Columbus, OH, tests plan to increase apprenticeships, local hires

By Kim Slowey
Nov. 2, 2017

Dive Brief:

  • The city of Columbus, OH, is testing a new construction apprenticeship and local hiring plan for public projects that it hopes will boost the local construction workforce, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
  • The agreement between the city and the Columbus Building & Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO, requires the organization to host apprenticeship fairs, use 20% Columbus and 25% regional residents on the project, and collect five cents for every hour each member works to help fund an apprentice scholarship fund. City officials said non-union contractors will also be able to bid the project.
  • The first project to operate under the program is the construction of an $8 million firehouse. The local chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America expressed concern that the new workforce requirements would make it more difficult for contractors to bid on projects competitively.

Dive Insight:

It’s not uncommon for state and local governments to specify hiring requirements for publicly funded projects. Local activists often see it as a way to get a return on invested taxpayer money. However, while the goal of using as many locals as possible is not one with which many would disagree, the details of these initiatives are up for debate.

First, in some markets, contractors have difficulty finding enough workers to meet local mandates. For example, contractors working on the new Little Caesars Arena in Detroit were fined almost $3 million through March of this year for failing to meet the local hiring requirements laid out by the city. By all accounts, the contractors did their best to recruit local workers, but the skilled talent pool was just too thin.

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Trump Administration Drops Local Hire Program That Would Have Employed Hundreds of Thousands of Americans

AUG 25, 2017

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced, that effective on August 25, it will no longer support local hire programs in cities that receive federal grants.

The DOT announced this week that it is withdrawing a proposed revision of a rule that – since 1988 – has prohibited the use of geographic preferences in the expenditure of federal grant funds. This change will go into effect on August 25.

The proposed rule and accompanying local hire pilot program, originally drafted by the Obama administration in 2015, has allowed cities receiving federal grant funds to apply local hire policies to federally funded construction projects, so long as that language did not violate federal law. With this week’s announcement, the Trump DOT is officially signalling that it will no longer pursue that rule change.

Madeline Janis, executive director of Jobs to Move America, said: “This administration’s withdrawal of support for local job creation directly contradicts President Trump’s stated commitment to creating good jobs for people in this country. Many Americans continue to suffer from poverty and inequality and desperately need the opportunities that are created by our federal infrastructure and transportation investments. Why not give local communities the opportunity to benefit from taxpayer investment?”

“Local hire has allowed municipalities to use their own money to help employ people directly from their communities. It has been strategic for our elected leaders to say that they’re not going to raise our tax dollars for investments in capital projects without ensuring that persons facing significant barriers to employment get expanded access to good jobs and training opportunities,” said Erik Miller, executive director of Playa Vista Job Opportunities and Business Services.

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LCA contractors fined $2.9M over Detroit hires (MI)

Louis Aguilar, The Detroit News
Published 11:38 p.m. ET Aug. 23, 2017
Updated 8:29 a.m. ET Aug. 24, 2017

Dozens of the contractors building Little Caesars Arena have been fined a total of $2.9 million as of March for frequently not hiring at least 51 percent of Detroiters at the ongoing construction site, according to the latest data collected by the city.

And that total is expected to be even higher during the push to complete construction of the $862.9 million sports and entertainment complex by early September, based on the monthly data compiled by the city agency monitoring the workforce agreements on construction sites, said Portia Roberson, director of the city’s Office of Human Rights.

An average of 27 percent of total hours worked at the arena site were performed by Detroit residents from April 2015 to March 2017, the latest monthly data available. It’s been two years, August 2015, since at least 51 percent of hours worked at the site was done by Detroit residents, data shows. The percentage of hours worked is the measure the city uses to determine how many residents the individual contractors have working at the site.

In March alone, the city cited 53 of the contractors with fines ranging from $137,613 to a unit of Motor City Electric to 26 cents to John Papalas & Co. Motor City Electric is a large electrical contractor and the Papalas firm specializes in industrial painting and sheeting services. The other 32 contracting units on site were not fined, according to city records. Several large contractors, it should be noted, have multiple units working at the site.

Currently, crews are working three shifts each week day and Saturdays, with more than 1,100 workers on the site on weekdays, said a spokesman for Olympia Development of Michigan, the firm overseeing the construction.

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G.O.P. Expands Labor Battle to Laws Setting State Construction Wages


A bill that would end prescribed wages on public construction projects in Indiana awaits the signature of Gov. Mike Pence. And Henry Burks, a union electrician who lives near Indianapolis, is bracing.

Mr. Burks, 57, is putting off plans to build a patio at his house. He is delaying painting and landscaping, too. And he said he is worried about how to continue helping his grown children with college costs if his income drops, as he firmly expects.

“This is going to inhibit me from taking care of my family,” Mr. Burks, who makes about $60,000 a year, said the other day as he took a break from installing conduit inside a corn processing plant in Lafayette. “Our wages will go down. The contractors we work for won’t get as many jobs. Maybe I’ll have to find work outside of Indiana.”