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California Supreme Court Affirms State Prevailing Wage Requirements Do Not Apply to Charter Cities

July 2, 2012

Today, the California Supreme Court concluded that the state’s prevailing wage law does not apply to charter cities that exempt themselves from prevailing wage requirements for local public works projects.

 

In State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, AFL-CIO v. City of Vista, the Court reaffirmed that wage levels for locally funded public works are a “municipal affair” and not a “statewide concern” subject to state legislative control. Citing its decision 80 years before in City of Pasadena v. Charleville, the Court held that the city of Vista – as a charter city – was not required to pay prevailing wages in building two new city fire stations.

The electorate in the city of Vista had approved the city’s conversion to a charter city in 2007, before the city undertook the construction and renovation of several public buildings. Following the conversion, the city adopted an ordinance under which it was not required to pay prevailing wages for its local public works projects. The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, AFL-CIO filed a lawsuit when the contracts were approved, arguing the city was required to comply with the state’s prevailing wage law. The city argued that prevailing wage issues are not a statewide concern and that charter cities have the legal right to determine whether or not to require prevailing wages. The Supreme Court reaffirmed that charter cities are not subject to the state’s prevailing wage law and concluded that “no statewide concern has been presented justifying the state’s regulation of the wages that charter cities require their contractors to pay to workers hired to construct locally funded public works.”

The League filed an amicus brief in support of the city of Vista on the merits of this case.



 
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