The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to use the City of Santa Barbara as a model for a possible countywide Community Workforce Agreement (CWA).
“This is about us as a community having a desperate mission to protect what’s left of our middle class,” said Supervisor Das Williams.
In July, the Santa Barbara City Council approved a CWA for all city projects costing $5 million or more.
A CWA would allow the city and county to embark on larger construction projects with a collective bargaining agreement already in place. Essentially, terms such as wages, benefits, and management would already be established.
Scott McGolpin, director of Public Works for Santa Barbara County, said the county has never used a CWA.
A concern present in every discussion around a mandated CWA is that local contractors and subcontractors would be excluded from participating in large municipal projects. Similar concerns were raised in the Board of Supervisors meeting.
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“I see no reason why we’re going to discriminate against folks we currently do business with,” said Supervisor Steve Lavagnino. “[They] are doing an outstanding job and have a lot of local people working for them.”
The projects that would require a CWA are specialized construction projects such as hospitals, water treatment facilities, and jails.
“[CWA] are not for every project,” said Supervisor Joan Hartmann. “They’re for complex, specialized, really high-value projects, and I think we need to keep that in mind.”
The North County Jail in Santa Maria was a project often referenced as an example of a specialized project.
Supervisors Williams and Bob Nelson both voiced concerns with recent larger construction projects, such as the jail, going to non-local contractors.
“We just do not have the local workforce to provide the volume of specialized labor it requires,” said Patrick Zuroske, assistant director of capital projects for the County of Santa Barbara. “The jail itself requires a lot of specialty contractors to be imported.”
The board ultimately decided to use the City of Santa Barbara as a template for negotiating a CWA for the county and return to the topic at a later date. The motion passed 3-2, with supervisors Nelson and Lavagnino casting the dissenting votes.