County supervisors voted 4-0 Tuesday in favor of a policy that advocates say will better protect janitors, landscapers and security guards working for private contractors at county facilities against wage theft, sexual harassment and other unfair practices.
According to a statement from board Chairman Nathan Fletcher’s office, the regulations will cover 1,080 employees who work for companies that contract with the county.
The new policy will also establish the county “as one of the first to adopt a wage theft fund to repay workers who are entitled to pay from their employer,” according to Fletcher, who co-sponsored the policy along with Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer.
Policy requirements for potential contractors will “encourage that their employees receive more comprehensive benefits, a more competitive wage package, greater workplace protections, training programs, sick days, all of which reduce the risk of turnover and labor disputes,” according to Fletcher’s office.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Fletcher praised the county workers who showed up during the COVID-19 pandemic to make sure buildings were clean and safe.
“We appreciate you, and see the value that you bring,” Fletcher said, adding that he heard numerous stories from contracted workers about their struggles and challenges.
Fletcher said the workers don’t want to be rich, just “treated with the basic human dignity and respect that I believe every single worker should be afforded.”
The county policy will cover:
- a wage theft fund, in which the county will set aside a portion of the contract, and will provide wages to employees who were not fully paid what they were owed, in violation of the California Labor Code
- a wage floor that will include the hourly wage, health and welfare benefits, paid days off, sick leave and other benefits to ensure competitive salaries
- sexual harassment prevention and training programs, provided by the county, that will cover topics such as worker rights, changes to state, federal or local laws and how to file a complaint
- requirements for the contractor to provide information on potential consequences for perpetrators of workplace sexual harassment and assault, information to whom an employee can report cases, community and mental health resources and defense strategies
- a requirement for contractors to establish a 90-day transition period for all employees, if the contractor is acquired by another entity
- an agreement with labor groups representing employees under contracts awarded by the county that should include provisions for labor disputes and planned activity
- collective bargaining agreements
During a public comment period, one woman who has worked in the County Administration Center downtown for 10 years told supervisors that workers need responsible advocates and employers to treat them with respect.
Via a Spanish translator, the woman added that she has suffered numerous hardships in her job.
“I’m not going to keep quiet anymore,” she added.
According to Fletcher’s office, the new protections affect 21 contracts, worth over $40 million, including 16 for janitors (with three providers), four with landscapers (along with three providers), and one for security workers.
The covered employees work at the County Administration Center, the County Operations Center in Kearny Mesa, various libraries and other facilities.
The county chief administrative officer will begin applying the requirements into contracts, and then update supervisors within one year.
Supervisor Jim Desmond was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
City News Service contributed to this article.