January 19, 2015

Seattle City Council Committee Recommends Construction “Priority Hire” Bill

By Sarah Washburn

On January 15, the Seattle City Council’s Housing Affordability, Human Service and Economic Resiliency Committee recommended adoption of “priority hire” legislation that would support pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs and  require that a certain percentage of work on City-funded capital construction projects costing over $5 million be performed by residents of economically distressed areas of Seattle and King County.  Economically distressed areas are indicated by high numbers of people who are unemployed, lack college degrees, and live below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.  The percentage of work to be performed by residents of economically distressed areas will be determined by the Director of Finance and Administrative Services on a project-specific basis.

The legislation will be considered by the full City Council on Tuesday, January 20.  Under the new rules, non-union contractors would enter into agreements with the City allowing them to bring up to five employees from their own workforce before filling in the rest of the crew with workers dispatched by local unions.  The bill would also create an ongoing advisory committee that reports to the mayor and City Council.  The City of San Francisco implemented similar legislation in 2010 that requires a specific percentage of job hours on city-funded public works projects to be performed by San Francisco residents, particularly workers in economically disadvantaged communities.  According to a 2013 report issued by the City’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, participation by the targeted community workforce on covered city-funded public works projects has risen from about 20 percent to over 33 percent of all hours worked.