There are lots of rosy statistics which claim that construction workers in California are among the highest paid in the United States. This claim is at best misleading and masks a seismic shift in the compensation for construction workers nationally and in California in particular. In 1973 the national hourly average wage for construction workers was $31.84 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of 2016 the rate had fallen to $25.97 adjusted for inflation.
Benefits and Working Conditions
As contractors seek to cut costs there have been reductions in pay and an increase in corners cut. The California Department of Industrial Relations Through the Labor Enforcement Task Force (LETF) enforces labor laws. In 2018 it fined contractors over two million dollars for violations. A LETF report lists frequent problems with contractors for:
- Not having a contractor’s license, or hiring unlicensed subcontractors
- Misclassifying employees as independent contractors.
- Not paying workers the wages they are owed
- Not allowing rest or meal breaks
- Paying a piece rate or other nonhourly rate that does not meet minimum-wage
- Not giving pay stubs or not paying payroll tax.
- Not providing the equipment, tools or protective clothing that workers need
- Lacking a proper safety plan
- Poor records of training.
- Not having a first-aid kit.
- Not having workers’ compensation insurance or not insuring all employees.
The housing crisis in California has brought attention to the need to attract and retain construction works as part of any solution. There is hope on the horizon for improving pay, training, health care and retirement benefits for construction workers. Stay tuned for updates!