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San Diego County Board of Supervisors Establishes New Transparency Measures for Subcontractors

New ordinances championed by the Communications Workers of America will hold corporations accountable for work done on public land and better protect public safety

SAN DIEGO, CA -- The Communications Workers of America (CWA) today praised the passage of two ordinances by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, which will require construction and right-of-way permit holders to disclose the subcontractors they are using to complete permitted work. The right-of-way measure, which CWA played a key role in crafting, will go into effect on June 10 along with the construction portion of the ordinance.

Currently, contractors permitted for right-of-way or construction work are required to verify that they are properly licensed to do business in California, but have not been required to disclose any information on companies they subcontract work out to. These multiple layers of contractors, along with a lack of transparency or reporting, have made it increasingly difficult for localities to hold companies accountable for shoddy work, damage to public property, and to ensure safe conditions for workers and the public.

The updated ordinance will require permit holders to disclose any subcontractors working on a project, including their scope of work for the job, safety licenses, and previous wage and hour or OSHA violations.

“CWA Local 9509 applauds the San Diego Board of Supervisors' leadership on tackling low-road subcontracting in San Diego County,” said Christopher Roberts, President of CWA Local 9509. “Multi-layered employment structures can create dangerous conditions in the public right-of-way. These Ordinances for Subcontractor Transparency will help ensure that San Diegans – workers, elected officials, and the public alike – will be able to identify and hold bad actors accountable for substandard work and poor working conditions.”

Low-road subcontracting has become increasingly prevalent in the telecommunications industry, and most notably the new ordinances will require Verizon, which is currently building a 5G network in San Diego, to disclose the subcontractors they are using for the rollout. In a June 2020 report analyzing the city of San Diego’s 5G deal with Verizon, CWA revealed through extensive review of public records that the city did not collect information about the contractors and subcontractors working in its public rights-of-way.

A similar report by CWA also revealed AT&T’s reliance on a nearly untraceable web of subcontractors, detailing numerous examples of accidents and explosions caused by low-road subcontractors, who are often incentivized to cut corners and leave workers without the proper training to safely install equipment.

“The subcontracting of critical telecom infrastructure work to low-road companies can have negative impacts on work quality, workplace safety, and workers’ rights,” said Frank Lopez, a Maintenance Splicing Technician for 23 years and Chair of CWA Local 9509’s Health and Safety Committee. “I, along with other technicians from CWA Local 9509, have surveyed dozens of Verizon’s 5G small cell sites, many of which were plagued with shoddy, substandard work quality and deployed by contractors utilizing unsafe working conditions. We commend Commissioner Fletcher and the entire Board and staff for taking action on this crucial issue.”

San Diego County issues approximately 14,000 to 18,000 building permits annually, and 2,200 right-of-way permits annually, including for the installation of telecommunications equipment. The new ordinance will allow San Diego officials to hold permit holders and their subcontractors accountable for their work, along with their safety and labor practices. These disclosures will help prevent unqualified operators and violators from doing sub-par work in San Diego County and ensure that the public is able to access information about who is working in their streets.

The information will be integrated into an update of the electronic permitting system, and will be available to the public and the newly created County Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, promoting enforcement of labor standards.

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