Yesterday, the Seattle city council hosted a brown bag lunch chat to look at if—and how—we should mandate the hiring of local residents on city-funded construction sites, otherwise known as a "targeted local hire" ordinance. It's an issue I've had my eye on for a while, and it's likely to be a slow burn at city hall, as they hammer out how, exactly, to institute mandatory hiring practices without pissing off every involved constituency—labor, contractors, workers.

Not an easy task, but San Francisco and other municipalities seem to have done successfully.

Got Green director Michael Woo testifies in council chamber.
  • Anna Minard
  • Got Green director Michael Woo testifies in council chamber.
The South Seattle nonprofit Got Green, which focuses on issues at the intersection of race and environmental justice, say communities of color have been especially hurt by the recession (watching construction projects go up in the Rainier Valley while residents have remained unemployed has been painful), while enviro lovers like the Sierra Club support local hiring because it would decrease commute times.

Here are four points that targeted hiring proponents want to see addressed in the legislation:

• While targeted hiring focuses on hiring women and/or people of color, this local hiring would focus on residents of the city—or even residents of certain zip codes, ones with markedly higher unemployment than the rest of the city.

• A targeted hire ordinance has to include a robust apprenticeship program, said a panel of experts, and those apprentices should then be brought onto job sites.

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• It should also mean that once a worker qualifies to be on the list of targeted workers, they should stay on the list for around five years. The last thing you want is to give people a job that lifts them out of their disadvantaged situation but then immediately disqualifies them from future participation in the program.

• Lastly, there needs to be a shit ton of data on how the program's working—and people checking that data. Sites need to submit their payroll records early and often, so the city knows they're in compliance—or if they aren't, a solution can be worked out while the site is still active and jobs are still available, as opposed to realizing at the end of a project that it didn't meet targets.

Finally, while you might assume that labor unions would be the biggest blocker of policies like this, it won't necessarily be true in Seattle. San Francisco saw some unions oppose and some come out in support. The groundwork for an ordinance here is going to be laid down slowly over the coming months, and its proponents are working hard to keep labor at the table.

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