Seattle considers making construction companies hire local workers

Aug 12, 2014, 5:31 AM | Updated: 9:29 am
The Seattle City Council is looking at new rules that could require construction workers on taxpaye...
The Seattle City Council is looking at new rules that could require construction workers on taxpayer-funded projects come from within the city. (AP file)
(AP file)
LISTEN:

With all the construction going on around Seattle, there’s no shortage of opportunity for construction workers. But when it comes to city-backed projects, should those workers actually come from Seattle?

That’s the question as the Seattle City Council looks to craft a new “local hire” ordinance.

“We have taken a look at some of the numbers for projects in the Seattle area and see that a lot of the people who work on our capitol projects, they not only don’t live in Seattle, they don’t live in King County,” says Seattle City Council Member Sally Clark in an interview with KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz.

Clark chairs the council committee tasked with coming up with a solution that aims to bring together everyone from contractors to community members.

It won’t be easy. While some complain it’s wrong for city tax dollars to go to outside workers, others argue there just isn’t enough skilled labor in the immediate area, and limiting contractors ability to hire from a broader region would drive up costs on big projects like roads and libraries.

Clark admits there are far more questions than answers, even after a coalition from different interest groups including builders, workers and policy experts issued a broad set of recommendations following months of meetings earlier this year.

Clark says ultimately, if the city is going to mandate companies hire local workers, then it’s up to the city to make sure there are enough skilled workers for the job. And with forecasts calling for a shortage of skilled construction workers by 2019, she says the city needs to act now.

“If you want to train people, it’s going to cost a little bit of money,” Clark says. “I would argue that the cost of leaving large segments of our city under-trained or untrained and really struggling to make ends meet is much more expensive in terms of what we have to spend in the social safety net.”

There’s also the question of what constitutes “local.” Clark says her committee needs to make the regulations broad enough to ensure contractors can find the workers they need in what’s dubbed an adequate “workshed.”

But Rantz worries the effort could create an unworkable and overly expensive policy that hampers growth.

“I don’t think we should mandate that bids include workers that come directly from the neighborhood,” he says. “I understand the good intentions behind this but the fact is, every neighborhood is different. Why put the burden of this rule on a neighborhood that has a great employment rate? We’re just making it harder to get the best contractor that will do the best work for the smallest financial investment. I do, however, favor job training programs so long as they’re producing the desired results and spending tax dollars efficiently. ”

Clark acknowledges another challenge is reaching a compromise that keeps it feasible for both union and non-union contractors to bid on work without forcing workers to join a union.

“We’ve got to find a way that it works for both to participate, otherwise we’d be in trouble in terms of our other goals of making sure that small business people and minority and women-owned businesses also are competitive with city work,” Clark says.

There is no timetable for passing the new rules. But activists tell The Stranger they’re worried something needs to get done before budget talks begin in earnest in September, or the effort will get tabled for the time being.

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
  • listen to jason rantzTune in to AM 770 KTTH weekdays at 3-6pm toThe Jason Rantz Show.

Jason Rantz Show

Jason Rantz

Dow Constantine...
Jason Rantz

Rantz: Dow Constantine deletes photo as he went maskless at crowded event

King County Executive Dow Constantine doesn't practice what he preaches when it comes to COVID and masking.
3 days ago
mask, lunch...
Jason Rantz

Rantz: Students told to wear mask while chewing lunch, district cites nonexistent guidance

Tacoma's Geiger School demands students chew and swallow their lunch with their mask on. The district backed the policy on guidance that doesn't exist.
5 days ago
critical race theory...
Jason Rantz

Rantz: District tells staff to defend critical race theory, but deny they teach it

Puyallup School District staff were given partisan talking points to deny that they teach Critical Race Theory and attack Republicans.
6 days ago
Seahawks, mask...
Jason Rantz

Rantz: Mask mandate ignored at Seahawks game, highlights progressive hypocrisy

Seahawks ignored the mask mandate at Lumen Field. But will there be any consequences or media fretting over the super spreader threat? Nope.
7 days ago
Sawant recall...
KTTH staff

Recall group files new complaint over Kshama Sawant campaign spending

The group seeking to recall Councilmember Kshama Sawant filed a complaint alleging that she hadn't disclosed funds used to challenge the effort in court.
10 days ago
religious accommodation...
Jason Rantz

Rantz: All COVID vaccine religious accommodation requests rejected by Washington State Patrol

The Washington State Patrol has rejected every single religious accommodation request it has reviewed so far. But they say it's not a policy to reject them.
11 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
...
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
Courtesy of JWatch Photography....
Experience Anacortes

Summer Fun Activities in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
...
By Alaska Airlines

Calling all football fans: follow Russell on the road

Take your Northwest spirit that we’re known for on the road this season with Alaska Airlines.
...
By Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
Seattle considers making construction companies hire local workers