"Breaking news alert! Wages fell at the fastest rate ever recorded during the first quarter of this year, the government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics
"Hourly wages fell 3.8 percent in the first quarter, the biggest drop since the BLS began tracking compensation in 1947. Productivity rose half a percentage point. The result was that what economists call “labor unit costs” fell 4.3 percent.
"In plain English, that means paychecks overall shrank, but work output grew. If you are a business owner, that is news worthy of a toast with a bottle of the finest Cristal champagne, which at $595 is more than the $518 that a median-wage worker earns in a week…" -- David Cay Johnson, Nationalmemo.com, June 20, 2013
Merced Mayor Stan “Bully Boy” Thurston, emitted a truculent whine on behalf of the sacred authority of “charter cities” like Merced against being compelled by the State of California to pay prevailing wages on public works projects involving state funds. The bill is co-sponsored by state Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, a member of Bully Boy Thurston’s own party. Neither the elusive Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, or the Condits that surround him had anything to say about it.
Thurston’s belligerence against working people raises questions. The disastrous economy we presently inhabit is the result of a global credit freeze caused by the global fraud in home mortgages and financial instruments whose value is secured by them. The Fed is still buying billions a month in this financial trash to keep the Wall Street banksters afloat. This massive fraud was aided and abetted every step of the way by the local finance, insurance and real estate special interests that funded a large campaign to elect Bully Boy Thurston to quell the rising tide of effective grassroots organization of the homeless, renters and the foreclosed-upon communities.
For those into the absurd contradictions of American political parties, here we have Thurston, formerly a moderate Republican, who is now the tool of a handful of local plutocrats, opposing the bill of Republican Cannella, whose father was a Democratic Party assemblyman and lifelong union activist, whose career was ended by a deal between corrupt local labor officials and former Rep. Gary Condit to deny Cannella the support he deserved so that a Republican, Dick Monteith, could win a state Senate seat and be an absolute, 100-percent enthusiastic “Mr. UC Merced” in the state Legislature at a time when rational opinion in the Capitol was critical of the project and contemptuous of the lies being told in public to push the boondoggle through.
One question Bully Boy Thurston’s comments raise is: Why do we continue to tolerate this charade called politics in the valley? These local newspaper articles, which get the quotes right but have no human perspective at all, read like comic books, complete with the Bully Boy going “POW!!!!” “BAM!!!” and “ZAP!!!!”
Another question is: Why do we have local governments almost as hostile to their working people as they are to their un-working people and their un-sheltered people?
The Merced economy collapsed six years ago and is now stagnant, wages are falling, unemployment is rising, and people are becoming more desperate. The grand plan to cheat the poor with fraudulent mortgages worked out for very few people, but they are still in charge. They only ever had one move: cheat working people. With them it is a reflex like other bodily functions. But as the city follows these great leaders down the road to bankruptcy, they become more frightened of their creditors and more eager to impose austerity on future employees of public works projects within the corporate limits of the City of Merced for which the state is paying a portion of the costs. Rather than undercutting local, charter-city authority, as Bully Boy claims, it seems to us that the mayor is trying to undercut the authority of the state providing the funds. Oh well.
Badlands Journal editorial board
Merced mayor, other officials gather in Modesto to protest prevailing wage bill…KEVIN VALINE, email@example.com
MODESTO— Merced's mayor joined other Central Valley officials Monday in Modesto to protest a state Senate bill some say would punish Merced and other charter cities by making them pay more for public works projects and undermine their authority.
Senate Bill 7 would prevent a charter city from receiving state money for construction projects unless that city pays what is called the prevailing wage to workers on all construction or public works projects.
The prevailing wage is set by the state Department of Industrial Relations. Modesto, for example, has contractors pay the prevailing wage on projects funded by the state or federal government. But it does not require contractors to pay the prevailing wage on projects funded by the city, such as park and building maintenance.
Not paying the prevailing wage saves charter cities money and lets them stretch their dollars further. Supporters of the Senate bill say it creates well-paying, middle-class construction jobs, provides cities with well-trained construction workers and closes a loophole that has let charter cities not pay prevailing wages for all projects.
State Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, joined Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, in introducing the bill in February.
About a quarter of California's 480 cities are charter cities like Merced; the rest are what are known as general law cities. Charter cities have more flexibility and control over how they govern themselves. Fewer than half of the charter cities do not pay prevailing wages on city-funded projects.
The valley officials who gathered at a Monday morning news conference in front of Tenth Street Place in Modesto said the Senate bill erodes local control, drives up costs and is another example of overreach by the state.
"This bills needs to be defeated," said Modesto Councilwoman Stephanie Burnside, who was joined by Stanislaus County Supervisor Jim DeMartini, Merced Mayor Stan Thurston and other officials.
The state Senate has approved the bill, which is scheduled to be heard Wednesday by the state Assembly's Labor Committee, said Stephen Qualls, regional public affairs manager at the League of California Cities. The league opposes the bill.
About a dozen Modesto city officials attended the news conference. About 40 union members and their supporters attended to show their support of the bill. The union members represented several construction trades, such as heavy equipment operators, laborers, electricians and carpenters.
Modesto resident Tom Aja, a retired heavy equipment operator and union official, said the prevailing wage provided him and his family with a middle-class life and a secure retirement.
Information on how much it would cost Modesto to pay the prevailing wage for city-funded projects was not available. But Qualls said studies have shown prevailing wages are 10 percent to 30 percent higher than nonprevailing wages.
The Department of Industrial Relations sets prevailing wages twice a year. The wages are based on what the majority of construction workers in a particular trade earn within a geographic area. For instance, the prevailing wages for Northern San Joaquin Valley construction workers generally are not based on what their counterparts earn in the Bay Area.
A journeyman carpenter in the valley earns $31.27 per hour and a journeyman drywall installer earns $31.77, according to the Department of Industrial Relations' website.