California Energy Modernization, Proposition 39 and Prevailing Wage: What You Need to Know

March 25, 2020

Electrician Working on Retrofit

Many California energy modernization projects are state funded  and must follow prevailing wage law. These projects improve efficiency in K-12 schools, colleges and universities and are the direct result of popular support for Proposition 39: the California Clean Energy Jobs Act.

California Clean Energy Jobs Impact

Passed in 2010, proposition 39 allocates up to $550 million per year for five years for energy efficiency and clean energy projects in California’s public schools, community colleges, universities and other public facilities. Prop 39 also provides funding for workforce training in energy efficiency and clean energy jobs.

As part of the execution of Proposition 39 schools and universities have awarded millions of dollars in funding for public works projects to modernize and update the lighting, air-conditioning and heating systems.

Relationship to Prevailing Wage

Clean Energy Jobs projects that are paid for by public funds meet the requirements of public works. As a result, these projects require the payment of the California Prevailing Wage rate set by the Department of Industrial Relations or DIR.

The prevailing wage rate is the basic hourly rate paid on public works projects to a majority of workers engaged in a particular craft, classification or type of work within the locality and in the nearest labor market area usually identified by California counties.

California Energy Projects through Proposition 39

The work performed as part of the Proposition 39 projects include the replacement of fluorescent ballast fixtures with LED fixtures. The process of replacing these fixtures requires the workers to identify the source power, turn off the power and then use a lock out tag out procedure for safety. After power is confirmed off the workers removed each fixture from ceiling and replaced it with a new LED fixture. The new fixtures were then be wired into place with the worker ensuring that the new wiring does not cause a back feed or voltage change that could affect the current or the fixture systems down the line. These tasks and duties, if properly classified, are classified under the Prevailing Wage Law as the work of an Inside Wireman.

Examples of projects for which the California Legislature appropriated funds include:

  • $1.37 billion to local education agencies (LEAs) for energy efficiency and clean energy projects. Amounts received by local school districts vary based on a formula of average daily attendance and the number of students eligible to receive free and reduced-priced meals in the prior year.
  • $174 million to California community college districts for energy efficiency and clean energy projects.
  • $12 million to the California Workforce Development Board, formally known as the California Workforce Investment Board, to develop and implement a competitive grant program for eligible workforce training organizations to prepare disadvantaged youth, veterans, and others for employment in clean energy fields.
  • $20.9 million to the California Conservation Corps to perform energy surveys and other energy conservation- related activities.
  • $50.4 million to the Energy Commission’s Energy Conservation Assistance Act-Education (ECAA-Ed), a no- interest revolving loan program for LEAs.
  • $5.6 million to the Energy Commission Bright School’s program for energy audits and other technical assistance for LEAs.

Prevailing Wage Job Creation

According to a study done by the UC Berkeley Labor center, the bill created an additional 8,702 direct jobs, 2/3 of that number being skilled construction trade occupation. They were able to estimate the number of statewide school maintenance and operations jobs including 334 electricians or inside wiremen, 279 carpenters, 281 plumbers and over 6,000 maintenance workers.

If you have worked on projects funded by Prop 39 doing the work of a Laborer, Inside Wireman, Material Handler or other Construction position and / or participated in School modernization and energy efficient programs and not been paid the California Prevailing Wage rates set by the department of industrial relations, a Prevailing Wage attorney may be able to assist you in recovering the wages that may be owed.

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