The atmosphere at the local hiring victory party that Laborers Local 261 held at its Union Hall this week was positively elated. Beer, wine and yummy pupusas flowed, commendations were made, and live drumming gave the event a playful edge. And it didn’t hurt that the place was crammed with political candidates, past, present and future, as San Francisco gears up for a a mayor, D.A. and sheriff’s race, this fall.
Sup. David Campos, who hasn't thrown his hat in the mayor's race, at least not yet, described the mood as "exciting." “Who would have thought a year ago that we’d be having this victory,” Campos said, crediting fellow progressive Sup. John Avalos and the community for “great legislative work.”
Sup. John Avalos, who isn't showing signs of running in the mayor's race despite his legislative victories, saw implementation and resistant building trades as the biggest hurdles, moving forward. But he felt city departments will lead the way in showing how to implement the new law, when it kicks in March 25. "The San Francisco PUC has shown that local hire can be successful,” he said. “The new PUC building is at 48 percent local hire across all trades.”
Avalos hoped the building trades will come to see local hire in a more positive light. “They need to understand that it’s good for this city, their unions and union membership," he said.
Avalos noted that he recently met with members of the San Mateo Board of Supervisors to address concerns that SF's local hire would lead to job losses in San Mateo.Just before Christmas, the San Mateo supes voted unanimously to urge Newsom to veto Avalos’ local hire policy, but it turns out they had been misled around the law’s impacts. ”I met with [County Sups.] Carole Groom and Adrienne Tissier and said, ‘We have a huge misunderstanding,” Avalos said, noting that Jerry Hill’s recent grandstanding against local hire appears to be going nowhere.
Mayor Ed Lee, who insists he's not planning to run for mayor in November, urged folks to focus on implementation of Avalos’ legislation.
“We are not just here to celebrate a legislative victory but the first jobs we create,” Lee said. “The world does not just turn by signing legislation.”
Board President David Chiu, who dropped by towards the end of the party with Sup. Jane Kim,Board President David Chiu, said he is “still thinking” about running for mayor, and acknowledged that the road to implementing local hire could be challenging. “But during this Great Recession, we have to do everything we can to make sure San Francisco residents get put to work, and local hire is an important part of that."
Sup. Ross Mirkarimi, who has just announced that he is running for sheriff, linked high recidivism rates in San Francisco to the need to do a better job of hiring local residents. “We have a 70 percent repeat offender rate,” Mirkarimi said. “That’s 3 out of 4 folks.” Noting that there are 1800 parolees in San Francisco daily, Mirkarimi observed that if folks can't get a job when they come out of the criminal justice system, they are way more likely to re-offend.
Bayview resident Deanna Rice, who got out of a federal penitentiary a year ago, and is still looking for work, said unemployment is another barrier in the way of her trying to regain custody of her kids, who are 9 and 10 years old.
Laborers Local 261 Business Manager Ramon Hernandez acknowledged that more work needs to be done to make local hire a go.
“We will try to do the best we can to get everyone on the same page,” he said
Local 261 Secretary-Treasurer David De La Torre said their membership is struggling and hurting, existing members and residents are not working
“Local hire is not about a sense of entitlement," he said. "We gotta put people to work and build the local economy. It’s not about race. It’s about community, a disadvantaged community.”
Greg Doxey of the Osiris Coalition pointed to the economic benefits of local hire.
“If you hire local, people are going to shop two, three blocks from home, the economy will get stronger, they’ll be more tax revenue, and folks could even qualify to buy homes
CityBuild’s Guillermo Rodriguez praised the Board, department heads and Mayor Ed Lee “for getting together with labor” to pass Avalos local hire legislation.
But despite the happy vibes at the party, I left wondering if there is going to be adequate investment in workforce development side come budget time, if folks will try to game the system by using the address of locally-based subcontractors to establish local residency, and whether local efforts to sabotage the legislation are going to escalate now that the San Mateo Board no longer seems opposed to the law. But I also left knowing that folks like James Richards, President of Aboriginal Blacks United, have made it clear that if local hire doesn't get implemented, they'll keep protesting until it does. So, stay tuned....