People Post is a space for opinion pieces, letters to the editor and guest submissions from members of the Long Beach community. The following is an op-ed submitted by Steve Neal, the Head Pastor with LIFE Gospel Ministries in Long Beach and a former City Councilmember for the 9th District in the City of Long Beach, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Long Beach Post.
There is no substitute for a good paying job. I can attest to this in my current role as Head Pastor with LIFE Gospel Ministries and in my former role as City Councilmember for the 9th District in the City of Long Beach. Homelessness, food insecurity, and health inequities faced by disadvantaged residents can be overcome with good union jobs.
Fortunately, we have systems in place to create these opportunities in Long Beach. We have a booming economy, a vibrant community, and an unemployed workforce with a clear need for good jobs. So, I can’t help but ask myself: Why does Long Beach deserve less than L.A.?
Let me break it down. In 2015, the city of Long Beach embarked on a new effort to prioritize hiring of local and disadvantaged residents on city-funded construction jobs. To do this, the City Council adopted a Citywide Project Labor Agreement (PLA). Unfortunately, however, the City ignored industry best practices by excluding measures to ensure success for local and disadvantaged hiring, including the adoption of a Local Hire Policy and requiring the use of an independent, third party Jobs Coordinator to work with hard-to-reach communities.
Three years later, out of 20 PLA construction projects, only two met the 40 percent local promise and not a single project bothered to track whether any disadvantaged workers were hired from Long Beach. Meanwhile, municipalities like the City of L.A. and Metro have PLAs that require independent Jobs Coordinators and they are out-performing us with the very same local and disadvantaged hire numbers. So, we must ask ourselves: Why should Long Beach be short-changed on economic opportunities?
As Long Beach continues to become a hub of economic activity and prioritizes economic inclusion, it is crucial that all Long Beach residents, whether white, black, or brown, have access to new economic opportunities. Economic recovery has not been felt equally throughout our city. While unemployment as a whole has declined over the last decade, recently down to 4.1 percent, the city’s highest unemployment rates (11.1 to 33.6 percent) are concentrated in Central, West, and North Long Beach, primarily in Council Districts 6, 7, and 9, respectively. Neighboring Council Districts 1, 2, and 4 also have communities experiencing high unemployment rates.
These figures demonstrate the fundamental need to build an inclusive local economy that accelerates opportunities for disadvantaged residents. With over a billion dollars of construction scheduled in the city through 2022, we need to ensure that local and disadvantaged hiring occurs in a meaningful manner.
Long Beach’s local hiring strategy is failing because the city chose to break ranks with proven best practices. I fully support PLAs because of the immense economic opportunities and financial stability these union jobs can bring to families. What I do not support is short-changed plans that do not deliver much needed relief for hardworking families struggling with poverty—especially when other cities have proven methods that ours has chosen to ignore.
The City Council will be reviewing the PLA’s performance in early January 2019. The city should learn from its mistakes and follow proven best practices. Long Beach residents should not have to endure another failed local hire experiment. Long Beach deserves better.
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