Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Protects Prevailing Wage for Ready-Mix Drivers
Kara DenizEmail: [email protected] Phone: (202) 624-6911
(SAN FRANCISCO) – After more than two years of legal battles, Teamsters Joint Council 7 is commending the recent decision by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the constitutionality of Assembly Bill 219 (A.B. 219), which amends section §1720.9 of the California labor code to include ready-mix concrete truck drivers to the types of workers protected by prevailing wage laws for public works projects.
“The court made the right decision in upholding the prevailing wage for ready-mix drivers,” Teamsters Local 853 Recording Secretary and Construction Division Director Stu Helfer said. “Everyone said it would be an uphill fight, but we don’t shy away from those battles. California is headed in the right direction on prevailing wage legislation and the rest of the country needs to follow our lead.”
In addition to successfully lobbying the California Legislature to pass A.B. 219, the Teamsters assisted the State of California’s legal defense of A.B. 219 by filing a motion to be named as a defendant in the lawsuit. The plaintiffs, a group of ready-mix concrete suppliers, asserted that A.B. 219 violated the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (“FAAAA”), a law that prohibiting states from enacting or enforcing policies related to the price, route or service of motor carriers. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the Teamsters a motion to intervene on behalf of the state and affirmed the lower court’s decision to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claim on the grounds that the FAAAA didn’t apply to prevailing wage laws.
The Ninth Circuit also reversed the lower court’s decision invalidating A.B. 219 as unconstitutional on equal protection grounds because the California Legislature had expanded coverage for ready-mix drivers under prevailing wage law but did not do the same for other types of drivers, such as asphalt drivers.
In finding that the California law was constitutional, Judge A. Wallace Tashima, writing on behalf of the Ninth Circuit panel reviewing the case, found that the state legislature had acted fully within its rights.
“Ready-mix drivers use specialized trucks, with a rotating mixing drum, whereas asphalt drivers use dump trucks,” Tashima said. “Ready-mix drivers can change the consistency of their load by adding water to the mixture or altering the speed of rotation of the drum. Further, ready-mix drivers require more training than asphalt drivers and must carry a different driver’s license endorsement than asphalt drivers.”
Juan Perales is a ready-mix driver and Teamsters Local 166 shop steward from San Diego. He emphasized that ready-mix driving is a skilled trade that demands the prevailing wage guaranteed by section §1720.9 of the California labor code.
“Driving on the freeway isn’t the hard part of the job when you’re a mixer driver,” Perales said. “Once you get to a specialty job, though, that’s where our years of experience come into play. Having to back down a hill in the middle of the night, knowing the consistency of the concrete that the customer wants, when they want it, what temperature they want it at, we have to know all that. It’s not a job that just anybody can do.”
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit www.teamster.org for more information. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teamsters.