Seattle Mayor Ed Murray wants to expand the city’s “priority-hire” policy to some private projects in which the city has a major stake. A city report documents how the program has helped put people from poor neighborhoods to work.
Seattle’s new “priority-hire” policy, which reserves a percentage of labor on large city construction projects for people who live in local neighborhoods with high poverty and unemployment rates, and low education rates, is a success, Mayor Ed Murray says.
That’s why Murray wants to extend the policy to some private projects in which the city has a major stake, including redevelopment planned for KeyArena, Seattle Aquarium and the Seattle Asian Art Museum, the mayor announced Wednesday.
The priority-hire policy that Murray and the City Council passed in 2015 covers city projects of $5 million or more, with the goal of helping disadvantaged people get work.
To implement the policy, the city negotiated a community-workforce agreement with a number of building-trades unions. The agreement includes goals for hiring women and people of color, and it mandates that apprentices be used at certain rates.
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The results? A report says people from the target ZIP codes have worked 237,000 hours on seven projects covered by the agreement — 21 percent of the total hours.
That’s nearly double their share of hours on a sample of similar past projects, and the work has brought them more than $8.5 million in wages, the report says.
Seattle residents have seen their share of hours on large city projects increase 233 percent, women 140 percent and African Americans 125 percent, compared to the sample of past projects, the report says.
People of color overall have seen their share increase 4 percent. Hispanic journey-level workers have seen their share decrease dramatically, the report says.
That’s likely due to a change in how workers are being asked to identify their ethnicity rather than due to the priority-hire policy, the report says.
The city has spent $1.1 million on contracts with training programs and community organizations to recruit and prepare people for construction jobs.
In remarks at the Seattle Vocational Institute in the Central Area, Murray told the story of a woman from Rainier Valley who moved from unemployment to an apprenticeship to earning $32 an hour as a flagger for Laborers Local 440.
She was hired in 2014 to work on Seattle City Light’s Blue Ridge Conduit Installation project, he noted, saying such stories “have convinced me to expand” Priority Hire.
Murray issued an executive order Wednesday directing the city’s departments to check in with his administration when they become involved with large private projects.
In some cases, the administration will advise the departments to impose labor requirements similar to those covering the city’s own large projects, starting with the KeyArena, Seattle Aquarium and Seattle Asian Art Museum projects.
For example, contractors on the three projects will be required to sign on to Seattle’s community-workforce agreement with the building-trades unions, the order says.