A city proposal to prioritize the hiring of local unionized workers for capital construction projects ran headlong into a wall of resistance Tuesday as the council’s Ordinance Committee, siding with a long line of vociferous critics, voted 2-1 against adoption. The vote, however, is merely a recommendation to the whole council, where a majority of members have expressed their support and will have the final vote. The proposal was put forward last month by Councilmember Gregg Hart, who is eager to see the ordinance approved before he transitions to the county Board of Supervisors in January.
While a number of union representatives explained to the committee how a Community Workforce Agreement would ensure quality craftsmanship by a Santa Barbara–based workforce, detractors — including state contractor associations and the city’s most prominent builders — called the ordinance unnecessary, discriminatory, and insulting. Hart has insisted the only way to ensure high-caliber construction is to hire through union shops. In their vote against the proposal, councilmembers Randy Rowse and Kristen Sneddon said the city’s current system for awarding public works projects works just fine and nonunion contractors shouldn’t be boxed out of the bidding process. “I don’t feel it’s for me to say which type of worker we should be giving preferential treatment to,” said Sneddon. Added Rowse: “We don’t need an extra layer added to the already onerous process to get things built around here.”