Norcal PTACNorthern California Procurement Technical Assistance Center

Ask Ed | Do I need to Worry About Prevailing Wage?

A Monthly Public Works Column By Ed Duarte, Construction & Public Works Specialist.


I’m a non-union contractor – do I need to worry about prevailing wage?

In California, it is a given fact that most construction workers in the private residential sector are not unionized. So, when non-union contractors decide they want to start bidding on public works projects, their biggest surprise is always the cost of labor.

Any and every contractor who is working on a public works project in California must pay their tradespeople what is called “prevailing wage”.  It is a defined package  of wage and fringe benefits that in California’s case, is a rubber stamp of the nearest applicable union contract. The Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) publishes these rates on their website, so the information is readily available.

The second issue that confronts new contractors bidding on public works is the requirement that all workers must be paid by the hour.  “Piece Work” payments are strictly prohibited and the fines and penalties for violating this requirement are severe.

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This procurement technical assistance center is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the Defense Logistics Agency.

Funded in part through a Grant with the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.