Veto-proof majority tees up final reading next Tuesday for nation’s strongest local hiring law
by Brightline Defense Project
San Francisco – Supervisor John Avalos won overwhelming support from his colleagues for his landmark local hiring legislation Tuesday, Dec. 7, calling the law a “New Deal for San Francisco.” Eight San Francisco Supervisors voted for the measure, which requires local and disadvantaged workers to be employed on public works projects funded by public dollars in an effort to reduce community unemployment and boost the local economy. City procedure requires a second and final reading of the measure next Tuesday, followed by a vote to send the law to Mayor Newsom for his signature.
The San Francisco Examiner called the measure “one of the most aggressive local-hiring laws in the nation” and noted Supervisor Avalos’ reflection on the Depression era, when “government was able to put many people back to work through publicly funded construction projects.” According to the Bay Citizen, “the approach is expected to increase costs for public construction projects while reducing city joblessness and increasing the amount of San Francisco’s tax money that remains in the local economy.” The City Controller noted last week that the measure has “positive net benefits to the local economy” overall and that the projected increased cost of construction is just under 1 percent.
While Supervisor Avalos will forever stand as a hero for the many community members, out-of-work trade unionists, jobs advocates, families and social justice activists that he engaged to help him craft the legislation and who will benefit from the law as soon as January, a badge of courage must certainly be awarded to Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who was said to be on the fence just hours before yesterday’s meeting and would end up casting the vote that ensures the Board’s ability to override a potential mayoral veto.
The Bay Guardian reported on a meeting between James Richards, head of Bayview Hunters Point job advocates ABU (Aboriginal Blackmen United), and Supervisor Dufty just minutes before the vote in which out-of-work union members packed the Supervisor’s office. Many leaders in the African American community, including Bayview activist Espanola Jackson, members of the Southeast Jobs and Osiris Coalitions and NAACP representatives, spent the weekend reaching out to Supervisor Dufty for support, but it may have been Richards’ pointed request of “I’m going to cut to the chase: We need you to say yes” that sealed the deal.
Supervisor Sophie Maxwell has lamented the lost opportunities of the previous failed era of local hiring that relied solely on “good faith efforts” to connect local workers with jobs they fund as taxpayers, but her call to use this law to “grow a middle class instead of importing it” echoed throughout the hall and her work in helping Avalos pass the legislation must certainly be part of her legacy as District 10 Supervisor.
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi provided the second to Avalos’ motion to approve the legislation, saluting his colleague for addressing local hiring performance under “good faith efforts” that consistently “comes up incredibly thin” and for producing what Mirkarimi suggested will be a catalyst to mandate local hiring in other sectors.
Supervisor Eric Mar noted the environmental benefits of a localized workforce and suggested that linking green jobs to disadvantaged and environmental justice communities will now become much easier with this law.
Supervisor David Campos noted that the Avalos legislation is “one of the most significant pieces of legislation to come out of this body” and reminded his colleagues that local hiring is a topic of every single budget discussion at City Hall.
Supervisor Dufty noted the convergence of community, labor, business and government stakeholders around the Avalos law in the past weeks in indicating that he would vote for the measure. Indeed, apart from drawing support from every social justice and job development organization and out-of-work resident in San Francisco, the measure earned the support of the City’s two largest building trade unions, the Laborers and the Carpenters, regional contractors such as Webcor Builders, local contractors sewn into the fabric of San Francisco such as Nibbi Brothers, and community contractors such as Rubecon, Kwan Wo Ironworks and Liberty Builders.
In addition, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, CityBuild, Public Utilities Commission, Redevelopment Agency and Department of Public Works worked with Avalos to craft the law, leading SFPUC General Manager Ed Harrington and Redevelopment Executive Director Fred Blackwell to openly declare their support for the measure last week, with Harrington even telling Supervisor Dufty that he did not want to proceed with the $3 billion rebuild of the City’s wastewater system without the Avalos law in place.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Mayor Newsom has not said whether he will attempt a veto and has expressed concern about the cost of the measure. Last week, the City Controller proposed a “cap and trade” approach in which non-compliant contractors would be able to purchase local hiring “credits” from compliant contractors as a way to lower the cost of implementation from its currently expected amount of less than 1 percent. However, policymakers noted that the positive economic impact of the measure dwarfs the projected cost increase, and the “cap-and-trade” idea never gained traction among Supervisors or the public, offending many with its underlying concept of buying and selling workers on the market.
There is hope that the mayor will support the law, which has little remaining opposition. The measure was co-sponsored by Supervisors Avalos, Mirkarimi, Maxwell, Campos and Mar, as well as Board President David Chiu and Supervisor Chris Daly. Many advocates are hopeful that Supervisor Carmen Chu may even join the list of supporters with the addition of an amendment yesterday to guarantee opportunities to participants in vocational English as a second language (VESL) programs. Chu created the city’s VESL program that is implemented through CityBuild, and her work in this area will receive a big boost when the Avalos law is signed.
“This was a courageous step by John Avalos and the Board of Supervisors. It means a sustainable career path for those historically locked out of these opportunities, particularly those who are coming out of prison,” said Macio Lyons, a Bayview Hunters Point community advocate who has written local hiring articles for the San Francisco Bay View newspaper. “But we have to remain vigilant to maintain this community victory,” Lyons cautioned.
“Today represents the fulfillment of generations of jobs promises deferred,” said Brightline Executive Director Joshua Arce, who worked with Chinese for Affirmative Action to publish the August 2010 report on San Francisco local hiring entitled “The Failure of Good Faith.”
Brightline Defense Project is a non-profit civil rights advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and empowering communities. Brightline’s efforts have led to the prevention of a new power plant in Southeast San Francisco and increased employment opportunities for economically disadvantaged residents, particularly in the green jobs sector. Learn more at www.brightlinedefense.org. Executive Director Joshua Arce can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.