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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.”

Got Green and CJEC partners jumped at the opportunity to negotiate for job access on the West Mercer project, seeing it as a chance to test the effectiveness of “targeted local hiring” – or a mandate that a certain percentage of living wage jobs on that project go to residents of Seattle’s lowest income neighborhoods.

For the past 14 years, since Initiative 200 reversed affirmative action hiring programs in Washington State, organizers for racial justice have struggled with how to create job opportunities for workers of color and women workers traditionally left behind.

Californians also have been hampered by Proposition 209 that outlawed affirmative action in their state in 1996. However California municipalities have passed local hire ordinances to guarantee that local dollars spent lead to local jobs for those most in need. The City of San Francisco’s new local hiring policy has been in place for just over a year and preliminary reports show that it’s already making a difference. Successful public project level, and city and county-wide local hire ordinances in Oakland, California; Hartford, Connecticut; Portland, Oregon; and Berkeley, California have contributed to our vision for Seattle. In all of these places, casestudies have shown visible improvements in community well-being.

Under “targeted local hiring” policies, communities of color and women not only experience increased access to employment opportunities, residents also gain valuable and lasting job skills, while local economies benefit from the “multiplier effect” due to residents earning more and spending money in their neighborhoods, creating future jobs. Negative environmental impacts from longer commutes to work are also reduced by local hiring.

While a job paving streets is hardly a “green job,” Got Green is working to make every job better for both the environment and the communities of color worst hit by the bad economy. Stay tuned to hear how you can get involved in educating our communities about what a citywide “targeted local hiring policy” will mean for them…

By Tori Loe & Kristyn Joy

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