• WEATHER ALERT Winter Weather Advisory

Supervisor proposes local hiring requirement

October 19, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Cities across the Bay Area are struggling with rising unemployment. However, San Francisco thinks it has an answer for some of its residents. They want to change a decades-old hiring policy in one key industry from good faith to mandatory.

It's estimated that over the next 10 years the city of San Francisco could invest more than $25 billion of taxpayer money in construction projects. The question is how many local residents will benefit.

"There's millions of dollars in construction in my own neighborhood, Bayview, and we're not involved in that," unemployed San Francisco resident Tony Zachary said.

The city's current policy encourages contractors to hire 50 percent local, but a recent study shows the average is 20 percent. Surrounded by supporters, Supervisor John Avalos introduced legislation that will make it mandatory for publicly-funded projects to ensure half the workers are San Franciscans.

"It is local money, local investments of tax dollars, and local residents should have first shot at jobs," he said.

The 50 percent local hiring requirement would be phased in over three years. But one industry expert says the time frame is unrealistic.

"It involves them creating better than 1,000 journey-level workers out of thin air in the next two years," Michael Theriault from San Francisco Construction said

Theriault believes apprenticeship programs can't churn out workers that quickly and he cites other challenges. For example, shop classes that were once training grounds for the construction industry are almost non-existent. The one at John O'Connell High School is the only one of its kind in San Francisco.

Those who do go into construction may eventually leave the city to find more affordable housing, but the president of a San Francisco ironworks company says there are no excuses. More than 90 percent of the workers she hires are local.

"San Francisco needs to keep every dollar it can in the local economy," Florence Kong from Kwan Wo Ironworks said.

The city of Richmond has a 25 percent local hiring program, but this proposal is modeled after a law in Cleveland that has withstood a legal challenge.


Load Comments