For Immediate Release
Board of Supervisors expands use of Project Labor Agreements in government construction projects
SANTA ROSA, CA | September 13, 2023
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday expanded the scope of a policy that requires construction contractors and subcontractors to pay workers union wages and benefits on large public works projects funded by the county government.
The changes will increase the number of county construction projects subject to Project Labor Agreements, a type of collective bargaining agreement between the county and local building trade unions.
The Board of Supervisors voted to require Project Labor Agreements on county government construction projects valued at $1 million or more. Previously, the 9-year-old policy applied to projects valued at $10 million or higher. As a result of the lower threshold, more construction projects will be covered by the county’s Project Labor Agreement policy.
The Board of Supervisors also extended the policy to construction projects overseen by the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, while the boards of directors for Sonoma Water and four sanitation districts managed by the county water agency adopted the updated policy for their construction projects. Lastly, the boards exempted construction projects related to disaster and emergency response work, allowing contracting to move quickly when necessary to protect life, public health and property.
“We need more jobs that pay the kind of wages that families need to live in Sonoma County,” said Supervisor Chris Coursey, chair of the Board of Supervisors and a member of Sonoma Water’s Board of Directors. “Our current policy on Project Labor Agreements has not been applied to a single construction contract over the nine years since its adoption in 2014. This is because the $10 million threshold used to trigger the policy is too high. The revisions embraced by the board today will ensure that we create good-paying jobs for local workers when the county initiates a construction project of $1 million or more.”
A Project Labor Agreement sets terms of employment for construction workers – union and non-union – on certain types of projects. They are negotiated in advance with local labor unions and built into bid specifications for a project. In general, they include no-strike, no-lockout clauses, set wages and benefits for workers, and require contractors to hire workers through a union hiring hall. They may also outline goals for hiring workers from local and disadvantaged communities and supporting small businesses.
The revisions to the ordinance will take effect after the Board of Supervisors and the boards of directors for Sonoma Water and the four sanitation districts approve a master agreement with local labor unions, which is expected to take several months to negotiate.
The Board of Supervisors, which adopted its policy on Project Labor Agreements in 2014, created an Ad Hoc committee last year to explore potential changes to policy in anticipation of construction of a new county government center.