construction-worker.jpgSan Francisco Supervisor John Avalos introduced legislation today that would require contractors to hire a minimum number of city residents for all publicly funded construction projects.

“We’re paying those tax dollars. It only makes sense that we have a local benefit,” Avalos told a large crowd rallying this afternoon outside City Hall.

Current city policy asks contractors to make “good faith efforts” to hire qualified workers who live in the city for at least 50 percent of their work forces on public construction projects.

But Avalos said the latest city study estimates only 20 percent of the hiring is local.

“It has not worked for us,” he said. “It has not worked for our communities.”

Joining Avalos today were supervisors David Campos, David Chiu, Ross Mirkarimi, Chris Daly, Eric Mar and Sophie Maxwell, as well as progressive groups advocating on behalf of some of the city’s most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Alicia Garza of the group People Organized to Win Economic Rights said some neighborhoods aren’t “receiving the benefits of living in such a world-class city.” She said a local hiring mandate would help level the playing field.

Speakers argued that in neighborhoods struggling with joblessness, poverty and crime, a local hiring requirement would benefit all.

Concerns, however, remain among not just contractors worried about finding qualified local workers, but the building trade unions that represent the contractors, Avalos acknowledged.

“There are delicate relationships to balance,” he said.

Avalos’ proposal would adopt a phased-in approach to local hiring requirements, going from at least 30 percent in the first year to 40 percent in the second year and 50 percent in the third year.

Contractors who fail to meet the hiring requirements would be assessed financial penalties, but they could avoid the fines if they sponsor local workers for apprenticeship programs.

Proponents insisted the measure is legally viable.

Avalos said he was committed to an ongoing dialogue with unions, contractors, community members, and other city officials, including Mayor Gavin Newsom. He said the ordinance could be amended as discussions move forward.

Newsom’s office today said it supports the principle.

“The mayor supports stronger local hiring requirements,” spokesman Tony Winnicker said.

He said the mayor would continue to work with all parties involved “to develop achievable and legally enforceable legislation.”

But Winnicker cautioned that focus also needed to be placed on investments in local infrastructure and other business-friendly measures.

“The best local job guarantee is a growing local economy,” Winnicker said.

The legislation is expected to be heard in committee in November.

Ari Burack, Bay City News

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