SF schools pass local hiring policy

San Francisco residents will get dibs on a big share of the construction jobs at city schools, a policy hotly debated and finessed over several months and approved unanimously by the school board this week.

At least a quarter of the jobs in the seven most significant trades must be filled by residents.

The policy, approved Tuesday, ensures that a sizable portion of what locals pay in property taxes to support school facilities will boost city employment, said school board member Sandra Fewer.

"I think this is a historic day," she said. "When the voters voted for a $531 million bond, it is right that they get a portion of those jobs."

The hiring requirements apply to carpenters, electricians, ironworkers, laborers, painters, plumbers and carpeting/linoleum/floor layers.

The policy also requires that half of all apprenticeships at school work sites go to city residents and that the main contractor on each project sponsors two student interns for every $2.5 million of the contract.
By Jill Tucker | SF Chronicle

The district's local hire requirement is similar to the city's, which mandates that contractors on city projects document that 20 percent of their workers live in San Francisco, a rate that gradually increases to 50 percent by 2017.

Oakland Unified also has a local hire policy, which requires 20 percent of companies, rather than workers, be from Oakland.

Supporters of the local hire policy in San Francisco urged the board Tuesday night to push the policy further and include all trade unions and not limit the requirement to projects worth more than $1 million, but said the policy as passed is a step in the right direction.

While there was no opposition to the policy at Tuesday's meeting, critics of local hire requirements say it's expensive to implement and can push up construction costs. And finding qualified local companies to bid on projects or enough trained workers can be difficult, as was the case in the construction of a library in the Bayview two years ago.

Board members and district staff said they needed to balance the idea of creating local jobs with keeping administrative and construction costs down.

The policy was supported by the San Francisco Building and Trades Council, Chinese for Affirmative Action, the San Francisco Latino Democrats, and the Black Leadership Human Rights Council, among others.

It will apply to projects from the $531 million Proposition A bond approved in 2011 as well as work from future bonds.

"This has been sort of a fight to get this through," Fewer said. "We know when we put people to work they are the parents of our schoolchildren."