Days after the end of the legislative session, political observers wonder whether a bitter unresolved battle over labor standards means the end of California’s most ambitious proposal to solve the house price crisis. I am asking myself again.
A 2011 congressional bill that could unlock residential commercial real estate and lead to more than a million apartments statewide has divided the organized workforce.
Affordable housing developers, state carpenters unions and even the largest labor unions representing teachers and health care workers support the bill, but the formidable Building and Construction Industry Council and the larger It faces fierce opposition from the California Labor Union, a council commonly known as the Trades, which represents 450,000 workers in nearly every other construction industry.
Over the past few years, the battle over labor standards has marked the untimely death of housing costs. But since carpenters and several non-construction worker groups have joined hands with developers, the bill has overcome legislative hurdles that previous bills have not been able to. To prevent lawmakers from having to choose between alienating a strong labor union and building much-needed housing in a historic crisis by Thursday, the last day to amend it. It is necessary to come up with a compromise between
The Carpenters and Trade took part in multiple Zoom meetings in recent weeks to work out a compromise at the request of Senate leadership led by Majority Leader Mike McGuire, according to people at the negotiating table. . McGuire’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
But as the clock ticks, the group is far from resolved.
“Sen. McGuire is the most patient person in the California Senate,” said Trade legislative director Erin Lehane. “We have compromised on some, if not many, things and are waiting to see if our sponsors are willing to do the same. He takes two.”
At the heart of the debate is the lack of at least 100,000 construction workers to build the millions of homes California needs. The group is divided on how to expand the labor pool. Trade is seeking language that part of the workforce for these projects must be graduates of an apprenticeship program. This effectively means union membership. The Carpenters believe that only a minority of homebuilders are unionized and rather than wait years for more unions to join, the legislation will provide more incentives to enforce existing labor laws. They should only demand higher wages, health benefits and tools.
Danny Curtin, president of the California Chamber of Carpenters, said: “It’s a very brave effort to find political common ground, but when there are two mutually exclusive positions in the market, it’s hard to do it. is difficult.
Oakland MP Buffy Wicks, who wrote the bill and heads the Council Housing Committee, said he was confident in the working language already in the bill.
“This is not a labor war. This is a fight to solve the housing crisis,” Wicks said. “I want to keep trying to reach agreement and I will do everything I can to get there. But if we don’t reach agreement, many of my colleagues I’ve spoken to in the Senate will vote to resolve the issue. I am ready to support you.”
To further complicate things, Wickes’ bill isn’t the only major housing bill that allows housing on commercial land. Senator Bill 6, introduced last year by Sen. Anna Caballero of the Salinas Democratic Party, also makes it easier to build homes on commercial roads currently reserved for parking lots, offices and retail stores. But like his Wicks bill that developers can build if they only tick all the boxes, the process remains discretionary rather than justified. This means that local governments can hold regular public hearings to determine if a project is a good fit for their community, but without the cumbersome process of changing land designations from commercial to residential.
Both bills are running in parallel. Caballero has the help of Wicks and vice versa. It’s very different from what happened last year.
“I’ll be frank with you,” Caballero said. “This is not just a battle between the Chamber of Commerce, but also between Congress and the Senate. Congress has put our bill on hold and has not tried to broker a compromise. ”
Another important difference between the bills is that Mr. Caballero’s bill includes the working language that Trades proposed from the beginning. If the two groups find a compromise, it is unclear whether both bills will reflect it.
Scott Wetch, a lobbyist against the bill who represents about 150,000 electrical workers, plumbers and sheet metal workers in the industry, is not optimistic about a deal. With dozens of lawmakers leaving Congress this year, voting dynamics are much more unpredictable than in previous years.
According to CalMatters’ analysis of the 2022 election so far, state and local chambers of commerce donated $1.5 million to political candidates, and carpenter groups contributed $1.3 million.
“Unfortunately, I think it’s going to be a huge, huge proceeding in the Senate,” Wech said.