Long Beach creates new position to ensure local workers are hired for city projects

After years of complaints that the city’s efforts hire more local workers had failed, officials created a new position this week to ensure that its project labor agreement is better enforced.

The new independent jobs coordinator will work across all city projects valued at $10 million or less, linking local workers to city construction projects. The City Council action Tuesday night comes in the last year of a five-year labor agreement passed in 2015.

According to city memos, two projects are expected to be contracted in the next year: An upgrade to the city’s irrigation controls and the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier Aqualink job. The cost of the jobs coordinator will be built into the contract bid that is ultimately paid by the city.

Under the terms of the project labor agreement, the city agreed to a goal of having 40% local workers on jobs it contracts, a total calculated based on the total hours worked on a project. The term “local” includes three tiers, with Long Beach workers representing Tier 1, Gateway Cities workers falling into Tier 2 and Orange and Los Angeles county workers making up Tier 3.

In an April City Council meeting, community advocates called attention to the disparity in the hiring of Long Beach workers, stating that while the city had hit a nearly 80% local hire mark, less than 20% of those workers were from Long Beach. They called for an independent jobs coordinator to help link Long Beach workers to jobs on city projects.

“You can’t lift yourself up by your bootstraps if you don’t have boots,” said Darick Simpson, executive director of the Long Beach Community Action Partnership, a longtime advocate of the city hitting hire marks in its project labor agreement.

“This will help people get jobs and will help them do better for their families and that’s really important to us as an agency and important to you as representatives of our communities.”

A pilot-program will go into effect immediately to cover the last year of of the agreement and then the city and other stakeholders will assess the helpfulness of having the jobs coordinator worked into the process. A full-time jobs coordinator could be worked into the next project labor agreement that is set to be negotiated next year.

Councilman Rex Richardson said that despite the process being a little contentious he’s glad that it happened because now the community will get something it has been requesting for years.

“All the community really wanted, which is what we wanted, and I’m happy with the result, is that we get to test this out,” Richardson said. “As we go into the negotiation of the next [project labor agreement] I’m hopeful that we’ll have some evidence of the benefit of having a local jobs coordinator that the community wants.”

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.