Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) commended a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California seeking declarative and injunctive relief against an unnecessary and discriminatory new statute (S.B. 54) recently enacted in the California Legislature. SB 54 is special interest legislation that would force private refineries in California to award construction and maintenance work predominately to contractors who sign contracts with Building Trades unions.  

The challenged law would threaten the jobs of many highly qualified refinery and petrochemical manufacturing workers who currently belong to non-Building Trades unions or who do not belong to any union. Among other requirements, S.B. 54 requires contractors to employ significant percentages of workers who meet “skills and training” criteria that can only be met by employees who are enrolled in or graduated from a building and construction trade apprenticeship program. The new law also forces contractors to pay prevailing wage and benefit rates on private projects that are based overwhelmingly on the building trades’ wage scales.

“Many of the highly skilled craft professionals already performing work on these projects are nonunion workers trained through non-registered craft training programs, are signatory to non-Building Trades unions such as the United Steelworkers union (USW), or are trained through non-building trades registered apprenticeship programs,” said ABC Senior Manager of State and Local Affairs Andy Conlin. 

“This new statute is clearly an attempt by the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California to grab all of the work on private refinery and other petrochemical manufacturing projects,” Conlin said. “We believe SB 54 unlawfully interferes with private sector labor relations in ways that are preempted by the National Labor Relations Act and other labor laws and also discriminates against workers and contractors from outside the state. The complaint asks the federal court to declare the new law unconstitutional, and we hope the courts will take quick action to strike it down and protect these jobs.”