AGC forms Acceptable Worksites taskforce

Nov. 21, 2017  - 
To support the City of Seattle's Priority Hire program and its community workforce goals, Acceptable Worksites contract provisions were included in city-issued contracts to improve apprenticeship graduation rates among women and people of color and to ensure appropriate behavior on all city project sites. As similar Priority Hire initiatives become regionalized, the Port of Seattle, King County, Sound Transit and WSDOT are also beginning to incorporate language about acceptable-jobsite environments into policies governing construction contracts.

To monitor the City of Seattle's program and attempt to influence the expansion of similar programs to other agencies, AGC formed the Acceptable Worksites Taskforce.

First Steps  Initially, the taskforce focused on working with the City to clear up vague and loosely defined language in the Seattle provisions. This effort resulted in a few moderate changes which helped contractors better understand how to comply with the provisions. One of the most significant changes was a clearer definition of which job assignments would be deemed ‘unacceptable’. 

The task force arranged for City representatives to meet with the AGC Human Resources Roundtable in July. After that meeting, the task force determined more detailed information on city activities was relevant and submitted a public-records request to obtain that information.

Continued Efforts  Since September, several taskforce members have attended agency meetings, met individually with key agency contacts, and been instrumental in communicating with the Port of Seattle and King County as both agencies advance Priority Hire legislation containing language about acceptable worksites. They have helped these agencies understand the high level of concern AGC member companies have for the emotional safety of their workers, and how their current HR policies and training have resulted in declining rates of jobsite harassment and racism in our industry.

Most recently, policy staff from City of Seattle, the Port and King County attended an AGC Seattle District Safety Meeting to see firsthand how our community of professionals seeks constant improvement by sharing best practices. Sound Transit has expressed interest in attending the January meeting and we have extended that invitation.

The Acceptable Worksites Taskforce last met on November 17. In attendance were Taskforce Chair Jay Bulson, Northwest Construction; AGC President Jake Jacobson; attorney Bob Marconi of Ashbaugh Beal and Dee Riley of Lydig. After looking at the provisions, as well as public records of incidents over the last 18 months, there were four key findings:

  • The total number of complaints was small
  • Contractors were responsive when made aware of any problem
  • The City routinely conducts safety stand downs as a response to complaints
  • Continued monitoring of public records will be helpful

Bob Marconi conducted a legal review of the various Priority Hire documents and the requested public records for the City of Seattle. In general, he determined any legal challenge to the current provisions would be an uphill battle, as well as costly and time consuming. However, more specifically, the linking of compliance to the award of future contracts is cause for concern. Marconi suggests that the taskforce monitor closely how Acceptable Worksites' past performance is being used in the public-bid and contract-award process to determine if there may be cause for legal challenge relative to the City’s decisions and actions associated with these awards.

Next Steps  The taskforce will continue to monitor the City’s actions and strive to fulfill the AGC's goal to strengthen agency relationships and work in partnership to reduce unacceptable behavior on the jobsite. As policy develops at King County, Port of Seattle, Sound Transit and WSDOT, AGC will engage with agencies to establish the most effective role for contractors in this kind of workplace safety.

If you are interested in getting involved with this effort, please contact Sonja Forster.