Failing to hire local may become illegal

San Francisco residents would secure a greater share of work on city-funded construction projects under proposed legislation that would mandate minimum local hiring levels.

The City has long asked its contractors to make good-faith efforts to ensure that locals make up at least half of every project’s work force.

Employing city residents on San Francisco-funded projects helps keep taxpayer money in the local economy, reduces The City’s jobless rate and allows residents to contribute to the rebuilding of neighborhoods.

But a city-funded report published in early August by two nonprofits revealed that The City’s good-faith policy has failed, with only 24 percent of work on 29 analyzed projects being completed by locals.

The exhaustive report was prepared as part of a long-running citywide effort to improve local hiring rates.

Supervisor John Avalos said he plans to introduce legislation before Thanksgiving that would mandate minimum local hiring levels for city-funded projects.

Avalos said he hopes to mandate a 50 percent local hiring rate, but ongoing discussions between city, labor and business stakeholders coordinated by high-profile nonprofits might reveal that level of local hiring is unrealistic.

“Getting as high as we can, 50 percent, is the goal, but I’m not sure we’re going to land there,” Avalos said. “I haven’t put pen to paper. I want to do it right and make sure that we hear from all the different stakeholders.”

Mayor Gavin Newsom will support legislation if mandates are realistic and achievable, spokesman Tony Winnicker said.

“We all support the goal,” Winnicker said. “The devil is in the details.”

High local-hiring rates can be difficult for contractors to achieve because of union rules about job allocations, labor costs, training issues including a shortage of shop classes in San Francisco schools, state and federal laws and The City’s status as a regional hub.

Unions are expected to push back on the measure unless San Francisco commits to increasing the number of local residents working for The City.

Such a law might not apply to projects that receive federal funding, such as transit projects, due to federal law.

But scores of other upcoming construction projects, from drawbridge overhauls to the expansion of Moscone Center, are funded locally and could be affected by the proposed legislation.

jupton@sfexaminer.com

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