“Having folks unemployed while infrastructure is being built makes people feel that they are being ignored, that they are not considered a part of any community,” said Andra Kranzler, of Columbia Legal Services.
Southeast Seattle environmental and racial justice group Got Green banded together with more than a dozen other agencies and organizations serving communities of color and Southeast neighborhoods last year to form the Construction Jobs Equity Coalition (CJEC).
On Saturday, March 23 Got Green and other Construction Jobs Equity Coalition (CJEC) members will make the case to community members and elected officials that a new city ordinance is necessary to ensure that a portion of the thousands of construction jobs created by City-funded “Capital Improvement Projects” over the next decade go to the local residents and communities hardest hit by the economic recession.
“I’m helping to increase community awareness about construction opportunities on public works projects because citizens should be aware of how their tax dollars are being used and have a say in it,” says Vernon Hill, a Got Green member. “As a Black male, I am really concerned that opportunities for jobs in the construction industry reach all of our communities.”
Pointing to local hire precedents in cities such as San Francisco and Cleveland, Got Green and CJEC are announcing a campaign to get the City of Seattle to pass its own “Targeted Local Hire” Ordinance.
Preliminary projections suggest that thousands of construction and construction related jobs will be created annually on publicly funded projects such as the Elliot Bay Seawall, infrastructure work for the proposed Sonics Arena, Yesler Terrace Redevelopment, and more. With unemployment figures in the Rainier Valley running at double the rate in the rest of our city, remedies such as Targeted Local Hire are long overdue.
“Got Green works to educate in diverse communities about climate change, at the same time we are standing up for jobs and economic justice,” says Director Michael Woo. “Targeted Local Hire” will not only bring relief to our communities, it will bring relief to our planet. We’ve all heard the slogan, ‘work where you live.’ This is exactly the point of Targeted Local Hire. Bringing good, local jobs to our neighborhoods.”
On December 3 Got Green received a Small and Simple Projects Fund Matching Grant from the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods to launch the Young Workers in the Green Economy Project. At the heart of this endeavor is a simple idea: young adults from low-income backgrounds and communities of color should have a voice in the public policy process—particularly on issues such as youth unemployment, access to higher education, and pathways to green jobs. We recently sat down with Sintayehu Tekle, Got Green board member and head of the steering committee for the Young Workers in the Green Economy Project, to hear his vision behind this new initiative.
Got Green: What inspired you to become involved with the Young Workers in the Green Economy Project?
Sintayehu Tekle: Well, I’m a young worker myself. A couple of years ago I was unemployed, had no job, no experience. Got Green had the weatherization training. They got me in, and gave me the experience and the people to talk to. So I feel this is like kind of giving back to my community. I know people out there with the same issues that I had a couple years ago, and I wanted to make sure that they get the education, or that they can find the resources to go somewhere. Being a young worker, I know how it is—especially in this environment—it’s very hard. And I feel like a lot of people have barriers: language, education, driver’s license, legal stuff, resources—there are just many different barriers that people actually deal with in our community.
On May 15 Got Green and our partners on the Construction Jobs Equity Coalition (CJEC) met with Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn to ask him to make good on his promise of “shared prosperity” for all city residents.
After having been presented with hundreds of petition signatures from South Seattle residents calling for construction jobs for local residents on the Rainier Beach Community Center job site, Mayor McGinn agreed to help advance the issue of “targeted local hiring” on construction projects in our city.
Last week the City of Seattle opened talks with CJEC and construction trades unions on the issue of living wage jobs for unemployed workers of color and other low income workers on phase II of the South Lake Union road construction project to alleviate the “Mercer Mess.”