March 6, 2015

Seattle’s Priority Hire Law Takes Effect

By John Parnass

Seattle “Priority Hire” ordinance takes effect today.  It applies to certain Seattle public works projects with a budget of $5 million or more.  The new law requires at least 20 percent of the work on city projects costing more than $5 million to be done by Priority Workers who live in Economically Distressed Areas, a term defined in the law as follows:


  • “Economically Distressed Area” means a geographic area defined by zip code and found by the Director to have a high concentration of individuals; 1) living at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level, 2) unemployed, and or 3) without a college degree, compared to other zip codes.  King County zip codes, with a high density per acre of at least two out of the three criteria, will be identified as Economically Distressed Areas. There shall be two classes of such zip codes: tier one zip codes located within the City of Seattle and tier two zip codes located within King County and outside of the City of Seattle.

Here is the text of the new law.  According to the findings in the ordinance, about 6% of workers on Seattle public work projects lives in Seattle.  The 20% requirement is intended to ramp up to 40% by 2025.