A 2001 interpretation of California law prohibits volunteers from clearing stream beds, or doing any other unpaid work on a public project, writes Daniel Weintraub in the Sacramento Bee. Everyone is supposed to get the “prevailing” union wage, whether they want it or not.
The issue first surfaced in Redding, where some college students got class credit instead of pay when they helped a local group clear a brush-choked streambed. A union rep complained, and the state responded by fining the nonprofit group involved for violations of labor laws.
Now it turns out that creek restoration projects up and down the state are on hold because many of them rely on grants that, the state says, require them to pay everyone who works on the project a wage set by state regulators. No volunteering allowed.
And this might not end with streambeds. Redding is also struggling with the labor bureaucracy in its effort to build a new city park, in part with volunteer help. A member of a Sonoma County library advisory board tells me that his group fears local Rotary Club members won’t be allowed to landscape the library’s grounds. And it’s possible that groups such as Habitat for Humanity, which use volunteer labor to build homes for the poor, could be swept up by the same regulation.
In Oakland, a new labor contract pushed up costs for a school rehab from $1.8 million to $2.2 million, write columnists Matier and Ross in the San Francisco Chronicle.