Unions fight for prevailing wages in University Village.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Marina’s University Village has become a battleground for the payment of fair wages on Fort Ord construction projects. The developers of the 1,200-home mixed-use project are trying to bypass prevailing wage requirements by arguing that land sold to “third-party” developers is not subject to pay conditions. This would mean as much as 20 percent of the project would be exempt.
With a lawsuit ready to be served, an alliance of local unions is pushing for prevailing wages to be paid in all of University Village. The unions, which include the Monterey-Santa Cruz County Building and Construction Trades Council and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 234, also want the Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA) to put more regulatory teeth in its Master Resolution so it can uphold the wage requirement.
On Dec. 8 FORA’s board will likely strengthen the resolution so that the agency can review construction contracts and assure compliance with the wage policy. But this would only apply to future projects. It remains to be seen whether Kohl’s, Best Buy, hotel sites and a portion of the office park at University Village will be built by fairly-paid workers.
Already Target has changed course and plans to include a prevailing wage provision in its next bid.
The unions filed a lawsuit against Marina Community Partners (MCP), Target and the Marina Redevelopment Agency on Oct. 17 after Target put out a construction bid that didn’t contain prevailing wage requirements.
At issue is whether land that MCP sells to companies like Target is subject to the prevailing wage requirement in the City’s agreement and FORA’s Master Resolution. The lawsuit says the wage restriction was a factor in determining the sale price of $48 million. Since this was less than fair market price, the suit says University Village is a “public work” and prevailing wage is required under the state Labor Code.
Marina Mayor Ila Mettee-McCutchon says if “third-party” developers are exempt, 83 percent of the project would pay prevailing wage. “I’m thinking 83 percent is pretty darn good,” she says. “If the unions sue and delay this construction, who are they hurting? Their own workers.”
Councilman Dave McCall, however, says he’ll continue fighting for higher wages. McCall is a member of the Plumbers & Steamfitters Local Union 62.
“If there is a prevailing wage package, a lot workers will come from the tri-county area, most likely out of the union pool,” he says.
It appears city staff have already tried to silence McCall. The city attorney researched a possible conflict of interest with McCall participating in University Village settlement negotiations because he is a union member. But the plumbing supervisor says he’ll stay in the game.
|THE WEEKLY TALLY||6.7||
The number of middle school students per computer in Monterey County public schools, compared to 4.6 per computer statewide. Source: California Department of Education, Educational Demographics Office.