King County Passes Priority Hire Ordinance

On Monday, March 5, 2018, the King County Council passed the Priority-Hire Ordinance with unanimous support. The ordinance paves the way for the County to negotiate with Labor a Master Community-Workforce Agreement which will direct unions to prioritize workers from designated disadvantaged zip codes for dispatch to covered projects.

AGC supports Priority Hire and its goal to increase labor supply and encourage more diversity in our construction labor force. However, AGC opposes any labor agreement negotiated without contractors at the table. The industry feedback is clear: community workforce agreements often have the opposite of their intended effect – they create unfair risks and legal exposure to smaller and more vulnerable businesses, can lead to increased and less-competitive bids, and generally discourage contractors of all sizes from participating in public works.

Alongside the National Minority Contractors Association, AGC strongly advocated for amendments which would have better protected open-shop, small and minority- and women-owned businesses. Councilmembers were responsive to the plight of these firms, and some proposed changes to address AGC’s concerns, but ultimately they fell short on enacting specific protections. Specifically, the council voted down five amendments to make County projects more accessible to more small businesses and their workers: a small contract exemption, dual-benefit trust payment waiver, retaining the threshold to impose a CWA at $25 million, requiring apprentice percentages to match existing workforce, and an increase of core workers from three to five. Special thanks to Councilmembers Lambert, Dunn and Balducci who sponsored these amendments.

King County now joins the Port of Seattle to begin negotiating a master labor agreement to implement Priority Hire. Despite the council’s failure to approve specific amendments, we were encouraged by productive dialogue with several Councilmembers; our points were well communicated, and opportunities remain for AGC membership to continue the discussion and build the momentum.

If you would like to get more involved in this issue through our Local Government Affairs Committee, please contact Sonja Forster.