Making Development Work for Local Residents
Community benefits agreements are changing the power dynamics of local economic development in many parts of the country. Among the most important of the benefits that these agreements can bring about are high-quality jobs for low-income workers. The Partnership for Working Families (PWF), which is spearheading the CBA movement, recently published a report, Making Development Work for Local Residents, that describes the gains that have been made with local hiring programs.
Written by Kathleen Mulligan-Hansel, the study finds that “the best local hire programs create first source referral systems to coordinate worker recruitment and screening, liaise with developers and employers, refer workers and support them as they navigate the hiring process, and link workers with support services that can help them stay on the job.” The report emphasizes the need to recognize the significant differences between the hiring process for temporary construction jobs and for permanent positions at the development site.
The findings in the report are based on nine case studies, mostly in California. One of the most successful was the Hollywood and Highland Center project, which included construction of the Kodak Theatre, now home to the Academy Awards. In the project, completed in 2001, 19 percent of the construction hours were worked by local residents, and 36 percent of the permanent jobs went to locals.
PWF is using the release of the report to kick off a broader effort to use local hiring programs to transform regional economies. That effort includes the launch, in cooperation with Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, of the Construction Career Opportunities Project. Its goal is “to identify, study, support and promote promising approaches to elevating union density in the construction industry and increasing access to building trades careers for low-income urban residents.” That’s real development.