web analytics

Local hiring law succeeding despite concerns over skilled-labor supply

Trending Articles

Amid a building boom, The City is proving there are enough residents who want to work as carpenters, electricians and other building tradespersons to more than exceed a local hiring mandate for public construction jobs. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Hiring in San Francisco is about more than tech jobs.

Amid a building boom, The City is proving there are enough residents who want to work as carpenters, electricians and other building tradespersons to more than exceed a local hiring mandate for public construction jobs, according to a new report.

Since the law went into effect in March 2011, some 364 publicly funded projects valued at more than $2.8 billion were subject to the mandate.

Arguably, the law couldn’t have come at a better time. As San Francisco climbed out of the Great Recession beginning around 2010, and an economic and development boom — driven by the technology economy — has offered an alternative to tech jobs for residents in some of The City’s neighborhoods with the greatest unemployment.

The mandate would have risen by 5 percent each year since 2011, starting at 20 percent, until reaching 50 percent, but amid concerns over a local skilled-labor shortage the program was amended to freeze the mandate at 30 percent from 2013 until March 2017.

But the report found the 201 projects subject to the 30 percent mandate since 2013 have actually exceeded their goal, hitting a 45 percent local hire rate.

Supervisor John Avalos, who introduced the legislation calling for the local hiring mandate, declared the effort a “wild success.”

“It was pro-union legislation and built to serve working class neighborhoods of color like the Excelsior and Bayview that have had high levels of unemployment,” said Avalos, who represents the Excelsior District.

The five-year local hiring report provides rarely seen data about the demographics of who is landing work at the publicly funded job sites.

Between March 2011 and March 2016, 18,468 carpenters, masons, electricians and other tradespersons found work on these construction sites, of which 3,398 were San Francisco residents. Of the total employed, just 344 were women.

A greater percentage of the local workforce is comprised of women, 4.5 percent versus 1.8 percent. Also a greater percentage of the local workforce are black and Asian, or Pacific Islander.

Of the total workers, 47 percent are Latino, 27 percent white, 6 percent black and 5 percent Asian or Pacific Islander. Of the local hires, 38 percent are Latino, 19 percent white, 15 percent black and 16 percent Asian or Pacific Islander.

The report breaks down the local jobs by zip code as well, illustrating the highest concentrations of those employed on the work sites live in the Bayview, with 647 workers, the Excelsior and Outer Mission with 606 workers, and the Mission with 431.

The jobs are the public projects of six city departments — Municipal Transportation Agency, Port of San Francisco, Public Utilities Commission, Recreation and Park Department, San Francisco International Airport and San Francisco Public Works.

In addition to San Francisco workers, some of the largest groups of workers hailed from Alameda County with 3,480 workers, Contra Costa with 2,392, Santa Clara with 1,965 and San Mateo with 1,730, during the past five years.

Avalos said he had met with Mayor Ed Lee in 2011 to receive assurances the mayor would commit to the law before voting Lee in as the then-interim mayor to succeed Gavin Newsom. That conversation included a commitment to strengthen The City’s training programs for construction jobs and work with city construction contractors.

“Now labor organizations, like the electrical workers, who opposed passage of local hiring have embraced the ordinance which serves as a model for the rest of the country,” Avalos said.

Avalos, who is termed out next year, didn’t offer an opinion whether The City should start raising the percentage once again.

“That’ll be up to my successors,” Avalos said. He added he had “decided to stay put on the mandate” after observing the rising percentages and “solid track record” of training programs and city contractors.

Training programs include the CityBuild Academy in partnership with City College. During the past decade, 874 residents have graduated, of which 753 secured employment in the construction trades, the report found.

The mayor, who was largely elected to his first term on his promises of “jobs, jobs, jobs,” hailed successes of city departments in the report.

“The Local Hire Policy put San Franciscans back to work and reignited investments into our local economy,” Lee said.

Public Works, for example, has since 2011 overseen 148 projects comprising 2.2 million work hours. Local residents worked 36 percent of those hours.

“We are committed to providing job opportunities for local residents,” Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru wrote in an email to the San Francisco Examiner. “Whether it’s creating streetscapes or constructing The City’s public buildings, overall on our projects we’ve exceeded the local hire requirement.”

Looking ahead, the report said the “primary challenge” remains having a “strong pipeline of skilled workers.”

But the report points to “pressure from private development” and increased public projects as contributing to “the potential for a shortage of skilled local workers in the coming years.”

That means The City must expand its workforce training, the report recommended.

City officials have discussed extending a local hire mandate to the technology industry to address criticism long term residents are left out of this sector, but no formal proposal has emerged.

Click here or scroll down to comment

  • JustJake

    This “law” or Local Hire Program is in many cases being gamed, and contributes to the higher than typical cost of construction in SF. For example, in the Bayview Hunters Point area with large construction activity, the ABU “Aboriginal Blackmen United” group has totally co-opted the situation, and does a defacto end-around the City Build hiring system. All done with a wink of the eye by the City and Lennar developers. Pay-to-Play.

  • sffoghorn

    Yes, Lennar purchased government and got massive entitlements in exchange.