Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Transportation announced that effective tomorrow it will no longer support local hire programs in cities that receive federal grants.
The DOT announced this week that it is withdrawing a proposed revision of a rule that – since 1988 – has prohibited the use of geographic preferences in the expenditure of federal grant funds. This change will go into effect on August 25.
The proposed rule and accompanying local hire pilot program, originally drafted by the Obama administration in 2015, has allowed cities receiving federal grant funds to apply local hire policies to federally funded construction projects, so long as that language did not violate federal law. With this week’s announcement, the Trump DOT is officially signalling that it will no longer pursue that rule change.
Madeline Janis, Executive Director of Jobs to Move America, said: “This administration’s withdrawal of support for local job creation directly contradicts President Trump’s stated commitment to creating good jobs for people in this country. Many Americans continue to suffer from poverty and inequality and desperately need the opportunities that are created by our federal infrastructure and transportation investments. Why not give local communities the opportunity to benefit from taxpayer investment?”
“Local hire has allowed municipalities to use their own money to help employ people directly from their communities. It has been strategic for our elected leaders to say that they’re not going to raise our tax dollars for investments in capital projects without ensuring that persons facing significant barriers to employment get expanded access to good jobs and training opportunities,” said Erik Miller, Executive Director of Playa Vista Job Opportunities and Business Services (PVJOBS).
PVJOBS was founded as a response to major developments in Playa Vista and, since its founding, has helped over 4,000 disadvantaged, local workers get into middle-class construction jobs on local projects funded in part through federal grants.
Marvin Kropke, Business Manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 11 said that “IBEW Local 11 has created the largest certified electrician’s apprenticeship program in the country, opening up career-path construction jobs to 1,700 new workers from South Los Angeles to Long Beach. We have been able to do this in large part because of local hire programs that push contractors to recruit new workers from low-income communities. For an administration that talks about creating good infrastructure jobs, this move will have the opposite effect. LA workers may lose out on construction jobs they would have otherwise had access to.”
This week’s withdrawal of support for the creation of local jobs in federally funded projects signals that the Trump administration is reverting to prior interpretations of federal rules, forged under the Reagan administration, that have found almost any effort to attach local jobs to construction contracts as a “burden” on competition and thus illegal. This interpretation arose out of the Reagan administration’s efforts to curtail local sanctions and divestment laws passed during the anti-apartheid era.
Congress also recently signaled its opposition to the creation of good local jobs by dropping part of the 2017 appropriations bill that had been included in the federal budget since 2014, allowing federal DOT grant recipients to attach local hire to federally funded construction contracts. That provision, created in 2014 by Representative Karen Bass had been included as an amendment to a Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill, that enabled local transit agencies to pursue local hire. That amendment was dropped from the 2017 continuing resolution that funds the federal government through September 2017.