Priority-hire programs are sweeping through our local agencies and, while AGC of Washington has been a stalwart supporter of diversity on the jobsite, we have taken exception to the City of Seattle‘s approach.
At the request of the Mayor, the City departments of FAS and CPCS last week briefed City Council members Lisa Herbold, Bruce Harrell, Kshama Sawant and Mike O’Brien on the 2016 Priority-Hire Annual Report. Among the report’s recommendations are legislative changes that will add even more workforce restrictions on contractors, and contract provisions that will increase penalties for contractors who fail to meet priority-worker (women, minorities, and workers from designated disadvantaged zip codes) goals.
The City Council will hear public comments on proposed changes to the Priority-Hire Ordinance on March 31st, and again in mid-April. AGC is looking for members to give testimony to the City Council and participate in upcoming meetings with King County and the Port of Seattle. Both of these agencies are looking at what Seattle is doing to inform the creation of their own permanent priority-hire programs this year.
Noticeably absent from the City’s recommendations are relief for open-shop apprentices who are currently locked out of working on CWA projects, and meaningful solutions for increasing participation by WMBE (Women and Minority Business Enterprise) firms. The majority of WMBE contractors and specialty contractors are open-shop businesses who remain deeply opposed to working on CWA projects because of the administrative burdens and limited ability to use their own employees on the jobsite. Without access to this workforce, all contractors working on CWA projects continue to face challenges meeting priority-hire goals.
AGC has strongly recommended changes for the priority-hire program that will make it more fair and effective. The City took the opposite direction by recommending that the number of core workers be reduced to three and limiting WMBE businesses to five core workers. New enforcements and penalties on contractors will include the creation of liquidated damages, City monitoring of jobsite culture, and publishing of contractors’ performance in the Daily Journal of Commerce.
Contact Sonja Forster to become involved with this issue.