Hiring at home

Supervisors make history with mandatory local hire law

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ABU founder James Richards, Ramon Hernandez of Laborers Union Local 261, and Sup. Bevan Dufty

sarah@sfbg.com

The lame duck Board of Supervisors made history Dec. 7 when it voted 8-3 to approve mandatory local hire legislation for city-funded construction projects. The measure ends a decade-long effort to reach 50 percent local hiring goals through good-faith efforts.

"That's a sea change in our local hiring discussion," said Sup. John Avalos, who launched the legislation in October as part of the LOCAL-SF (Local Opportunities for Communities and Labor) campaign, which seeks to strengthen local hiring, address high unemployment rates, and boost the local economy.

The veto-proof passage of Avalos' measure comes in the wake of a city-commissioned study indicating that San Francisco has failed to meet good-faith local hiring goals for public works projects even as unemployment levels rise in the local construction industry and several local neighborhoods face concentrated poverty.

Although Cleveland also has a local-hire law, the Avalos measure will be the strongest in the nation. Avalos' legislative aide Raquel Redondiez told the Guardian that Cleveland's 2003 legislation requires 20 percent local hire.

"This legislation doesn't just have a mandated 50 percent goal," Avalos explained, noting that San Francisco will require that each trade achieve a mandated rate and that 50 percent of apprentices be residents.

"This will ensure that our tax dollars get recycled back into the local economy, and that San Franciscans who are ready to work are provided the opportunity to do so," Avalos said.

Avalos' groundbreaking legislation phases in mandatory requirements that a portion of San Francisco public works jobs go to city residents and includes additional targets for hiring disadvantaged workers.

 

WHO GETS $25 BILLION?

The legislation replaces the city's First Source program, under which contractors were required only to make good faith efforts to hire 50 percent local residents on publicly-funded projects. But the measure begins slowly by mandating levels some contractors are already reaching. According to a study commissioned by the city's Office of Employment and Workforce Development and released in October, 20 percent of work hours on publicly-funded construction projects are going to San Francisco residents.

Avalos' legislation, which is supported by a broad coalition of labor and community groups including PODER, the Filipino Community Center, Southeast Jobs Coalition, Kwan Wo Ironworks Inc., Rubecon, and Chinese for Affirmative Action, comes at a critical moment for the recession-battered construction industry.

Under the city's capital plan, more than $25 billion will be spent on public works and other construction projects in the next decade — and two-thirds of this money will be spent over the next five years.

The measure has environmental benefits too. Transportation still accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions generated in the Bay Area than any other source, and San Francisco residents are more likely to take transit, walk, or bike to work than residents of other Bay Area counties. "When local citizens are able to work locally, there are fewer cars on the road and less air pollution," Avalos said.

Sup. Ross Mirkarimi said that Avalos' legislation is "just a start."

"People have talked a good game about local hiring," observed Mirkarimi, whose district includes the high unemployment-affected Western Addition.

"We are going to have to go beyond construction and start thinking about delving into the private sector," Mirkarimi continued, pointing to the need to build 100,000 housing units over the next 25 years if the city is to keep up with a projected population increase. "Who is going to build that housing?" he asked.

Sup. Eric Mar noted that "the Sierra Club endorsed the measure early on because of the environmental benefits of having people work close to where they live."