Locals for hire

Supervisors consider requiring contractors to do more local hiring just as the UC hospital breaks ground in Mission Bay

Workers with Aboriginal Blacks United protest the lack of a local hiring plan for the new UCSF hospital construction site


It's no secret that San Francisco's construction industry is going through hard times, a situation that translates into lost opportunities for working class San Franciscans. But that bad situation is being made worse by contractors on local projects hiring workers from outside the city.

Recent studies reveal that under the city's First Source program, which requires contractors to make "good faith efforts" to reach the goal of hiring 50 percent of their workers from within the city, San Francisco has failed to meet its goals on publicly funded projects.

Sup. John Avalos has introduced legislation that seeks to address this shortfall by requiring contractors to meet the city's hiring goals or face fines. But some union leaders whose members don't live in San Francisco are grumbling that the proposal is not workable.

Local unemployed workers are expressing support for the Avalos legislation, as they step up efforts to get UC San Francisco to commit to local hiring plans at its $1.5 billon Mission Bay hospital construction site, which lies a Muni T-Third ride away from some of the city's most economically distressed neighborhoods.

And now everyone is anxiously wondering where Mayor Gavin Newsom will land on the legislation and on UCSF's hiring goals in what may be his last weeks as chief executive of San Francisco.

As of press time, Newsom was running neck-to-neck with Abel Maldonaldo in the lieutenant governor's race, leaving voters uncertain whether Newsom will be mayor in January or second-in-command statewide — a promotion that would land him a seat on the UC Board of Regents but shift his primary allegiance from the City and County of San Francisco to the entire state of California.

When Avalos stood outside City Hall last month and announced his proposal to mandate local hiring on publicly-funded construction projects, he was joined by Sups. Sophie Maxwell and David Campos, Board President David Chiu, community advocates, construction contractors, neighborhood leaders, and union members.

"My legislation will ensure that San Franciscans have a guaranteed shot to work on the city's public works projects and that the local dollars invested in public infrastructure will be recycled back into San Francisco's economy and local communities," Avalos said.

Avalos' legislation came in the wake of two reports confirming that local construction workers were having a hard time getting work. A report that Chinese Affirmative Action and Brightline Defense released in August estimated that only 24 percent of workers on publicly funded sites are local residents.

And a report released by L. Luster and Associates in mid-October, at the behest of the Redevelopment Agency and Office of Economic and Workforce Development, found that only 20 percent of workers hired at 29 publicly funded construction projects in the past year were local residents.

Avalos' legislation would mandate assessment of liquidated damages against contractors and subcontractors who fail to meet minimum local hiring requirements and establish monitoring, enforcement, and administrative procedures in support of this policy. It would phase in these requirements over three years, starting at 30 percent the first year.

Avalos noted that his legislation was developed through a series of meetings with city agencies, the Mayor's Office, labor and building trade unions, the environmental community, neighborhood advocates, contractors, local hiring advocates, and unemployed workers. And he vowed to keep the roundtable approach.