Local 21 Questions County’s Contracting Practices

Public employers generally have the right to contract out for services. However, those rights are subject to review and, when necessary, challenge by your Union. Did you know, for example, that the County cannot contract out for services that are routinely provided by Local 21-represented employees without first providing notice to the Union and an opportunity to meet & confer (negotiate) over the decision and the impacts it may have on Local 21 members’ wages and working conditions? If necessary, we can exercise impasse procedures to challenge the County’s contracting decisions and ensure they are subjected to proper scrutiny.

To help make sure Local 21-represented jobs are not being done by contractors, the union has been working with the departments through the Labor Relations Unit of the County to review services that have either been contracted out, or which a Department is planning to contract out, which Local 21 members believe should be performed by current Local 21-represented employees. Over the last twelve months, the Union’s elected member leaders, stewards, staff, and rank-and-file members have participated in numerous “meet & confers” to review and question the County’s contracting practices. So far these efforts have yielded some positive results, such as a commitment by one Department to hire more permanent staff and transition much of the work back in-house.  

The Union acknowledges there are some instances where outside contracting may be necessary. For example, work requiring special expertise that does not exist in-house OR contracting to help permanent staff complete a large, one-time project of a limited duration when the workload is unusually high may be acceptable cases for outside contracting. Unfortunately, Contra Costa County’s contracting practices are not solely limited to these situations. In one extreme case last year, during the meet & confer process a County Department adamantly defended a lucrative outside contract for an individual that later was discovered to be fraudulent. The contract has since been terminated and the contract employee is facing criminal charges.          

Any member who believes a County department is contracting for services that should be performed by a County employee represented in a Local 21 classification is encouraged to call the Martinez office of Local 21 at (925) 313-9102. Please alert the Union so that we may review the situation. We can’t always stop outside contracting. But your participation in reporting suspicious contracting by the employer and working with your Union representatives to question it could help protect Local 21 members’ jobs from being privatized in the future. You could also end up protecting the public against potential cases of contracting fraud and abuse.