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Sacramento City Council passes contentious local-hire ordinance

City Council votes to approve local-hire ordinance

A Local Hire and Community Workforce Training Program, which would encourage contractors to hire locals to work on public projects, was passed at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
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A Local Hire and Community Workforce Training Program, which would encourage contractors to hire locals to work on public projects, was passed at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

In a City Hall meeting packed with men and women wearing hardhats and reflective yellow vests, the Sacramento City Council approved a new ordinance Tuesday night that gives Sacramento building contractors an incentive to hire local workers. The vote was 7-2 in favor of the ordinance.

The Local Hire and Community Workforce Training Program encourages contractors doing work on projects funded by the city with budgets of $1 million or more to allot 50 percent of their total workforce hours to area residents. The ordinance prioritizes residents of the city of Sacramento, followed by residents of Sacramento County, and then residents of the surrounding counties that make up the Sacramento region.

In addition, 20 percent of the total hours worked by apprentices on the project must come from “priority apprentices,” meaning people who reside in one of 11 economically disadvantaged zip codes and are either a veteran, a prior offender, a welfare recipient, a foster youth, a homeless person or a woman. The program also will include a high school internship component.

Nearly every seat in the hall was filled. Outside, there were more people — some watching the meeting via the televisions outside the chamber, others outside pressed against the chamber windows with signs reading “Carpenters in Action.” Some people wore T-shirts bearing the quote: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Over the course of two hours, supporters and opponents of the ordinance had the opportunity to share their thoughts.

Dan Cardoza, legal counsel to the Sacramento Sierra Building and Construction Trades Council, characterized the ordinance as “the most aggressive and ambitious community workforce requirements in any program-wide agreement in the state.”

Supporters pointed to the benefits it would have to local disadvantaged communities — especially minorities, people living in or near poverty, veterans and the formerly incarcerated.

During public comment, union carpenter Patricia Ramirez said after she had “chosen the wrong path,” her life was turned around after going through an apprenticeship program at the Carpenters Union.

“I went from sleeping on cardboard boxes in a little room on the east side of San Jose to buying my own home here in Sacramento,” she said. To her, the ordinance will “open a pathway for work opportunities, provide a livable wage, benefits with respect and dignity, and strengthen our communities for all Sacramento residents.”

Members of the Sacramento Regional Conservation Corps spoke about how the opportunities the ordinance affords would greatly affect the lives of teens and young adults working to find ways out of poverty.

But people opposed to the ordinance pointed to worries they had over it leading to non-union contractors becoming boxed out of the city’s projects.

“There’s a lot of great things that are going on in the non-union merit shops,” said Fred Barnum, a non-union electric contractor. He worried the ordinance would ”basically exclude my company with 300 local people from bidding any projects in the city of Sacramento that are taxpayer funded. And I don’t think you should do that. Our employees should have the same opportunity as these wonderful union people here.”

But according to Cardoza, the ordinance would not exclude non-union contractors. For employees of non-union contractors to work on local-hire projects, they just have to go to the union hiring hall to sign up. The hiring hall is prohibited from discriminating in job referrals based on union membership.

Cherie Cabral, of the State Building Trades, added that non-union contractors make up about about 60 percent of the contractors that successfully bid on local-hire projects.

A similar local hire requirement was implemented during the construction of the Golden 1 Center. Although the city did not have an official hand in that policy, Sacramento’s ordinance is similar in scope and goal. According to the Council’s resolution, promoting the hiring of local residents “will have direct economic benefits to the city, including employment and indirect sales taxes.”

The program will apply to multiple projects the city is working on in the coming months, including construction on the Natomas Aquatic Center, McKinley Vault, 3rd Street Sewer and Fire Station 14.

Councilman Jeff Harris had a couple of concerns about the cost of the local-hire project, and motioned for a week-long continuation of discussion. But his motion was eventually voted against, and the Council proceeded to approve the ordinance. Harris and Councilman Allen Warren voted against the measure.

A similar local hire requirement was implemented during the construction of the Golden 1 Center. Although the city did not have an official hand in that policy, Sacramento’s ordinance is similar in scope and goal. According to the Council’s resolution, promoting the hiring of local residents “will have direct economic benefits to the city, including employment and indirect sales taxes.”

The program will apply to multiple projects the city is working on in the coming months, including construction on the Natomas Aquatic Center, McKinley Vault, 3rd Street Sewer and Fire Station 14.

Councilman Larry Carr expressed his hope that the ordinance would strengthen the Sacramento community — especially the disadvantaged.

“What are we trying to do here?” Carr asked. Then, answering his own question, he said: “Leverage the buying power of the city to direct high-paying jobs to those areas that have been left out.”

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