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San Francisco’s 5-Year-Old Local Hire Policy a Huge Success

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Nearly five years after implementation of a groundbreaking mandatory local hiring law based on job guarantees rather than “good faith,” the San Francisco Local Hiring Policy for Construction is the most successful U.S. program of its kind, even surpassing the law’s requirements, according to Brightline Defense Project.

Brightline – a member of Emerald Cities San Francisco’s Local Council – and its community allies were key players in forging the new community-labor partnership that led to the law’s enactment, with the support and leadership of San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos. The law’s path to success was enhanced when San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who took office in January 2011, pledged to make its successful implementation a priority. 

The law applies to contracts for San Francisco public works projects with construction budgets of $400,000 or more. In years one and two (2011 and 2012), it required that San Francisco residents work at least 20 percent of the total hours per trade on such projects. The local hire requirement increased to 30 percent for projects underway after March 2013 and is scheduled to increase to 35 percent after the city completes a workforce pipeline initiative with the San Francisco Unified School District. The law also requires that city residents work half of all apprentice hours per trade each year.

Stats Showcase Success

In November 2014, city officials shared with Avalos and members of the Mayor’s Construction Workforce Advisory Committee – a task force comprised of community, labor, business and city department representatives – the extent of the hiring policy’s success:

  • In 2014, local hiring reached 38 percent of all job hours and 59 percent of apprentice hours. 
  • On projects underway with the 30 percent hiring requirement, local residents performed 44 percent of total hours and 69 percent of apprentice hours.
  • Across 4 million job hours since local hiring went into effect in March 2011, 37 percent of total hours and 57 percent of apprentice hours have been performed by San Francisco residents. 

That contrasts sharply with the situation in 2010, when San Francisco, like many other U.S. cities, was struggling with record unemployment, especially in low-income communities of color. From July 2009 to July 2010, local residents worked an average of 20 percent of job hours on city-funded public works construction under what Brightline labeled “a failed ‘good faith efforts’” local hire ordinance, exacerbating the displacement of working class San Franciscans. 

“For many workers and their families, local hiring and access to good-paying union jobs have been essential to their efforts to continue residing in San Francisco, as affordability has become a major challenge,” said Brightline Executive Director Joshua Arce.

Brightline also works to strengthen local economies elsewhere around the country, including in Seattle and Baltimore, by replicating the community hiring tools successfully developed in San Francisco.  

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