Posted April 13,
Cities to contractors: Hire more
Contra Costa Times
Some cities in Contra Costa County are considering ways to
force more local hiring amid rising unemployment.
Richmond, one of the few jurisdictions with a local hiring
policy, is beefing up its rules and upping by 5 percentage
points the mandate for hiring locally. Under the city's revised
law, 25 percent of work hours on a $100,000-plus construction
contract with the city must be performed by residents. The
target is 35 percent for other public work, such as office
and security positions.
"We need the economy to improve, and we need businesses
to come to Richmond to create jobs, jobs, jobs so we can actually
make these goals happen," Councilwoman Ludmyrna Lopez
Unemployment in the city is at 18.7
POLL Should city contracts mandate that local workers be hired?
percent, according to state records. That's not as bad as the
rates in communities such as Crockett and Bay Point, which
top 20 percent, but it still exceeds the county average of
Other cities are considering developing local hiring policies.
Concord, with 12.7 percent unemployment, is raising the issue
as it plans the future of its Naval Weapons Station. In San
Pablo, where unemployment is 22.8 percent, leaders are discussing
ideas with officials in East Palo Alto, which requires businesses
in its redevelopment area or that receive at least $50,000
in a city subsidy to hire residents for 30 percent of available
jobs. It encourages businesses to hire qualified locals as
managers, not just for entry-level positions.
In Richmond, a group of residents met with Richmond Mayor
Gayle McLaughlin to discuss improving local hiring practices,
resulting in recommendations that the City Council approved
this month. They are expected to take effect mid-May after
a second council reading of the ordinance.
Strong enforcement would be needed to ensure that the policy
succeeds, residents said.
"It challenges all of us and challenge is a good thing,
especially with a situation such as we have in Richmond where
unemployment is out of control," said McKinley Ross, who
helps run the Richmond Community-based Employment Collaborative. "It's
a challenge for all of us to work hard to make sure the 25
percent is met. Let's come back in another year or two and
raise the bar again."
RichmondWORKS, a city job-training program, has an aggregate
local hire rate of about 30 percent in the past three years,
said Sal Vaca, employment and training director. Locals worked
64 percent of the total hours providing security at the Civic
Center; 40 percent renovating Nevin Park; 20 percent rehabilitating
the Civic Center; and 18 percent in street paving.
Companies contracting with the city must show a good-faith
effort to meet the local hire law. Officials issue a noncompliance
letter before imposing daily fines that are 1 percent of the
contract or up to $1,000, whichever is greater.
Businesses with 10 employees or fewer would be exempt under
the revised law.
Officials must do better at creating job opportunities, Councilman
Nat Bates said.
"What we have in the city of Richmond is a tremendous
amount of (job) training, but there's no jobs for people after
they get trained," Bates said. "That is embarrassing.
That's where we have to focus upon: getting those jobs out
in the community and making this city more receptive and open
to bringing in the businesses. We need everything that has
a job attached to it with a salary."
In East Contra Costa, neither Pittsburg nor Antioch has a
local hiring policy, though Antioch has lobbied heavily for
such practices on a couple housing developments and on construction
of the eBART extension. The city asked that a minimum of 25
percent of the total construction hours and 50 percent apprenticeship
hours for the BART work go to East Contra Costa residents.
Staff writers Paul Thissen and Paul Burgarino contributed
to this story.