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Four local cities — Carlsbad, El Cajon, Oceanside, and Vista — joined Fresno and El Centro last week in challenging the constitutionality of several laws regarding labor rates paid on public works projects.

All six cities are challenging Senate Bill 7, signed into law last October, which bars state funding from being used on most projects in charter cities, which enjoy a greater autonomy than those organized under state law, if city-hired contractors are permitted to pay workers less than union scale, or "prevailing wage."

Oceanside is also challenging the legality of Senate Bills 829 and 922, both of which bar state funding of projects in municipalities where the consideration of project labor agreements is banned. Such agreements are a favored tool of unions and are generally used to set wages and budgets for large-scale projects, such as the controversial agreement to expand the convention center downtown.

The six plaintiff cities argue that the state laws "interfere with the exercise of direct democracy retained by the electorate." All of the local plaintiffs, in passing their charter-city-status referendums, included provisions striking down state prevailing-wage laws, as have non-plaintiff cities San Diego and San Marcos.

Plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment and writ of mandate requiring the state to stop enforcing the prevailing wage and project labor agreement components of state law.

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