California schools have to pay the inflated “prevailing wage” for construction; a new law requires districts to spend more money auditing contractors books to make sure they’re paying enough. And the Legislature is planning to add a new burden, writes Daniel Weintraub in the Sacramento Bee.
The state is now considering new regulations that would expand the reach of the prevailing wage law. Under the new rules, the state-mandated wage rates would apply not only to work done on the construction site but to work done off-site if it is intended for the project.
Workers who assemble heating and cooling ducts in a warehouse and then ship them to the school site will have to be paid prevailing wage. And school district officials fear that modular classrooms built in factories also will be subject to the law. This means that the firms doing the work will have to pay their employees one wage for the public project and another for work done on private projects — and the school districts will have to look over their shoulder all the while.
One Sacramento-area school district, Elk Grove Unified, figures it’s already spending about $250,000 to monitor payroll records under the law passed last year, at the same time it is preparing to lay off teachers’ aides, janitors and other district personnel. If the proposed regulations take effect, they could drive up the cost of new schools by 6 percent, not counting the cost of hiring still more monitors to keep tabs on distant factories.
All this ensures that union workers make more than teachers.