Opinion

Build more affordable housing, but don't stiff construction workers in the process

To the editor: Your editorial is wrong to suggest that removing the requirement in SB 35 that workers be paid the prevailing wage — the common wage paid to construction workers in any given area — will somehow ease the affordable housing crisis in California. Instead, it would help drive more than 400,000 construction workers and their families out of the shrinking blue-collar middle class. Try supporting a family of four in California on a residential construction worker’s average pay of around $42,000 on prevailing wage projects. (“Affordable housing at an impasse,” editorial, July 22)

Removing the prevailing wage mandate would force the families of plumbers, carpenters and other construction workers to compete in the underground economy where developers hire workers from street corners and pay no state or federal tax, no Social Security, no Medicare and of course no benefits. We cannot obtain affordable housing by driving millions more Californians into poverty.

Labor makes up about 15% of the total cost of any given prevailing wage residential project. Construction workers are not driving the housing shortage. The real culprit is the greed of developers and speculators. We see no editorials to curtail their massive profits.

Does anyone really believe that the money saved from restricting construction workers’ pay will wind up anywhere other than in developers’ pockets?

Robbie Hunter, Sacramento

The writer is president of the State Building Construction and Trades Council of California.

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