January 21, 2021
A labor surveillance organization has accused the San Jose Unified School District of hiring contractors and subcontractors who allegedly circumvented California labor laws.
The Labor Watchdog Foundation for Fair Contracting wrote letters to District Superintendent Nancy Albarrán in December accusing Glendora-based California Commercial Pools Inc., a contractor, of failing to meet the state’s obligations to provide a skilled and trained workforce to have. Two subcontractors hired by California Commercial Pools, Mastercraft Waterproofing and USA Tech Electric, face similar allegations.
Brian Berthiaume, executive director of FFC, said the district leaders knowingly continued their relationship with California Commercial Pools even though they learned of the violations. It did so despite the prior hiring of contractors with similar alleged violations – an indictment the district has denied.
The allegations are being investigated by the California Department of Labor Relations, which handles complaints from skilled and trained workers.
Stephen McMahon, the district’s assistant superintendent, said the complaints were immediately examined by the district and referred to the DIR.
“San Jose Unified is committed to public procurement law. We’re working very hard to make sure everything goes right,” said McMahon. “If we are informed of a problem, we will contact you immediately.”
According to district documents, the work was awarded to California Commercial Pools in early 2019, which included pool renovation and design work for six middle schools and four high schools for an estimated total of $ 5.7 million. Projects include new starting blocks for some of the pools, renovation of the technical room and renovation of a chemical room for the pool.
However, the FFC said it had identified several allegations of non-compliance with government obligations regarding a skilled and trained workforce requiring contractors and subcontractors to hire a certain percentage of skilled apprentices or to face monthly fines of up to US $ 5,000 for each month, in which the violation is not remedied. In 2019, when the agreement was signed, the requirement was 50%.
“We keep our contractors at the highest level,” said McMahon.
Berthiaume also accused the district of failing to ensure the safety of workers. He said the district was not transparent in its hiring process and had “stamped” the contract with California Commercial Pools to move the project forward quickly and under budget.
“We knew they (California Commercial Pools) couldn’t work with qualified and trained employees,” said Berthiaume.
According to Berthiaume, problems with the hiring process were brought to the district to resolve this.
“What did the staff do? They came up with a PowerPoint,” said Berthiaume. “And my company is doing our job, and we find that the prime contractor and about five or six of their subcontractors are getting off-line from A to Z.”
The non-compliance concerns were mentioned in emails to the district by at least one district parent who chose to remain anonymous. They alleged that they had been turned away by the district and that the district refused to meet with them on the matter.
“If you don’t have skilled, trained, and trained staff to do the job, you are putting the lives of the students, workers and teachers in these buildings at risk,” the parent said. “It’s primarily a security issue.”
Should the DIR decide that the district has hired contractors who are in breach of labor law, the state is required by the state to stop paying the contractor and subcontractors until they meet the requirements. The school district declined to comment on whether or not these steps were taken and said the case is still under investigation.
“We’re working with the Department of Industrial Relations on the California (Commercial) Pools case. They’re going to work through all of these nuances and make sure we get all the facts,” said McMahon. “We want to make sure that all information is correct and that things are being done right.”
California Commercial Pools and Mastercraft Waterproofing were not immediately available for comment. USA Tech Electric declined to comment.
A public request from San José Spotlight to the DIR for the complaints is pending.
Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.