Contracting Out- Are There Limits in Sight?

There is a bill currently in the Assembly Appropriations Committee that would change the way cities and counties are able to contract out government work.

AB 1250 would require that certain standards be met for cities and counties who contract out work that is customarily performed by city and county employees.

For example, the employer would have to demonstrate that the contract will actually result in an overall cost savings and that the contract will not displace county or city workers.

The bill would also require that the city or county conduct a cost-benefit analysis prior to entering into the contract as well as an audit of the contract afterwards, and would make the contractors reimburse the cost of the analyses. It would also require cities and counties to maintain a searchable database with information on the pay for contractors, to increase transparency.

Needless to say, this could be a very positive law for public employees across the state by creating a dampening effect on contracting out work. In San Francisco alone, contracting has increased by more than a billion dollars in 5 years. While it is sometimes true that contractors with expertise in particular areas are needed, overreliance on contracting as a way to avoid commitment to permanent jobs with benefits hurts us all. Using contractors means that we fail to build institutional knowledge on contracted projects, meaning that  when another similar project comes up or maintenance needs to be preformed on an existing project, the City continues to turn to contractors.

The practice also reduces solid middle class union jobs in our cities. Lead Representative/Organizer Paul Kim describes the problem with the cycle of contracting out, “The dilemma that has been created is similar to the, “what came first the chicken and the egg?” question. When new work comes up, the City/County will use outside consultants, arguing there is not enough in-house staff to handle the added workload. Then in the budget process the City/County will argue there is not sufficient work to justify new hiring.”

AB 1250 it is pending in the Assembly Appropriations Committee and could come up for a vote as early as this month.

Let your state legislators know that you support minimum standards for contracting out your work!  Click here to find your Representative, then click on your Representative’s webpage link and you will be able to send them an email in support of Assembly Bill 1250.