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Ohio Law Squelches Cleveland's Local-Hire Requirements

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Ignoring pleas from Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, City Council President Kevin Kelley, the Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP) and its Commission on Economic Inclusion, a resolution by the City Council and a Cleveland.com editorial, Ohio Gov. John Kasich has enacted a law prohibiting Cleveland and other Ohio cities from imposing local-hire requirements on construction project contractors.

Enacted in 2003, Cleveland’s law – the Fannie M. Lewis Cleveland Resident Employment Law named for a long-time city councilwoman – required that at least 20 percent of construction work hours on local projects of $100,000 or more be performed by city residents.

A statement from City Hall noted that Kasich had “embraced local hiring when he came to Cleveland last year to publicly back the $330 million Opportunity Corridor” road project. “The governor pledged $500,000 in public monies to create construction jobs for people living in the Corridor area,” Kelley said, adding, “That pledge appears to be fading.”

The statement also said Cleveland is not the only Ohio city to enact a local hire law.

Few Construction Jobs for Cleveland Residents
In a letter to Kasich, Jackson stated that when the local-hire law was enacted, “few employment opportunities arose for Cleveland residents on Cleveland-financed construction projects,” despite residents having required skills and training. He added that the city’s unemployment and poverty rates were higher than those in surrounding communities.

Jackson said the law’s intent was to “alleviate unemployment and poverty in Cleveland through employment opportunities on construction projects funded, in whole or in part, with city assistance” to ensure that residents “participate in, and benefit from, the economic opportunities these projects present.” 

He continued, “low-income workers, women, people with disabilities and people of color are vastly underrepresented in construction jobs” compared with their overall workforce participation. “Local hiring on construction projects offers a pathway toward full workforce inclusion for all members of our community,” he said.

In a statement, GCP – which mobilizes private-sector leadership, expertise and resources to create attractive business conditions that create jobs, grow investment and improve the region’s economic prosperity – said the law that Kasich signed threatens “the successful Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs) in place throughout Northeast Ohio,” which “are important tools for regional and local governments to ensure that public expenditures result in real community gains, such as an inclusive workforce, apprentice opportunities, minority contracting and local hiring.”

GCP CEO Joe Roman also raised local autonomy concerns, saying the new law “would interfere with home rule – where locals make decisions on what is best for their community without intrusion from the state.”

Jackson echoed that in his letters, noting that the law signals “that our state government is opposed to local initiatives in urban areas to help improve their local economies and the lives of their residents.”

Commented ECC Economic Inclusion Director Sarah Robinson: “Economic Inclusion must be a priority for policy makers, businesses and industries, it requires a deeper commitment to skill development. Our collaboration with Cuyahoga County to increase vendor diversity and local firm participation on construction projects generated by the Cuyahoga County Clean Energy Finance Hub should be a statewide precedent. Kasich’s action will have a detrimental effect on economic mobility.”

These protests fell on deaf ears, and the governor signed the bill into law on May 31. According to Cleveland.com, Jackson said city attorneys were reviewing Cleveland’s options.

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