Commentary: 'Prevailing wages' not relevant to charter debate

Re "Commentary: I provoked 'near riot' at council meeting," Feb. 18:

Kevin Dayton wrote a letter in the Daily Pilot promoting himself as a principal with the self-styled Dayton Policy Institute in Sacramento. He professes to be some kind of authority on "prevailing wages." It takes only 30 seconds on Google to find out that Dayton is vice president of government affairs (euphemism for lobbyist) for the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), a trade association of "non-union" construction contractors.

He used this letter specifically to demonize unions and deliberately misinform the public. What was a lobbyist for non-union construction contractors doing at a special City Council special meeting on making Costa Mesa a charter city? Why was he given a forum to espouse his virulent non-union views, with no time limit? Why was his real identity deliberately camouflaged by the council?

I have spent 40 years successfully managing large construction companies using union labor, exclusively. These "union" construction companies work through the highly respected Associated General Contractors of America, a national construction industry organization (AGC), to bargain in good faith with the construction trade unions.

I have the highest respect for the skills, productivity, integrity and patriotism of construction trade unions. They earn every penny of their wages, health benefits and retirement through hard, back-breaking work. The wages and benefits negotiated by the AGC with the trade unions generally set the standard for "prevailing wages" in California for construction projects financed in whole or in part by the feds or by the state.

I fail to see the relevance of "prevailing wages" as an issue in the debate regarding Costa Mesa becoming a charter city. City employee salaries and benefits are not affected by "prevailing wage" laws, but by contracts negotiated by the city and the relevant employee unions, where applicable.

It is clear that the sole purpose of Dayton's exalted presence, with no time limit at this special meeting, was a shameful ploy by the council to break the unions, as an end in itself.

Sadly, destroying unions destroys our middle class and weakens our nation with an inevitable race to the bottom. We have been watching this scenario unfold over the past 30 years. It is time for all Americans to say enough is enough.

JAMSHED DASTUR is a Newport Beach resident.

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