Local Hiring Coast to Coast
Over the last year, public policy nonprofit Brightline has worked in New Jersey to share local job creation policies and workforce development for communities in need. For decades, "good faith" hiring efforts have largely failed to achieve the desired goals of significantly increasing diversity in the workplace. With mandatory local hiring approaches now showing unparalleled hiring gains for residents from low-income communities, both Jersey City and Newark have taken steps toward job policy reform to create strong local economies and pathways out of poverty for historically neglected neighborhoods.
Local hire reform provides job opportunities for residents impacted and often ignored by economic development. With more local residents employed, distressed neighborhoods will see more local dollars being spent within their area. This local reinvestment leads to the oft-cited multiplier effect of creating more ancillary jobs and stimulating local economies with increased local spending. By creating the demand for a local diversified workforce, cities with local hiring ordinances can more significantly address neighborhood poverty and guarantee work for local residents graduating from job training programs.
In May 2015, Brightline participated in the Newark Workforce and Employment Conference convened by Mayor Ras J. Baraka. At this conference, Brightline's Policy Counsel Eddie Ahn spoke about his ongoing engagement with Newark's workforce development system, and the legal and policy solutions needed to get to a mandatory local hire model. As data from the Regional Planning Association revealed, local hiring for total jobs in Newark remains at 17.7%, a number that was greeted with dismay by many conference participants and Mayor Baraka himself. Given these numbers, Newark now seeks to improve local worker hours in construction and other industry sectors as well.
During that same month, Brightline also testified at the Joint Economic Justice Committee in Trenton convened by Senator Ronald L. Rice and Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly. In a hearing room packed with community leaders, service providers, and workforce experts, Brightline articulated the policy and legal framework behind local hire and the latest dramatic gains from San Francisco's mandatory local hiring policy. In early 2010, San Francisco had only "good faith efforts" requirements in local hiring, which led to a dismal 20% local hiring rate despite setting a 50% local hiring goal for decades. After reforming its law to require mandatory minimum percentages with enforceable penalties for noncompliance, San Francisco's local hiring has jumped to 45%. Moreover, construction worksites saw increased gender and racial diversity as local hiring drew from diverse local neighborhoods.
Seeing these policy successes and having collaborated with Brightline on mandatory local hire reform, Jersey City has characterized Brightline as the "state's top advisor" on local hiring. Under the leadership of Mayor Steven M. Fulop and Jersey City Employment and Training Program (JCETP) Executive Director James McGreevey, JCETP is now moving toward a local hiring program with an additional focus for Jersey City's reentry population.
As New Jersey cities move toward reform, local hire has also become accepted as a legal, political, and cultural norm on the federal level. Recently, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) will allow local hiring by states and cities on federally funded transportation projects.. This change represents a long overdue recognition that local hiring will create ladders of opportunities for low-income workers, veterans, and diverse communities.
The Surdna Foundation has made Brightline's work in New Jersey possible over the last year. Given the scope of this reform and increasing demand for stronger local hire policies, new cross-sector partners in community, government, philanthropy, contractors, and labor are needed to guarantee the long-term success of these policy initiatives.
"Local hiring has created opportunities and benefits for diverse communities throughout California, and even more exciting opportunities can now be created through federally funded projects," said Brightline counsel Eddie Ahn. "We have a lot of work to do to keep up with increasing demand in New Jersey for commitments to strengthening communities through local hiring."