Saturday, June 6, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 14

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on April 10th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 6 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 20, Issue 6

County drafting an agreement emphasizing local workers


Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors directed county staff to begin developing a countywide community workforce agreement in an attempt to give preference to local workers for public projects, and create an apprenticeship program to increase the wages of low-income workers in the county.

Although county staff could not provide the board with the exact percentage of county projects completed by local and nonlocal workers, some county supervisors, such as 2nd District Supervisor Gregg Hart, said too much of the county’s contract work is completed by workers outside the area, which reduces the local economic benefits of the work completed.

“The central question of ‘why?’ comes back to the info that I’ve seen that says too much of this [contract] work is coming from out of the area,” Hart said. “That money is not staying in our area. That is the challenge.”

In a tight 3-2 vote at an April 9 meeting, supervisors directed staff to move forward with drafting an ordinance to govern the use of community workforce agreements on public projects. With the same vote, supervisors also asked the county’s general services and public works departments to negotiate a template of terms to be used in an agreement as a framework for future projects.

According to a presentation from Darcel Elliott, 1st District Supervisor Das Williams’ chief of staff, the community workforce agreement will act as a binding document between the county and local trade unions on a set of standards used for public projects. The agreement will also establish apprenticeship programs designed to attract low-income workers and provide them with the opportunity to earn a higher wage.
Hart said there is a sense of urgency for the county to create an agreement that can be used when hiring contractors for multiple upcoming capital projects, including about $24.6 million in renovations at the Santa Barbara County Main Jail.

Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam, who voted against the measure, said he doesn’t believe an agreement is necessary because the county’s current practice of awarding projects to the lowest responsible bidder creates a level playing field. He also requested that county staff provide the board with an exact percentage of how many public project contracts are awarded to local contractors and nonlocal contractors.

In addition to mixed support among county supervisors, 18 residents signed up to voice their opinion on the ordinance and provided the board with varied responses during public comment.

Local labor unions, such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 413, supported the creation of a workforce agreement program, while some local business owners voiced concern about potentially being passed over for county projects because they are not large enough to be affiliated with a labor union.

Although he voted against the measure, 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said he hopes people on both sides of the issue continue to communicate as the county moves forward with drafting an agreement.

“I would support a pilot program on a specific project—I want to see how it works here,” he said. “I understand it’s moving forward. I want it to work. I think it’s important that everybody has a voice. ... I hope everybody listens and we come up with a product that is inclusive.”

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