County of Santa Cruz
County of Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz County First District Supervisor Manu Koenig, in collaboration with Fourth District Supervisor Felipe Hernandez, urged an operational review of how County Public Works projects are awarded to ensure that the contractors selected pay their workers fairly and complete projects on time.

The Dec. 12 motion was a response to concerns that at least one recent project was awarded to a bidder with a history of labor law violations, while another project has seen significant delays due to a work stoppage. The motion also directed county staff to investigate using Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) in the future.

The Board of Supervisors approved the proposal, directing the CAO’s Office to conduct a review of the County’s process. Under state law, a public entity must award a contract to the lowest responsive and responsible bidder. It’s how the County checks for “responsibility” that will receive a closer look.

“Our budget is under a lot of stress due to all of the storm damage repairs, but we can’t cut costs by hiring irresponsible contractors that shortchange workers,” Koenig said. “We need opportunities to expand local hiring and free on-the-job training. Project Labor Agreements offer an opportunity to do just that and deserve further investigation.”

PLAs are a tool counties ranging from Alameda to Santa Barbara have utilized to address these issues. Last month’s direction asked staff to return with specific projects that could benefit from a PLA and begin discussions with the Building and Construction Trades on an overarching PLA for all county projects.

In 2015, the County entered into a PLA to construct the Sheriff’s Headquarters building, the largest capital improvement project in County history ($44 million).

Hernandez reiterated the importance of Project Labor Agreements, noting, “They are not just a tool for efficiency; they stand as a beacon of stability and are an investment in a brighter future for construction. Adopting PLAs will bolster apprenticeship opportunities, foster living-wage careers for our local community, and bring all stakeholders together under one agreement. Through this type of collaboration, we can prevent disruptions and ensure projects are built on time, on budget, and with a skilled local workforce.”

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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