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W.E. O’Neil Construction Co. Unqualified to Bid on U.C. Santa Cruz Student Housing Project

by Carpenters Union Local 505
W.E. O’Neil Construction Co. Unqualified to Bid on U.C. Santa Cruz Student Housing Project, Carpenters Union Alleges

University of California should reject W.E. O’Neil bid based on new evidence. Carpenters Local Union 505 Says Construction Company Falsified State Bid
W.E. O’Neil Construction Co. Unqualified to Bid on U.C. Santa Cruz Student Housing Project, Carpenters Union Alleges

University of Calif...
Santa Cruz, CA, April 2024 – W.E. O’Neil Construction Co. of NorCal falsified a bid for a major University of California Santa Cruz student housing project, according to Carpenters Union Local 505, which is appealing UC Santa Cruz’s refusal to disqualify W.E. O’Neil for the construction project, valued at approximately $140 million.

“W.E. O’Neil attempted to hide the fact that a worker was killed by electrocution on a recent Los Angeles project through failed safety practices,” said Doug Chesshire of Carpenters Union Local 505 who filed an appeal with the Office of the President of the University of California on April 10 to disqualify W.E. O’Neil Construction Co. of NorCal’s bid. The same Los Angeles project hospitalized two other workers, who were also seriously injured by electrocution.

“This challenge isn’t about a ‘union vs. a non-union contractor’ winning a bid with the State of California’s university system,” Chesshire added. “This is about open, honest bidding and the integrity of the UC system in selecting responsible contractors who do not allow egregious safety violations and wage and hour violations on their jobs.”

W.E. O’Neil Construction Co. of NorCal was the apparent lowest bidder for the 17-acre Hagar Development, which will consist of 35 two-story four-plex buildings with 140 two-bedroom units for students with families. But W.E. O’Neil’s final bid score received a boost through its failure to disclose the worker fatality, which would have had a negative impact.

Other construction companies bidding are Blach Construction of San Jose, Devcon Construction of Milpitas, and Webcor Builders of San Francisco.

Representing working people in Santa Cruz, Local 505 said W.E. O’Neil Construction Co. of NorCal falsely claimed on its bid form that it had not had a construction fatality on any of its jobs in the last five years.

In justification, W.E. O’Neil Construction Co. of NorCal claimed a different general contractor—W.E. O’Neil Construction Co. of California—oversaw the Los Angeles project that killed the worker. Yet, this is a convenient change of tune according to the Carpenters Union appeal as, to get prequalified for the Project to begin with, W.E. O’Neil Construction Co. of NorCal leveraged the experience of W.E. O’Neil Construction Co. of California as a “parent company” that was “substantially the same organization.”

This included crediting itself for the same Los Angeles project that killed the worker as a comparable project to the UC Santa Cruz project.

Cal/OSHA issued a “willful” citation for a worker’s death in the amount of $112,500. W.E. O’Neil Construction Co. of California remains the lead defendant in the wrongful death suit pending in Los Angeles Superior Court, and the construction company may be deemed responsible for the worker’s death.

Earlier this year, the City of West Hollywood sued W.E. O’Neil Construction Co. of California for breach of contract for failing to properly install a life safety fire safety system in the West Hollywood Library.

“The safety of student housing and the safety of the people who build student housing should be paramount in the mind of UC system administrators,” Chesshire added. “We are going to fight for the safety of workers and for the safety of the college students who will ultimately live in the housing that is built.”

In addition to failing to disclose the worker fatality, W.E. O’Neil is also proposing to partner with ADCO Drywall for the project. The Union is arguing that the involvement of this contractor should further discredit W.E O’Neil’s bid. In the past two years, ADCO Drywall has been the subject of wage theft lawsuits, resulting in over $1 million in recent settlements for workers.
§Appeal
by Carpenters Union Local 505
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