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Napa County Looks at Local Hire Policy for Big Construction Projects


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Napa County wants to see local construction workers have first shot at building the planned $16.8 million, 72-bed re-entry facility that will help low-risk offenders prepare for life outside jail.

The Board of Supervisors last week directed staff to analyze a “first source” hiring policy. It also directed staff to begin negotiations on a project labor agreement that local unions have been urging.

All of this, should it come to fruition, would apply to the re-entry facility on county property along Highway 221 that could begin construction in 2017.

Napa County’s construction industry accounts for 3,300 jobs, a county study found. The building trades industry will need an additional 7,136 workers over the coming five years to meet predicted demand growth and to replace retiring workers, it said.

Supervisor Mark Luce called the re-entry facility a possible “pilot” for these construction methods. If things went well, the county could use the same approach for other large county building projects, such as the new jail the county wants to someday build.

“We’ll see what we can learn,” Luce said.

County staff researched how to create a legally defensible local hiring law. That entails showing why local construction workers deserve different treatment from those living elsewhere.

Napa County would have trouble using the justification of a high unemployment rate, as some counties with local hire policies have done. The county in March had a 4.4 percent unemployment rate, lower than the state’s 5.6 percent and the nation’s 5.1 percent.

But young adults ages 20 to 24 have a 13.3 percent rate, second-highest in the Bay Area. Veterans under age 35 have a 22.6 percent rate, second-highest in the Bay Area, a county report said.

Part of the board’s discussion was how to get people in these underemployed segments into the building trades. Talk turned to the Napa-Lake Workforce Investment Board and training programs.

San Francisco has a local hire policy that is mandatory for its large county projects. Napa County, in contrast, is looking at a policy that would give local residents first chance to apply for a job, but wouldn’t force contractors to hire them.

A hiring policy with no mandatory goals is less subject to legal challenges, the county report said.

A Dec. 15, 2015, county report said a project labor agreement for the re-entry facility could add $915,000 to the cost by driving down bidding among nonunion contractors. Some supervisors and local union leaders were skeptical.

The board last week directed staff to begin negotiating a project labor agreement with labor groups and unions. The discussion will continue at a future meeting.

Napa County’s construction industry accounts for 3,300 jobs, a county study found. The building trades industry will need an additional 7,136 workers over the coming five years to meet predicted demand growth and to replace retiring workers, it said.

Project labor agreements are pre-hire collective bargaining agreements negotiated with labor organizations that must be followed by contractors. They stipulate such things as wages and benefits for construction projects.

Proponents say the agreements guarantee projects come in on time and on budget. Opponents say they drive up costs by reducing the number of contractors and subcontractors that bid on projects.

Original article posted on: napavalleyregister.com

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