Who Will Build the New Jail?

Deal Falls Apart to Ensure Local Builders Get Hired

A laboriously wrangled deal to make sure that area building and trades workers got hired to build the new $70 million North County Jail and to ensure labor peace during construction practically fell apart at the seams at this week’s county supervisors meeting. The deal — hammered out over six weeks of hard-fought negotiations between unions and private contractor groups — was widely denounced by employer groups as a giveaway to unions and only tepidly embraced by most of the labor unions involved. Supervisor Salud Carbajal moved to postpone the final vote until next week and managed to secure a slim 3-2 victory at that.

For such compacts — dubbed Project Stabilization Agreements (PSA) — to succeed, they need all the labor groups to sign on. In this instance, one major union is still holding out despite intense pressure from other trade groups. Some contractors noted there have been no major strikes in Santa Barbara since the 1960s and that the threat to labor peace that the PSA was to address is nonexistent. The building unions are most interested in securing jobs for their members; their leaders complained how out-of-town construction companies too often snag all the major construction contracts. Contractor organizations countered that 85 percent of Santa Barbara contracting companies are nonunion and objected that the lure of area jobs promised by the PSA is a myth. For nonunion contractors to successfully bid, they complained, they’ll be allowed to use no more than six of their own employees; the rest will have to be union crews, farmed in from out of town if need be.

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