Many DC projects don't comply with local hiring mandate
- An April audit of Washington, D.C.'s First Source mandate, which requires local workers be given employment preference for construction projects receiving taxpayer assistance, revealed that contractors and developers are not meeting the program guidelines and that the Department of Employment Services (DOES) is doing relatively little to make sure companies are in compliance, according to The Washington Times. Companies building qualifying projects of $300,000 to $5 million must hire 51% local residents, and those in charge of projects valued at more than $5 million must meet a higher percentage in several categories.
- Lawrence Perry, deputy auditor for the Office of the D.C. Auditor, testified before the District council's Committee on Labor and Workforce Development on June 21 and told the committee members that the agency in charge of enforcing the First Source program was insufficiently monitoring qualifying companies to make sure they entered into a First Source agreement; lacked written policies and procedures necessary to monitor and judge the success of First Source and did not have written guidelines for enforcement and imposition of fines, with only one financial penalty being issued in the history of the program. The auditor's report also called attention to the fact that companies are allowed to self-report project data with little or no verification by the DOES.
- Construction industry groups have said the program paperwork is too burdensome. They also said there is a shortage of skilled workers and that the lack of affordable housing is forcing the First Source-qualified employees that once lived in the District to the suburbs, shrinking the pool of craft workers even more. One council member said developers and contractors consider the possibility of a low fine just another cost of doing business.
Other local governments have no problem enforcing local hiring mandates and levying large fines against contractors that miss the mark.
Detroit fined contractors working on the $868 million Little Caesars Arena, now home to the NHL's Red Wings hockey team and the NBA's Detroit Pistons, a total of $5.2 million for not meeting the city's 51% local-hire goals. The Michigan city said that, of the project's three million man-hours, Detroit residents worked only 25%.
Like the First Source mandate, there is a taxpayer tie-in. It is only when developers take advantage of government programs like brownfield tax credits or purchase city land at below-market rates that they are required to follow the local hiring mandate. And also, as in D.C., there is a limited supply of workers skilled in the construction trades, leaving contractors scrambling to fill jobs with local residents.
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