The Trump administration last month eliminated an Obama-era regulatory initiative that allowed cities to set aside work for local workers on federally funded public works projects.
The move comes at a time when billions of dollars are pouring into the city of Los Angeles and other areas throughout Los Angeles County for publicly and privately funded construction and infrastructure projects – part of what many call a “Golden Age of Construction.”
Thanks to many of the projects that are already in progress, our region is experiencing an economic boom that we have not seen in years. Critical to the overall success of these and future projects is our commitment to ensuring that local workers and businesses can work on and benefit from them.
We have seen housing costs rise in recent years, forcing many lower-paid workers and small-business owners to move out of the area in order to achieve a reasonable quality of life.
We have the power to change this trajectory.
The use of project labor agreements on major construction, transportation and infrastructure projects has been a key factor in creating jobs, and apprenticeship and business opportunities for local residents. PLAs and, sometimes, community benefits agreements, have been important tools for ensuring that local residents and businesses benefit from projects built in their backyards.
Owners and developers of major projects, in partnership with labor groups and local government agencies, have committed to using a majority of union laborers, hiring local residents as workers, and contracting with local small and disadvantaged businesses.
PLAs have been used on most major projects in our city and county due to the advocacy of our local building and construction trades, and support from our local government agencies, elected officials, businesses and advocacy groups.
Well-known examples include the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s rail projects, and other initiatives by Los Angeles World Airports and the Port of Long Beach. These projects alone employ thousands of workers and contract with hundreds of businesses.
It’s not just public works, either. Privately funded projects such as Kaiser Permanente facilities, the Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park, the Los Angeles Football Club stadium in Exposition Park and the George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art all utilize PLAs.
We should respond to the Trump administration’s recent move by taking this matter into our own hands as a region, building on the programs and initiatives already in place to create a Southern California regionwide initiative and collaborative that includes partnerships with state, county, and local government agencies; labor unions; businesses; K-12 schools; community colleges; universities; and nonprofit organizations.
These entities could establish a regional approach to creating a pipeline of workers and businesses to access outstanding opportunities instead of competing and working against one another.
A regional blueprint would enable Southern California to establish itself as a model for the rest of the nation in how to effectively create workforce and economic development that empowers local neighborhoods, residents and businesses through construction and infrastructure projects.
We are in a “perfect storm.” We can produce the next generation of middle-class families and workers in our communities by creating the framework for them to access jobs and business opportunities in the construction and infrastructure industries.
The economy is great.
Let’s work together to ensure every Angeleno can benefit, and create a better life for themselves and their families.
Angela J. Reddock-Wright is founding and managing partner of Reddock Law Group