Hiring locally for City projects

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City Council is nearing adoption on a resolution intended to help make sure that when we spend city dollars on public construction projects, we look to hire locally first. And not just hiring locally, but to hire those folks from our community who are out of work or face other barriers to getting work – including women and people of color. The City spends hundreds of millions of dollars on constructions projects around Seattle, shouldn’t some of that go towards helping employ people who need jobs? The resolution itself will lay the groundwork for a future policy by establishing a stakeholder advisory group and outlining both the data that needs to be collected to help inform this policy.

The chart below helps demonstrate the need for a policy that helps us close the economic opportunity gap. As you can see below, the unemployment rate among African Americans in our metro area is more than two times higher than the region average. I believe that by focusing on hiring locally for local public works projects, we can begin to redress some of this disparity and create an economy in Seattle that works for everyone.

Sea-Tac-Bell Unemployment chart

While it may be a simple concept, it will be more complicated policy to craft. We’ll have to navigate state and federal labor laws and existing hiring practices. We’ll have to collaborate with numerous stakeholders, from the community members looking for jobs to labor unions to general contractors and their sub-contractors. But I know that at the end of this process, we will have a robust set of tools for helping get more work for the people who need it.

The resolution lays out a process and timeline for bringing together these stakeholders and doing the research we need before making recommendations on what the policy should look like.

  • Establish a Construction Careers Advisory Committee to develop recommendations to the Mayor and City Council that may improve construction career opportunities for women, people of color, and otherwise disadvantaged individuals, and in particular those who are also Seattle residents.
  • Conduct research and collect data, including on current workforce demographics on city-funded construction projects, demographics of the construction crafts and trades, utilization of apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs, analysis of barriers to construction jobs and job training programs, and a comparative analysis on other jurisdictions with similar policies.
  • Establish a timeline that creates the Advisory Committee in October of 2013, reports back to Council in March of 2014 and requests the Council and Mayor to respond by the end of April in 2014.

We are planning to discuss and vote on the resolution in the September 12 Committee on Economic Resiliency and Regional Relations in Council Chambers, 2nd floor of City Hall. I encourage you to weigh in either in person on 9/12 or via phone or email with me and my Council colleagues on this issue. We’ll be working on targeted local hire for a while, but I am excited by the process and where it will hopefully lead us.