Federal Money--Local Jobs
The local hiring language in SAFETEA-LU was championed jointly by the Transportation Equity Network, the Gamaliel Foundation, Representatives Millender-McDonald and Costello, and Senators Bond and Obama. The new law directs the U.S. Department of Transportation to let communities create their own agreements around local and minority hiring. This allows communities to create local jobs by directly accessing the $286 billion SAFETEA-LU funds. Benefits of Local Hiring Agreements:
Local communities have more control over how their tax money is spent.
Residents around highway and transit projects get access to the living wage jobs that these massive projects create.
Welfare, jail, and other poverty-related costs to the community are reduced because more residents have living wage jobs.
Job benefits are more equitably distributed throughout the region, rather than being concentrated in a few high-growth suburban corridors.
The unemployed, underemployed, and people of color are given the opportunity to move into construction careers.
Community groups can pass their own local hiring ordinances on highway and transit money at the city council, county council, or state legislative levels. They should identify their best partners and create a strategy that moves toward a regional agreement.
Metropolitan Congregations United and United Congregations of Metro-East in St. Louis plan to have a local hiring ordinance for all public money passed in four counties and several cities surrounding St. Louis. The groups had strong relationships with a few mayors and county executives, and decided to access those allies first, before taking on the state Department of Transportation. They also hope to get support from their Metropolitan Planning Organization, East West Gateway, which governs 13 counties. The groups are moving fast because pending highway projects, such as the new Mississippi River Bridge and the widening of Highway 40/64, are worth almost a billion dollars, which can translate to 47,000 potential jobs for local low-income, minority, and women residents.
“If we beef up our pre-apprenticeship programs now, and get our folks into training, we can build our workforce from our own communities. That’s important to local citizens who have been left out of our country’s economic boom, and to the 3,000 plus Katrina survivors who are with us now in the St. Louis area,” says Dr. Ron Trimmer, United Congregations board member. “We will work to ensure that highway and transit spending produce living wage jobs for our local citizens.”
Creating Local Hiring Agreements
While specific communities will have to negotiate their own terms with public officials, the following basics should be included:
A clear indication of the type and size of funds involved, as per the agreement
A firm definition of compliance
Monitoring and enforcement protocols
First source jobs programs
Pre-apprentice, apprentice, and training programs
Recruitment and outreach plans
What Other Groups Have Done
Gamaliel Foundation Affiliates: BRIDGE in Baltimore, Maryland, the New Jersey Regional Coalition, ARISE in Albany, New York, and MICAH in Wisconsin, have all won community benefits agreements on particular development projects. Developers have agreed to hire a certain number of local residents and/or provide affordable housing as part of a housing development project. JOB in San Diego and Oakland Coalition of Congregations in California are currently working on similar campaigns.
Alameda Corridor Jobs Coalition (ACJC), Los Angeles, California: The Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority adopted the plan submitted by ACJC requiring that 30 percent of all work hours on the $2.4 billion rail project be performed by residents of the affected low-income communities along the corridor. The agreement included a commitment of 1,000 training slots—650 for pre-apprenticeship construction trades training, and 350 for non-trades construction training—for low-income residents over the three-year life of the project.
Local Construction Employment Referral Program, Oakland, California: Created in 1993, when Oakland adopted its local hiring ordinance, the program requires all Oakland Redevelopment Agency projects and all City of Oakland construction projects of $50,000 or more to hire Oakland residents for at least 50 percent of all work hours and for 50 percent of all new jobs. The program maintains a database of 2,637 workers and has placed 1,618 since July 1993. It is a local hiring policy that has effectively incorporated organized labor.