As this column is being written, attorneys for the State Building &
Construction Trades Council are in San Francisco Superior Court defending
prevailing wages on low-income housing projects against attacks by the
Schwarzenegger administration and its labor-bashing friends.
This latest legal attack on prevailing wages was triggered by an
administrative ruling by Gov. Schwarzenegger’s director of industrial
relations. It’s the latest example of the anti-wage-earner bias that
saturates the brains of Schwarzenegger and President George “Dubya” Bush,
just like wood alcohol does.
And like wood alcohol, it makes both of them blind to the needs of working
men and women.
Last year, Dubya unleashed an attack on prevailing wages when he tried to
suspend the payment of prevailing wages to construction workers in four Gulf
states devastated by Hurricane Katrina. It was only after heavy public
opposition to the prevailing-wage suspension, led by California Congressman
George Miller, D-Concord, that Dubya caved and rescinded his order. Even
after Dubya’s defeat, Arnold carried the wage-cut flag to California.
His opposition to prevailing wages for construction workers also puts Arnold
in the same “to hell with working people” category as one of his favorite
predecessors, Pete Wilson. For those who weren’t around between 1995 and
1998, Wilson conducted a long war to destroy prevailing wages and to lower
the wages of the skilled craftsmen and women of the building trades to
There’s a lot of other similarities between Arnold and his mentor, Dubya.
The minimum wage is another example. In California, the minimum wage is
$6.75, lagging behind four other western states. And Arnold, who likes to
pretend he’s a working person’s friend, has vetoed a minimum-wage increase
bill each of the last two years.
Right now, bills are pending in the Assembly and the Senate to raise the
minimum wage to $7.75 and to index the wage to inflation. Well, guess what?
Arnold doesn’t like indexing because his wealthy contributors in the
business world want to stretch their profit margins, so he’s trying to offer
working persons half a loaf by asking the Industrial Welfare Commission to
raise the minimum wage, but refuses to index it.
In Washington, House Democrats are trying to bring a national minimum-wage
bill to the floor, but Dubya’s allies have blocked it repeatedly–another
case of Arnold and Dubya acting as if they were joined at the hip.
Workers’ compensation is handled at the state level, but if you look at
Arnold’s workers’ comp record and Bush’s record on worker safety and health,
you’ll find that neither one of them gives a rip about the folks who want to
stay healthy and safe on the job and get fair compensation if they get hurt.
In April 2004, when Arnold signed what he said was a workers’ comp “reform”
bill, he said: “Throughout the reform, the most important thing for us was
putting workers first.