Western Electrical Contractors Association, Inc.

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Government Affairs and Merit Shop Advocacy

Friday, July 21, 2023

WECA California Member Contractors: Join WECA and the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association of California (CAPHCC) at the California State Capitol in Sacramento on August 16 for a joint legislative day. Spend the morning learning about relevant industry happenings at the California State Capitol in Sacramento. The day will begin by hobnobbing with political pundits, lawyers, and soothsayers before segueing to the 'swing space' of the Capitol (the temporary home of California state legislators while the aging Capitol Annex is being replaced) to visit with your Senator and Assemblymember and share your thoughts on some relevant bills awaiting final action. WECA and CAPHCC believe that constituent advocacy is an essential part of citizenship. Registration here.

State Legislature: The State Legislature is on its summer break and will return to Sacramento on August 14, just in time for the joint merit-shop legislative day on August 17 (sign up at the link above if you haven’t already registered). Before leaving, they complied by passing a State budget that included several environmental policy changes sought by Governor Newsom to speed up project delivery and reduce endless CEQA litigation used by unions and NIMBYs to slow or halt construction. One type of project NOT included in the CEQA bill was new home construction – a popular segment for union greenmail challenges.

PLA bills

  • SB 150 Requires the inclusion of community benefits in project labor agreements adopted by a state agency for projects of $35 million and above in construction costs. It defines community benefits to include local hire provisions, partnerships with high-road construction careers programs, and other methods to promote the employment of individuals from poor areas and veterans. This does not apply until 2026. (Signed)
  • AB 3 requires the California Energy Commission (CEC), by December 31, 2026, to develop a second-phase plan and strategy for seaport readiness that builds upon the recommendations and alternatives in the strategic plan for offshore wind (OSW) energy developments that is due to the Legislature by June 30, 2023. The CEC must consult with unions on PLAs to achieve workforce development and apprenticeship goals.
  • AB 439 extends a ten-year pilot program that allows the Los Angeles Unified School District to use job order procurement contracts to repair and renovate school buildings and grounds only if the LAUSD has entered into a project labor agreement or agreements for all its public works projects. Which, of course, it has.
  • AB 499 authorizes the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to use job order contracts (JOCs). Requires JOCs to be subject to the PLA between LA Metro and the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council or an amendment or extension of that agreement.
  • SB 4 Provides that affordable housing development is a use by right (i.e., not subject to CEQA or other discretionary review by the relevant city or county) on infill sites owned by a church or non-public college, notwithstanding any contrary local planning or zoning. Waives CPRs and DLSE enforcement under a PLA.
  • SB 284 “expands fair contracting requirements for IOUs while requiring a skilled and trained workforce to perform the work under prevailing wage law.” Section 5 of the bill permits IOUs to require contractors to execute multi-craft project labor agreements.
  • SB 394 Requires the California Energy Commission, in consultation with the California Department of Education, Division of the State Architect, Office of Public School Construction, and Natural Resources Agency, to facilitate an interagency process and stakeholder engagement to develop a Master Plan for Healthy, Sustainable, and Climate-Resilient Schools. The plan includes ‘recommendations to ensure that LEAs have access to sufficient technical assistance, professional learning, training programs, and sustainability and climate resilience personnel pipelines to implement decarbonization and adaptation plans that include high road labor standards, project labor agreements with unionized workforces…’
  • SB 423 Extends and expands by right approval of both affordable and market-rate multifamily housing projects under SB 35 (Wiener), of 2017, including extending the sunset from 2026 to 2036, relaxing specified construction labor requirements, expanding to parcels where parking is a permitted use, and removing the exclusion of the coastal zone. Waives CPRs and DLSE enforcement under a PLA.
  • SB 584 requires a PLA or STWF to build “Laborforce housing, " defined as public housing with a mixture of household income ranges at or below moderate income. It would be paid for by a new 15% fee collected from transient occupancy residential property owners - like AirBnB owners. The housing would be built by public agencies.
  • SB 617 Expands an existing authorization for local water agencies to use the progressive design-build method of project delivery for specified water projects to include transit and transportation agencies and any project. Requires the use of STWF unless they have a PLA.
  • SB 574 This bill prohibits a state agency from undertaking a major construction project, defined as a project that will exceed $35 million unless that project is subject to a project labor agreement (PLA) and that PLA includes a community benefit goal. (Two Year)
  • SB 706 Expands an existing authorization for local water agencies to use the progressive design-build method of project delivery for specified water projects to include any city, county or special district and any project. Requires the use of STWF unless they have a PLA.
  • SJR 5 urges the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to update its Uniform Guidance to explicitly allow states and localities to implement strong procurement standards that advance high-quality jobs and equitable hiring, including lifting the local hire prohibition on federally funded projects, and in so doing empower California lawmakers and agencies to create equitable infrastructure jobs that can strengthen our cities, counties, and the state. Makes findings that the Uniform Guidance has impeded the implementation of policies, including targeted hire provisions and project labor agreements.
Building Trades’ Housing Bill Stalls Senate Bill 584, a proposal to tax Airbnb and other short-term rentals to fund affordable housing projects, is dead for this legislative session. The State Building and Construction Trades Council-sponsored measure cleared the state Senate at the end of May with no votes to spare. Still, Sen. Monique Limón, the Santa Barbara Democrat who authored the bill, pulled it from consideration in the Assembly several weeks back, reports CalMatters. Her office said Limón did not have time to resolve a disagreement with the Assembly housing committee over wage and labor standards for projects that would be eligible for the grants. Limón intends to revive the measure next year, though it may include additional changes. Her office said the senator is exploring whether she could reduce the proposed 15% tax rate or exempt small operators while raising enough money to make the fund worthwhile. “While the bill is part of a desired and needed conversation about the impact short-term rentals have on our housing market,” Limón said in a statement, “it is clear this bill could benefit from more time to continue discussions at the state and local level to understand the underlying issues the legislative process has uncovered.”
He's Out! In a related story, after less than two years on the job, President Andrew Meredith will be replaced as State Building and Construction Trades Council president by Chris Hannan, who heads the Orange County and Los Angeles Council.
Unions, Once Again, Seek to Define Contractor’s Scope An new proposal surfaced at the recent Contractor State License Board meeting. The sprinkler fitters unions (under the umbrella of the Sprinkler Fitters Association of California) want to change the scope of work for Fire Protection Contractors (C-16). They proposed the following change, “A fire protection contractor lays out, fabricates and installs all types of fire protection systems and firefighter air replenishing systems; including all the equipment associated with these systems, excluding electrical alarm systems.” The petition states that “there is no current requirement as to who may install or repair a FARS in California, and the most qualified to install piping and system components that are placed in structures for life safety measures are C-16 Fire Protection Contractors.” The petition states that installing or repairing the FARS components needs to be more comprehensive to trust the work of unregulated installers or repairers. However, existing regulations defining the C-36 – Plumbing Contractor classification, in CCR Section 832.36, provides that work performed by licensed plumbers includes, in part, “[p]iping, storage tanks and venting for a safe and adequate supply of gases and liquids for any purpose, including vacuum, compressed air and gases for medical, dental, commercial and industrial uses,” which generally describes FARS technology. The staff report concluded, “It is therefore questionable to state that there are unregulated installers or repairers.” The Board rejected the proposal as lacking any justification for the amendment. Still, history suggests the fitter unions will be back with another proposed regulation at CSLB or the State Fire Marshall or possibly a bill to accomplish the exact change.

Chips, We Love Chips! Ariz. Sen. Mark Kelly introduced bipartisan legislation to spur domestic microchip manufacturing as part of a concerted effort to revitalize microchip manufacturing on American soil. Called the Building Chips in America Act, the proposed legislation aims to seize the opportunities created by the CHIPS and Science Act, attracting billions of dollars in domestic manufacturing investments and strengthening national security while upholding environmental safeguards. Story
Phoenix Breaks Record with Consecutive Days 110 Degrees or Higher Much of the Northern Hemisphere is experiencing withering high temperatures, which scientists warn are increasingly likely. When asked how hot it is, Arizona WECA boss Bob Bartlett said, “It’s so hot that I’m sweating like Krysten Sinema on election day.”

And Another Sinema Story The revelation that Sen. Sinema (I-AZ) had spent over $500,000 in campaign funds to a single security contractor—first reported by The Daily Beast in February—prompted campaign finance watchdogs to warn the arrangement raised “red flags” that Sinema should publicly explain. The Arizona senator never responded to questions about her unusually high outlays to TOA Group, an LLC owned by Vrindavan Bellord, the sister of her former ally and colleague Tulsi Gabbard. But Sinema’s latest federal campaign finance filing offers a clear answer to whether the senator has reconsidered her security arrangement or her obligation to be more transparent about it. Story
And the final Sinema Story this Week, Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.), famous for his role as self-appointed chair of the Bagel Caucus, is headlining an event for the Replace Sinema PAC, an organization dedicated to defeating Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.). Goldman is one of four members of Congress to endorse Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), along with former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Seth Moulton (D-Mass.). [Punchbowl]

California Court Clarifies Employer’s Obligation to Reimburse Expenses. On July 11, 2023, the California Court of Appeal in Thai v. IBM held that whether an employer is obligated to reimburse expenses incurred by an employee working from home turns on whether the expenses were a direct consequence of the discharge of the employee’s job duties, not on whether the employer directly caused the expenses. This case is important for all employers whose workforce suddenly began working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic and employers who continue to permit employees to work from home today. Story
OFCCP Publishes CSAL for Construction Contractors In June 2023, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) published a new Corporate Scheduling Announcement List (CSAL) for construction contractors. The latest CSAL identifies 250 federal contractors, federally assisted contractors, and federally assisted subcontractors for compliance evaluations. While the agency is not required to publish the CSAL, it serves as a “courtesy notification” to contractors selected by the OFCCP for a compliance evaluation. According to the OFCCP, the CSAL provides contractors with notice to prepare for the compliance evaluation and encourages them to take advantage of the agency’s compliance assistance offerings.