Trouble in Paradise: Santa Barbara County Adopts Discriminatory Mandate

0 July 16, 2014  State & Local Construction

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors last week voted 4-1 to negotiate its first project stabilization agreement mandate on a county project for the Northern Branch Jail AB 900 Phase II Project. A project stabilization agreement is just another name for a project labor agreement (PLA) and is likely to raise costs on this $70 billion project.


Kevin Dayton from Labor Issues Solutions, LLC covered this unfortunate development on

Here are the highlights:

Union leaders have tried since 2010 to convince the county’s elected board to require construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement as a condition of contract work. To address unsubstantiated union claims why the county must mandate Project Labor Agreements, the board has passed various measures to encourage local hire and ensure contractor compliance with labor laws. These new policies have not satisfied the unions, nor have they satisfied Supervisor Salud Carbajal, the primary champion on the board for the union agenda. Also jumping onto the quest for a Project Labor Agreement is Central Coast Alliance United for A Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), a leftist community activist organization.

Dayton also points out that county staff expressed concerns about the negative impact of this requirement in their report prior to the July 8 meeting:

At times the use of these agreements has become controversial as the nonunion sectors of the construction industry has grown and as PSAs have been applied to relatively small projects. Critics argue that PSAs place nonunion contractors at a disadvantage in bidding on projects and raise overall project costs. The County of Santa Barbara has never constructed a project with a PSA. There are no guarantees that a PSA will either increase or decrease the cost of construction, nor that it will attract or detract local labor. The General Services Department has developed an Engineers Estimate to construct the Northern Branch Jail AB 900 Phase II Project (Attachment #1) that does not include the provisions required of a PSA…PSAs also require that all contractors working on a project adhere to a collective bargaining agreement; even nonunion contractors must operate under negotiated rules…Establishing a Project Stabilization Agreement will require discussion with various stakeholders and negotiation with the Tri-County Building and Construction Trades Council (TCBT).

This wasteful and discriminatory mandate will likely result in millions in unnecessary construction costs and will limit opportunities for local workers to compete for a project funded by their own tax dollars.

It is a bad deal for taxpayers and the vast majority of the construction workforce that chooses not to join a labor organization.

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