that California refineries must require their contractors and subcontractors to use a skilled and trained workforce, including but not limited to, skilled journeypersons paid at least a rate equivalent to the applicable prevailing hourly wage rate.  It is unknown at this time whether the contractors will appeal this ruling.

As the new administration enters in January, WRR will continue to monitor these and other developments closely.  We will fight alongside you to defend the victories won by those who preceded us in this movement and fight to win new victories that will build our movement.  Organize!

By Minsu Longiaru | December 8, 2016

Legal Developments